The involvement of the laity was prevalent in our Congregation from the very beginning. In 1648 (long before Mary Euphrasia's time), our spiritual father, St.JohnEudes formed a lay association whose specific role was to pray for religious vocations and to spread devotion to the hearts of Jesus and Mary ( there were thousands of associates in his time). Madame Lamy who was a supporter of St. John Eudes challenged him to do more for the women in prostitution which led to the establishment of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Refuge. St. Mary Euphrasia saw the need of lay collaborators, even during her time, to propel the mission. Count Augustin de Neuville and Countess Genevieve d'Andigné are considered co-founders of the Good Shepherd Congregation. They were instrumental in the growth of the Congregation by their financial support, their wisdom, guidance and their commitment to the vision of our Mother Foundress. In 1832, Count de Neuville built our new chapel in Angers, with the help of other nobles. She referred to lay helpers as "partners" in our work. So, lay partners are a tradition for us dating back to our very beginnings; in our history in France, the associates received a bulletin twice a year describing their mission with the Sisters. In 1985, our General Chapter encouraged the revival of lay associates throughout the Congregation. The 2003 General Chapter recognized the laity who live the Good Shepherd Charism as a gift to the Congregation, the Church and the world. Today, we are trying to reorganize our lay associates and partners who share our spirit and mission of reconciliation and who journey together with our Sisters. We all believe in the power of God's merciful love and that "one person is of more value than a world." There is a growing recognition and acknowledgement across the Congregation that the mutual partnership between Sisters and Lay Mission Partners is critical to ensuring the effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability of Good Shepherd mission. Lay leaders, together with Sisters play a vital role in carrying out the mission of the Good Shepherd and living and spreading the charism.
Inspired by the works and dreams of our Mother Foundress Saint Mary Euphrasia, and keeping her vision as the central focus, the seed of partnership for Mission with the laity was gently sown in the minds of the Sisters in 1997 by the then Provincial Sr.Sabina Pathrose in Bangalore. Sr. Christine Pinto was in charge of the lay associates. Later responding to the 29th General Chapter in 2003, we have opened ourselves more, up to making known our mission of shepherding to the Lay Partners by organizing sessions and meetings which gives an assurance of continuing our journey to bring healing to the wounded and abandoned. The vision of our Mother Foundress sprouted with conviction during the First Asia Pacific Partnership Gathering in Kuala Lumpur June 2008, which was attended by 5 lay partners from India under the able guidance of the then Province leader Sr. Maria Rose and her councilor Sr. Deanna Pereira. In April 2009, a National level meeting in Bangalore was organized and it was attended by 50 lay partners from different states of India /Nepal. Though we had seven languages, varied religious, cultural and economic backgrounds, Sisters who were appointed as team translators helped the groups to understand and imbibe the spirit of SME. In 2009, Mrs. Sashirekha was appointed as a member of Good Shepherd Asia Pacific Partner’ team (GSAPP)
In Chennai, Common celebrations and occasions such as Birthday and Feast Day of St. Mary Euphrasia, Merger of the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity with the Good Shepherd, Inauguration of the Province and Celebration of Perpetual Profession, developed a deeper bond between the sisters and the lay partners. Partners were included in various commissions and decision making; slowly, yet firmly, partnership is being strengthened. Mrs. Sashirekha participated at the Intercontinental Assembly in September 2014 and returned with renewed zeal. In 2015 Community Link person Sr. Maria Rose was chosen. She encouraged the staff of every department to make a choice to be lay partners. As a result 24 staff volunteered to be lay partners for Good Shepherd Mission. On Lay partners’ Day called as Neuvillites Day was celebrated on 2nd September by way of a solemn and meaningful gathering, thus creating a sincere identity for our lay partners.