Our Mother Foundress Claudine Echernier was born to Francis Echernier and Anne Dutrel in a village called "ver le creux" – Chavanod, France on the 29th of May 1801. Francis Echernier gave himself from morning to evening which earned the bread for the family. They did not have the means nor the necessary aptitude to care for the education of their family. The parents taught the children to fear the Good God; they advised them to be good. That was all they could do. Claudine was placed as a shepherdess in the home of a peasant called "Maillet" at Champanges. It was here that she learnt to read and write. About the age of 15 she had the misfortune of losing her mother and had to replace her in tending her brothers and sisters.
On 14th October 1828, Fr. Joseph was appointed parish priest of Chavanod and Claudine was appointed as the house maid of the parish priest. Claudine was 27 years when she went to the parish of Chavanod. Her only pre-occupation was to know the will of God for her and accomplish it. She then became a mistress of a small school teaching boys and girls.
Year of forming the Congregation - 1838
It will be difficult to enumerate all the kinds of mortifications and virtues our saintly mother practiced. Virtues of our venerated Mother foundress, Claudine Echernier are
- Love of Jesus Christ – Our mother loved our Lord with an ardent and generous love, which manifested itself in her words, and many times by the tears she shed before the Blessed Sacrament and before the Crucifix
- Faith was her driving power, her consolation and her hope. Mother possessed admirably the marvelous art of seeing God in all things; in creatures, in events, in everything and everywhere. A sister seeing her pulling out the weeds in the garden showed her surprise: Our Mother replied, "I Love this work very much, it reminds me about my poor heart, where there are always useless plants to uproot".
- Our venerated mother understood perfectly well that Prayer is one of the most essential obligations of the Religious life. She spent/passed long hours before the 'Blessed Sacrament'.
- Trust in Divine Providence. We can say that our mother practiced this virtue to a supreme degree. Her rule of conduct was, "To do the will of God in everything".
- Devotion to Mary – Mother Claudine's devotion to Mother Mary was remarkable 'Do like me, never cease praying to the Holy Virgin' but above all imitate her in her humility, her modesty, and her simplicity.
Mother expressed the desire to see the Statue of the Holy Virgin placed on the Monticules, as Guardian and Protectress of our whole Congregation. Happy the Congregation to which God has given such a wonderful Foundress!
A beautiful life has passed away, humble before men but great before God. On 10th August 1869 at 4o clock in the morning, Claudine Echernier of Feterne , Foundress and Superior of the Daughters of the Cross gave up her holy soul to her creator, after 3 weeks of sufferings. Who could have said about 150 years ago that the humble servant of the Chavanod presbytery would one day be the Foundress of a convent with nearly 1500 Religious.
Our Mother Claudine Echernier was buried at Chavanod. Her tomb was covered with a simple cross and a stone on which was engraved these words. "The cross was her book, the cross will be her glory".
Mother Claudine Echernier