In the middle of the 19th Century, the Socio-Political situation of Tamil Nadu resembled that of a third world Country. Women were considered as slaves to men and as second class citizens. The education of women was much neglected in Tamil society. The missionaries were convinced that promoting the education of women was the only way to nurture the dignity of women and to raise the standard of the families
At this juncture, the Synod of Pondicherry which was held from 18th January to 13th February 1844 during the tenure of Mgr. Clement Bonnand, the Bishop of Pondicherry mission. During the Synod, the key topic of educating female children was discussed along with other topics. Fr. Dupuis was assigned the following three important tasks during the synod
- 1. To develop the Printing Press
2. To establish a new Indigenous Religious Congregation with the main aim of educating the girl children and
3. To start Schools for the girl children
FOUNDATION OF THE FIRST INDIGENOUS WOMEN CONGREGATION
As women education was not thought of in India at that time, Fr. Dupuis had to face innumerable oppositions to start the Congregation. Being a man of vision and mission, he faced those oppositions courageously and wisely. As a result of his unceasing efforts, he founded the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for Indigenous women on 16th October 1844 in Pondicherry. The Congregation was started with Sr. Theresammal from Carmel Convent as Mother Superior and three novices Savariammal and Annammal from Cuddalore, and Theresa from Pondicherry. The Congregation grew with divine providence and was canonically approved by Msgr. Godelle in 1864. It was aggregated to 3rd order of St. Francis of Assisi on 18th July1886.
On 17th of October 1844, he started the ‘Immaculate Heart of Mary Girls’ School’ which was developed to a Higher Secondary level today and stands tall with the strength of 6000 female students, in front of the Archbishop’s House at Mission Street, Pondicherry.
Fragile in health, but strong in will power Fr. Dupuis, lived his 68 years of life fruitfully. He wrote the first Constitution Book of the Congregation in French with 275 articles. Inspite of his heavy responsibilities, he inculcated in them genuine piety, simple way of life, zeal for the education of women, love and concern for the poor and sense of hospitality and accountability. After thirty years of his leadership as Founder and Director to the Congregation, he entered into heavenly abode on 4th of June 1874. During his life time Fr. Dupuis established 10 convents with 80 sisters, 12 Schools through which the sisters rendered their service to God, the Church and the society especially for the empowerment of women.
LAND MARKS IN THE GROWTH OF THE CONGREGATION
As a seed sown into a good soil, the Congregation had grown in to a big Banyan and became a shelter for numerous people especially for the women and downtrodden. Candidates were recruited from Kerala also. After a few years, due to language problem, sisters from Kerala were given option to function as a separate Congregation. As a result of this, the Congregation was bifurcated cordially into two as FIHM -Pondicherry and FIH - Quilon, on 7th April 1947. After the heavenly birth of Fr. Dupuis, the Congregation was blessed with four MEP Directors and two native diocesan priests as Directors. Under their guidance, Chapter meetings were held, Constitutions were revised and Superiors General were elected to govern the Congregation. Necessary changes were made as per the signs of the times to stabilize the Congregation. The Congregation was guided by the Directors from 1874 to 1973
In 1978, the Congregation was elevated to Pontifical status during the Papacy of Pope John Paul I. The Constitutions were revised and updated according to the demands of Vatican II and the new code of Canon Law. With the blessings of the Almighty and the intercession of the Founder Father, the Congregation had expanded and extended its service to other states of India and to foreign Countries.
Governance of the Congregation
In the year 1990 the FIHM Congregation was established into three Provinces namely Our Lady of Lourdes, Pondy - Cuddalore, St. Joseph - Trichy, and Infant Jesus - Madurai. In the year 1998 the fourth Province named Assisi – Keesara, Andhra Pradesh was established. FIHM’s presence in East Africa was extended as Region in 2002. Today the Congregation has 1000 sisters and 178 convents in 9 Countries. It continues its journey towards greater witness and selfless service to women.
The Generalate of the Congregation is located at St. Therese Street, Pondicherry.At present 17 convents including those in abroad are under the direct administration of the Generalate. The Province of Our Lady of Lourdes has 39 convents, St. Joseph’s has 43 convents, Infant Jesus Province has 39 convents and Assisi has 29 convents. And, Dupuis Region, East Africa has 11 convents.
The Superiors General of the Congregation after the death of the Founder Father:
|1||Rev. Mother Marie Natchathiram||1875 - 1887|
|2||Rev. Mother Adaikala Mary||1887- 1899 & 1905 - 1917|
|3||Rev. Mother Ursul Mary||1899 - 1905|
|4||Rev. Mother Pascal Mary||1917 - 1926|
|5||Rev. Mother Regina Mary||1926 - 1932|
|6||Rev. Mother Theophile Mary||1932 - 1944|
|7||Rev. Mother Appoline Mary (1944 - 1950)||1950 - 1951|
|8||Rev. Mother Theodosie Mary||1950 - 1951|
|9||Rev. Mother Abraham Mary||1951 - 1957|
|10||Rev. Mother Deodat Mary||1957 - 1963|
|11||Rev. Mother Susai Regina Mary||1963 - 1975|
|12||Rev. Mother Faustina Mary||1975 - 1981|
|13||Rev. Mother Emilia Mary (1981 - 1993)||1981 - 1993|
|14||Rev. Mother Regina Mary||1993 - 2003 (*Pontifical Commissaries 2004 - 2008)|
|15||Rev. Mother John Britto Mary||2008 - 2014|
|16||Rev. Mother Brunolf Mary Fatima Paula||2014 - till date|
FIHM’S PRESENCE IN ABROAD
FIHM is spread out in 5 Continents (Asia, Africa, Europe, America and Oceania) and in 8 Countries (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, France, Germany, Italy, USA and PNG) of the world besides India. The sisters of FIHM are doing Pastoral, Educational, Social work, Health Care and Geriatric Care in these foreign Countries. The Congregation has totally 21 convents in the Countries mentioned above.
MINISTRIES OF THE CONGREGATION:
The sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Congregation are engaged in different ministries such as Evangelization, Formation, Education, Health Care and Social work. These are the portals through which the sisters dedicate themselves to proclaim the Gospel, to educate and empower the womenfolk, to uplift the poor and marginalized and to reach out the unreached.
The Following are the statistics of the Ministry based Institutions of the Congregation:
|S.no||Name of the Ministry||Institution||Number|
|Evangelization Mobile Community||07|
|2||FORMATION||Formation Houses in India||02|
|Formation Houses in Africa||02|
|3||EDUCATION||Arts & Science Colleges||09|
|College of Education||01|
|Teacher Training School||01|
|Higher Sec. & Matric. Higher Sec. Schools||22|
|Matric., High, Middle & Primary Schools||67|
|4||HEALTH CARE||Hospitals (India)||08|
|Health Centres (India)||10|
|Aged Home (India)||03|
|Immaculate Institute of Health Science(India)||01|
|Community College (India)||01|
|Health Centres (Africa)||02|
|Nursing College (Africa)||01|
|Home for the HIV Aids (Africa)||01|
|5||SOCIAL WORK||Social Work Centres (India)||12|
|Social work Centre (Africa)||02|
RECENT MILESTONES OF FIHM
Founder Father Louis Savinien Dupuis Declared as Servant of God
It has been a long awaited dream of the Immaculate sisters to obtain Canonization for the Founder of the Congregation. In order to realize this dream, steps had been taken by the General Governance Teams of the Congregation since 1990. With the abundant blessings of the Almighty and through the unceasing efforts taken by the previous and the Present General Governance Teams of the Congregation with the collaboration of the Archdiocese of Pondicherry & Cuddalore, the Founder Father Louis Savinien Dupuis has been raised to the status of ‘Servant of God’ on April 04, 2016 by the Holy See. This great news was declared by the Archbishop of Pondicherry & Cuddalore on June 4th 2016 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Pondicherry and the preparatory works towards the cause of Canonization of the Servant of God Louis Savinien Dupuis has commenced.
A few books about the Servant of God Louis Savinien were released through ‘Louis Savinien Dupuis Research Centre.’ .
CELEBRATING 175 YEARS OF SERVICE TO THE MANKIND ESPECIALLY TO THE WOMENFOLK (1844 – 2019)
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for the mighty one has done great things for me.” (Lk. 1:46-49) .
Crossing many summits and valleys, imprinting impressive charitable activities and service in the hearts of people, launching innovative techniques in educating young girls and opening new avenues to serve the less fortunate and needy, the Congregation has reached the pinnacle of 175 years of its foundation. With immense joy and gratitude to the Almighty, the Immaculate sisters have planned a lot of charitable deeds in honour of the great things that the Lord has done to them for the past 174 years. On this jubilation, we gratefully remember our beloved Founder, Directors, Former Superiors General, sisters and well wishers of the Congregation. .
MARCHING FORWARD WITH DIVINE PROVIDENCE....
The Franciscan sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Pondicherry continues its journey with Divine Providence, under the protection and intercessory power of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Founder Servant of God Louis Savinien Dupuis. May the Immaculate sisters march towards holiness to be greater witness to Christ through their selfless service to women and needy! .