CATHERINE ANDERSSON RSCJ 1887 – 1961
Catherine was born and grew up in South Shields, but was educated in continental convent boarding schools. She studied modern languages at university, and then taught in girls’ schools, in Sheffield and London. She had thought about religious life for a long time, on and off, before finally taking the plunge and entering with the Society of the Sacred Heart in January 1924, aged thirty-six.
Catherine made her first vows in July 1926 and her final profession in February 1932. She continued to teach, and was remembered as a very strict, yet popular teacher. During the mid 1930s, when she heard of plans for a first foundation in India, she offered to go; in 1938 she was named as Superior of the first tiny group of RSCJ, who arrived in Mumbai in January 1939.
Their first foundation was Sophia College, Mumbai, a women’s college affiliated to the university. In 1948 Catherine founded a school in Bangalore; a noviceship was built beside it in 1956 (until then, Indian candidates had travelled to England, braving English winters, post-war austerity and general culture shock).In 1961, a few months before her death, a school for poor girls was started in Haregaon. For a few years Catherine was also responsible for the initial formation of the first sisters in a religious community founded by the Archbishop of Mumbai.
Despite failing health Catherine had continued to work and fulfil her many responsibilities, but in 1961 she suffered a serious heart attack and died a few months later, aged 74.
Catherine was a strong, vigorous and wholehearted woman, with a great gift for friendship, across the boundaries of age, class and religious faith. She was deeply faithful to her commitment to God in the Society and inspired and trained her sisters to be likewise. She once wrote: Do not grudge the giving, give royally and do not consider how much you have given, for it is nothing, absolutely nothing, in comparison with God’s gift of Himself to us.
Today there are over 70 Indian RSCJ, in twelve communities in seven towns and cities, including Sophia College and Haregaon.