MOTHER BERNARDINE (1914 – 1994)
Mother Bernadine was a native of Quilon, but from her very early years, she grew up in Trichur, where her eldest sister, Ms D’Cruz, resided of St.Joseph’s school. Ms.D’Cruz was a mother to her little sister, Leonie. Sr .Bernardine became a religious at a very early age and her first assignments were in Mysore. She was universally loved because she was kind, affectionate and generous-hearted.
In the 60’s Srs. Bernardine, Sophie and Celine went to the US. Sr. Bernardine took a post-graduate course in Home Economics and specialized in Clothing and Textiles. On her return to India, she took charge of the Clothing and Textiles department of the Graduate course in Home Science at St. Teresa’s College till she retired. Here too she was very popular with both staff and students because of her understanding and affectionate ways.
After retirement. She was elected the Superior General of the Congregation. The second Vatican Council’s directives for change and ‘aggiornamento’ were being debated and translated into fresh rules and regulations. This was a hard time for the Congregation, but Mother Bernardine was well-equipped to soften the impact with her capacity for human relations. New concepts like subsidiary, collegiality, dialogue chapters and local assemblies had to be tried and tested. Mother Bernardine was the ideal leader for such times, with her capacity for listening and dialogue. Delegating authority was second nature to her. Self –effacing as she was, she greatly encouraged teamwork and helped others to grow.
During then Extra-Ordinary General Chapter it was acknowledged that the social thrust given by the Foundress to the Congregation’s Charism had gradually lost its primacy. It was felt that this dimension had to be revived. M. Bernardine took the challenge seriously. She started the Rehabilitation Centre at Edathala for the underprivileged, with its several departments to help young women in economic or social distress. It was due to her initiative that the old convent structure built at the time for the Foundress was demolished and the present spacious building was constructed. During her last years, she was always there to listen and sympathies with anyone in distress or supports anyone who had new and bright ideas to undertake something productive. She prayed much and was always open to the Spirit. As she grew older, she surrendered everything she had been interested into the hands of others and was just there for anyone who needed a listening heart and kind encouragement. She passed away peacefully on the 6th November 1994.