About us > Origin of the Institute

The Institute of the Sisters of Charity of Sts.Bartolomea Capitanio and Vincenza Gerosa(SCCG) also known as the Sisters of Maria Bambina had its origin in Lovere, Italy. It was founded by a young girl of 26 named Bartolomea Capitanio in 1832. Bartolomea’s inspiration to found an Institute took shape because of her deep love for God and through her involvement in the actual situation of the people of Lovere – her native town.

Having studied in the boarding school of the Poor Clares, she acquired a deep piety under the ever vigilant Mother Francesca Parpani. “I want to be a Saint, a great saint and a saint soon” were the words she uttered at the age of 7 at the ‘Game of Straws’. Her spiritual Director Don Angelo Bosio sensed the working of the Spirit in her and guided her in her spiritual Journey. He urged her to note down all the inspirations she received. This resulted in the inspired document we now call ‘the Foundation Document” which forms the basis of our present Rule of Life. She wrote: “The Institute which will be founded in Lovere is be totally founded on charity and this must be its principle aim…should have as its aim the education of poor young girls…devote itself to the relief of the sick..” In this way she outlined a MISSION which, though starting as a personal response to the needs of her environment was deeply rooted in charity and as such destined to be kept up and to spread beyond the bounds of Lovere.

Bartolomea was helped in her project by Catherine Gerosa, a simple, rich, charitable lady of Lovere. Together they consecrated themselves to God in a simple ceremony on 21 November 1832 at Casa Gaia. Thus began the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity. Bartolomea was called to her eternal reward on 26 July 1833 eight months after founding the Congregation. It was left to Catherine Gerosa, under the able guidance of Don Angelo Bosio to carry on the work begun.

The Institute spread rapidly in many Provinces of Italy. In 1860, Mother Theresa Bosio the first Superior General answered the call of the missions of India and sent four sisters to work in Bengal -India. Thus began the mission of the sisters in India.

About us > History of Indian Provinces

The future has its foundation firmly embedded in the past.

The wealth of the past is indeed a gift for the present.

Our early sisters have given us unique gifts of self-sacrifice and undaunted spirit, overcoming all odds. This was possible because of their intense union with God. They were veritable martyrs, dying young because of deprivation, lack of nourishment inclement weather and worried because of lack of language. They knew, as they embarked for a distant land, that they would not see their beloved motherland nor their dear ones and the religious family. But nothing could hold back their ardent spirit. Their hearts burned with zeal at the thought of reaching out to the poorest of the poor and the neglected of the society. This was the vision of St. Bartolomea, handed down to the sisters by St. Vincenza.

The story of the Sisters of Charity began on a day when Fr. Limana, (who worked in Krishnagar, which was at that time mostly surrounded by jungles), requested his Superior of the mission, Fr. Parietti to solicit, from the Congregation of Propaganda Fide in Rome, for some sisters to look after the girls in the mission of Krishnagarand educate them since the priests were looking after the boys. This request was forwarded to Msgr. Marinoni, Superior of the Institute of the Foreign Mission.Msgr. Marinoni knocked at the door of several Congregations of sisters and received from all of them a negative answer, when finally he thought of going to ‘OspedaleCiceri’ (Ciceri hospital) where the Mother House of the Sisters of Charity was in those days. Msgr. Marinoni communicated his plans to the Pro-Vicar of the Diocese of Milan, Msgr. Vicar Ballerini, who was enthusiastic about the Sisters of Charity because he felt that they were the fittest persons to work in the mission. He knew that these sisters possessed great sense of sacrifice, renunciation and heroism. They also were rich in merits and blessings.

Mother Teresa Bosio, Superior of the Sisters of Charity, who were also known as Sisters of ‘Maria Bambina’, was approached.When Don Angelo Bosio, spiritual guide, heard this request from Mother Bosio, he was deeply touched at the thought of being selected for this privileged field of charity. The Institute was still in its infancy (28 years) and there was the fear of not being able to communicate with the sisters in the mission field thus rendering the possibility of being a separate entity. This was a daring step to undertake. But firmly trusting in God and in order to actualize the vision of St. Bartolomea,they agreed to send the sisters to the far away missions. As St. Vincenza dared to send the sisters beyond Lovere, now the sisters were to go beyond the boundaries of their own country and step into other countries!The sisters were exultant at this news!

Many volunteered for the missions, but Srs. AugustinaBaruffini, BenedettaDanielli, Lucia Viero and Antonia Ferrari were the privileged ones, who, after due preparations set sail for India accompanied by a lay person Rosa Abbiate to assist them, on 7th February 1860 and after a voyage of 37 days, reached Calcutta on11th March. After three days of rest, they embarked in a frail boat which took them on a three days journey up the river Hooghly and then through the Anjana Canal, flanked by forests and villages stopping only at night in a village. (After 150 years, this canal can hardly be seen as it is just a small pond of stagnant water and the journey from Calcutta takes barely three hours!) The sisters arrived at their promised land ‘Krishnagar’ where they finally set foot on 17th March 1860. They were offered a thatched hut for their dwelling, without even having a hedge to protect them from wild animals. It was an unimaginable place – the memory of which the sisters recall and relive, generation after generation – the real virtue of poverty that the first four sisters were called to live.

Don Angelo had exhorted them to be courageous and to trust in the divine providence and God would never forsake them. This, the sisters found was the most apt thing to practice to keep themselves from dejection. As they reached Krishnagar, they began their mission with a group of 20 little orphan girls with whom the sisters had to share their home for want of any other accommodation. Officially, they started the orphanage on 19th March 1860.

At first the children ran away from them taking them to be white ghosts! But gradually the love and kindness of the sisters won them over and they became friendly. Language was a hindrance in the beginning but the sisters picked it up soon and communication became easier. Gradually, the sisters began to teach the children and they brought a transformation in the little ones.

Food was scarce and not what they were familiar with. Sr. Antonia Ferrari wrote to MotherBosio, “For two years our diet consisted of a little quantity of rice cooked in water with a little salt and a small piece of pumpkin.” Bread was out of question and other delicacies were a distant dream!

They faced other severe difficulties, namely, the tropical climate which they were not used with. Coming from cold weather they had to face hot and humid weather. Their attire suited for the climate of Europe, was totally unfit and they suffered immensely.But determined as they were, they visited families, learning their language and social and local customs to be useful in every field.

After everynatural calamity, the poor people, finding no other alternative, left their babies with the sisters to be looked after. Unwed mothers too found a place to abandon their babies and the number of children in the orphanage grew steadily, necessitating for a larger accommodation for them. By August 1866 the sisters were caring for 160 babies in the orphanage. Another little hut was built for them and the widows helped the sisters to look after them. The house was named ‘Holy Childhood Institution’. Though the data was lost in the flood waters, the statistics from 1933-1950 puts the figure as 4403 as per admission register of the orphans at Krishnagar, including babies who did not survive long. In 1938, a spacious building for the babies was constructed. 


But nothing diminishedthe courage the sisters. Besides looking after the children, the sisters started visiting the sick in their homes and give medicines to those flocking to them with various illnesses. In time the sisters had another small hut as a dispensary, which later became the pivotal point for the people to rush to because the sisters, besides dispensing medicines, were compassionate and loving towards them.The work for the sisters was getting heavier as the hot and humid climate brought heavy rains, storms, cyclones, floods, famine and other natural calamities. Children were orphaned as the little huts of the people were washed away and the parents swept along trying to save their huts.
1866 - 1867 – The great famine of Bengal combined with subsequent floods killed thousands of people. Others lost their shelter and members of families. The starving parents started bringing in their dying babies to the sisters in the hope that they would save them. On 1st Nov.1867, a Cyclonic storm lashed Jessore which resulted in floods in Krishnagar and the surrounding villages. The sisters did not even dither to look after the patients in their huts or in the dispensary. Before the turn of the 19th century, the dispensary catered to an average of about 10,000 patients a year. 

On 28th September 1865, two sisters began to work in the Hospital at Krishnagar which was in a miserable condition. They obtained permission from the authorities to visit the patients daily and tried to keep it hygienic to make the sick more comfortable. Their humane approach and devotion to the wellbeing of people were highly appreciated by the authorities and they requested the sisters to assume the complete charge of the hospital. The people too never failed to appreciate the services given to them especially in time of epidemic and other misfortunes. 

The next step was to offer shelter to the young widows. In India at that time the custom of child marriage was in vogue. Many times the poor little girls were married off to much older men and thus they were widowed early. These widows were shunned by the society and were considered a burden to their families. They were forced to live in isolation and so they turned to other ways to sustain themselves. The sisters gathered them,offering them shelter and taught themvarious crafts to enable them to earn their livelihood. The sisters had to build another hut for them which was named ‘St. Mary Magdalene’s Refuge’ but the people called it the ‘The Ganges’ meaning ‘abode of the Mother’. Truly the sisters were mothers to them.

Another service the sisters undertook was to open a school for young brides. The girls were married off by the age of twelve. Consequently, there existed an urgent need of educating them, unprepared as they were to assume the many and serious responsibilities of a wife and a mother. The zealous sisters tried to impart to the young wives a moral and intellectual education, besides teaching them practical and useful skills needed by Bengali housewives.

The sisters embraced charity in any form manifested to them. But This life of deprivation took its toll. It was strange that as the sisters were dying, other sisters volunteered to take their place. The cemetery at Krishnagar bears silent witness to their heroic virtues, who did not hesitate to lay down their lives for the sake of the poor and the neediest. Sr. AngiolinaBalia, Superior of Krishnagar, was the first flower to be plucked by God for himself at the age of 27 on 11th October 1865.

Communication being difficult, the Superiors in Italy found it necessary to make Bengal a province. In 1865, Sr. CiciliaUetz came to Bengal as the 1stProvincial Superior and thus came into being the 1st province in Asia, the province of Bengal. More sisters started arriving, so the sisters thought they could extend their mission field and not stay only in Krishnagar.

Sr. Cicilia took courage to send sisters to distant villages and towns. Sr. AugustinaBaruffini went to open a new foundation at Jessore (Now in Bagladesh). Thus began the village work, a small speck at that time but was destined to grow into a big tree.

Transport always was a great problem. The sisters had to traverse on foot, bullock-carts, horses, camels and even elephants. They also travelled by frail boats, at times crossing the river on precarious rotten bamboo bridges, which they did courageously.

The Bishop of Mangalore, Msgr. AbondioCavadini, requested for sisters to work in the Muller’s Hospital, Mangalore. Mother Ghezzi acceded to his request and the sisters reached Mangalore on 24th January, 1898. After untold sufferings and humiliations, the sisters were able to shift their mission to the orphanage at Jeppoo. Mangalore became a fertile place for vocations and so a Novitiate was established there in June 1899. The number of the sisters was increasing steadily and the places too were very far for jurisdiction. Therefore, it was decided to make Mangalore a province and it came into being in 1932.

The activities of reaching out to the poorest and the mostneedy had taken the sisters to the far flung areas of Burma (Myanmar). The remoteness of these areas at times did not allow the sisters to have any communication with the superiors at Krishnagar. For better governance, a province was created there in 1935.

More communities were established as the sisters extended their activities in education, health and village work.

Political set up too dictated terms for jurisdiction. Therefore, Bangladesh which was a part of Bengal was partitioned and became East Pakistan. The sisters used to work there from the beginning. But a war of Independence broke out and the sisters from India had to return. Communities close to each other were inaccessible on both sides. Therefore, East Pakistan province was formed in 1961. In 1971 East Pakistan became independent and became a new country - Bangladesh. Hence the province was renamed Bangladesh.

A new group of sisters had been promised for the Secunderabad Mission which started in August 1869. The sisters were eagerly welcomed at the new mission where, however, they could remain only 16 months there. Their work, though highly appreciated, was beyond their strength and capacity, and as their health began to deteriorate and there were no sisters to replace them, they were called back to Krishnagar towards the end of January 1871. Forty four years later, in 1915, the Sisters of Charity returned to Secunderabad, taking charge of the Civil Hospital. Their work inspired many to join the Institute and it flourished. So, it was a felt need to make this as a separate province. The distance with Krishnagar too was a telling factor. Thus Secunderabad province came into being in 1962.

In 1962 Chinese aggression rendered hundreds of soldiers wounded and dying. They were valiantly served by our sister Nurses who were working in Dibrugarh (Assam) Medical College and Hospital. The chinese army kept advancing towards the Indian border. Sr. GiuseppinaAbondio, the Matron of the Hospital and Superior of the community, was very prudent in her handling of this difficult situation. Only a few nurses and doctors were left to tend the wounded soldiers. The sisters of the community agreed to stay put and got prepared for any eventuality. They knew that if they left the place, the doctors and nurses would desert the helpless soldiers and patients.  Their compassionate attitude and service round the clock earned them accolades, from the people and it was acknowledged by the Govt. Sr. Giuseppinawas awarded ‘Bravery Medal’ and ‘Silver Nightingale Lamp’ for her courage and selfless service.

Bengal province was governed from Krishnagar. But the city of Calcutta was better suited to reach the distant places, therefore, the provincialate was shifted to Sacred Heart Convent, Calcutta and the province was renamed Calcutta province in 1973.

From Mangalore another province was carved out the south. The work of the sisters was expanding in many places. Therefore another province, namely, Calicut was born in 1979.

The North-East India was growing rapidly too and the activities there were spreading swiftly. The culture, languages, customs there are very different from the other parts of our country. Reaching these places from Calcutta was posing difficulties. So, the province ofNorth-East came into being in 1993.

Once again Mangalore province was bifurcated because of innumerable activities and another province was created in 1998with parts of Mangalore and Secunderabad provinces. This was called Dharwad province.

Calicut province too had to be divided after a lot of expansion of work and a new province was established in 2004 as South-East Province.

The last so far to be divided was the parent province of Calcutta which was divided yet again to form another province, that of New Delhi in 2009.

The Sisters of Charity of Sts. B. Capitanio and V. Gerosa (SCCG) are now spread in the whole of India catering to all people with one sole desire to reach out to as many as they can.

Mostly the sisters work in the villages. We have established schools and colleges in the cities,but mostly we work in the villages. Health sector too is seen to as dispensaries in the villages help poor people to have access to medicines and health care. We work in the hospitals and also have established our own. Above all we try to reach out to the tribal people and other neglected ones, so that they too may secure a better place in the society for themselves. The vision charity that our Foundress had is put into reality by us. St. Vincenza who carried on the torch of the vision of Bartolomea has urged to go where the need is great and urgent.