Changanacherry, being the Mother Province of the Congregation,its history starts with the very origin of the Congregation. The Founding mothers, after five years of living and praying together as a community observing the rules and regulations of the Franciscan Third Order, had their vestition at the Chapel of Bishop's House at Kottayam on 14th December 1888. They reached Changancherry on 15th December 1888 and began Community life in a small house next to St. Berchmans' High school in Changancherry with 7 orphans. After shifting to several houses, a new house was built for them by Bishop Charles Lavigne at Changanacherry in 1897. The independent branches of this congregation grew in Thrisur in 1910 and in Ernakulum in 1928.
This congregation which flourished as diocesan religious communities in the various dioceses of Kerala,responding to the invitation of the Second Vatican Council,slowly moved along the ways of renewal and adaptation and finally reached the path of unification.The congregation was unified on Oct 10, 1970. Rev. Fr. Hippolytus Kunnunkal OFM Cap was appointed Papal Delegate.Rev.Mother Maurus (Mother General, Changanassery) was elected as the first Superior General of the congregation. Gradually provinces were born on the basis of dioceses. In 1971 the religious community of Changanacherry diocese took the form of a province. Thus,mother province became Deva Matha Province. On 23rd August 1971 Rev.Sr.Gratia was appointd the first Provincial Superior.
As it was also the avowed mission of FCC to look after the impoverished and destitute children of the locality and provide them food,shelter, education and health care,the community started St.Germaines Orphange in the same year 1888 next to their convent.As the number of the needy and abandoned adults and children increased fairly soon,the sisters had to open separate houses for both. St.Vincent poor home and St.Germaines Balika Bhavan powerfully reflect at all times the community's original ideals.It is the fact that the two institutions were started in the same year as the community was founded (1888) is the clearest indication of our close identificationwith the poor and the marginalized.
Like a massive Banyan tree in the course of time Deva Matha Province Changanacherry branched off and spread out to Provinces such as Pala,Kanjirappally,Hazaribag and Thuckaly.Despite the recurrent bifurcation at present it has 416 professed sisters,the majority of whom live and work in the 45 convents and 3 residential houses,widely spread out in such districts of Kerala as Kottayam, Alappuzha,Pathanamthitta and Thiruvananthapuram.Our major ministires are education,special education offering services as health and mental health professionals,organizing and running Old age homes, Balika Bhavans,a Mental Health Centre and Skilled Development Centre. Missionary zeal also led the sisters to work in Germany, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and Papua New Guinea.
St. Alphonsa is the pride of FCC. Her Novitiate-the most important phase of religious life was in Changanacherry.After the completion of her Novitiate,St. Alphonsa made her final vows in the chapel of Changanacherry convent before Mar. James Kalacherry.It was in the Novitiate that the religious life of St. Alphonsa was gravely affected due to excessive bleeding Bl.Chavara Kuriakose Elias appeared before her and gave her miraculous healing from this disease.Deva Matha Province is also proud of her rich heritage of being blessed with the presence of Alphonsa Bhavan Kudamaloor,the Birth place of St.Alphonsa.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,because He has anointed me to preach the Good News to the poor(Lk. 4/18).As Franciscans,our most important apostolate is to live the life of Gospel. Becoming Good News ourselves, we have to spread this Good News to the people around us.So reading the signs of the times,keeping the attitude of the church and living the charism of our congregation,we are engaged in different apostolic activities.Our province has set apart 25% of our total income for Evangelization.
a)Proclamation of the Gospel: The mission of catechesis is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ,as handed on in the Roman Catholic tradition, by inviting the faithful to a more personal relationship with God characterized by living a sacramental life,a lifelong pattern of prayer, Christian service,and growth in understanding of the Catholic faith.We practice it through Catechism, Home mission,Alphonsa Prayer Group & Vachana Dhyanam
b)Care for the poor
c)Faith formation and value education
d)Care of the Sick
We are conducting Retreats, Animation Programmes, chapter of mats, batch wise programmes, workshops & seminars.
We have an FCC Museum in our mother house, Chy. which clearly depicts the charism of the various apostolate of our congregation. St.Alphonsa's Museum, Kudamaloor highlights the life of St.Alphonsa and her spirituality.These museums provide inspiration and spiritual enrichment to the multitude.
The sisters impart faith formation to parents,youth and children through Mathru Jyothis,ithru Vedi,Yuva Deepthi,KCYM,Mission League and Bethlehem meet. The sisters take leadership of these associations and help the parishioners to grow in faith and fellowship. The sisters also act as animators of Jesus Youth, onduct prayers for Core Groups to make them zealous.
The sisters actively participate in the prayer meetings and the different activities of the wards and units of the parish.The sisters visit the families of the parish, carry out follow up programmes of the home mission,and help them to live their sacramental life fruitfully.Joining with the Arch-diocesan Family Apostolate programmes, the sisters render selfless service.
Alphonsa Garden has been set up to promote the children to grow in holiness, to foster Alphonsian spirituality, to inculcate values in them like the spirit of sacrifice, the redemptive value of suffering, the primacy of charity and also devotion to the saints.It functions mainly in schools and where there are no schools, in the convents.
Out of the total 25% set apart for our apostolic works, 8% is utilized for giving different financial help to seminarians,Bible & charismatic conventions,Shalom & Sehion Television channels, construction and renovation of the church, retreat centres,to sent for retreats those who are in need of spiritual help,to distribute copies of the Bible,spiritual books,leaflets and so on.
It is hardly surprising that the Province of Changanacherry, where the religious order was commenced,had the most astonishing growth.Like a massive banyan tree,it branched off and spread out, covering an enormously expansive area, giving life to Provinces such as Pala, Kanjirapally, Hazaribag and Thuckalay. As a part of our missionary activity in developed countries, our sisters are working in hospitals,old age homes and night shelter in Germany,Italy and Spain.We have our own convents in Spain.They attend to the sick and suffering, and the terminally ill.They prepare them to receive the sacraments and give counselling to the needed.They also conduct prayer meetings for the women.