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Bishop Louis LaRavoire Morrow, upon taking charge of the poor diocese of Krishnagar in 1939, with profound trust in God, formulated his pastoral plan along with his priests. This brought the need for Sisters as he himself states:
“Now, how did you, Catechist Sisters of Mary Immaculate Help of Christians come into the picture? Well, when I was appointed on the 25 May, 1939, as bishop of Krishnagar, and came here, my priests told me, ‘Bishop, our difficulty is to reach the women. We simply cannot meet them.’ We clearly saw the necessity of educated religious women to work among the women of our diocese. We talked and prayed, worked and dreamed and hoped for Sisters to visit homes in towns and villages here and there.”
(Letter to the SMI, dated 15 August 1974).

The Bishop approached several congregations of women religious in and outside of India and invited them to his diocese, but to no avail. God in his providence had his own plan as we can see from what followed.

Our Birthday
On 8 December 1948 Bishop Morrow, impelled by the Holy Spirit, went to Rome to seek the advice of the Holy See regarding the future of the languishing little congregation of 15 Sisters, which existed in his diocese since 1922. He had several meetings with the Cardinal Prefect of the Propaganda Fide and his staff. On 12 December the Cardinal gave the final word requesting Bishop Morrow to cut loose from any bonds of the past, and to start all over a new congregation as he thought best in the Lord, with the present Sisters who would wish to join, or to allow them to return to the secular state. He also gave the Bishop ample faculties, encouragement and the assurance that God would certainly help him and would bless the diocese of Krishnagar. Then and there the Bishop assured the Cardinal that in view of his desire, he would begin all over again. The Cardinal was pleased and gave the sanction, support and blessings. Bishop Morrow realized his obligation to issue a new Decree of Erection as of that day. He also assured the Cardinal that as soon as possible the new Constitutions would be prepared and submitted to the Propaganda Fide. Here below we have his own narration of what followed:

“It was in Rome on the evening of December 12, 1948, after my last interview with Cardinal Fumansoni Biondi that I made the decision.” “Upon leaving the Palazzo de Propaganda Fide, via Spagna 48, Roma, I somewhat realized the responsibility it entailed for me. What I did not realize was all that would take place from then on. ... On my way back to the Istituto de S. Cuore di Gesu, via Marsala 42, I entered the first church I came to. Before the tabernacle I begged God’s blessings upon our little congregation that was starting all over again, on a date beloved to me since I was a boy: that of the feast Our Lady of Guadalupe. ... I resolved that our heavenly Mother Mary Immaculate was to be your model as “the handmaid of the Lord”; your way of union with God was to be that of the Little Way of Spiritual Childhood of St.Therese of the Child Jesus; and the source of your strength to accomplish your sanctification, the Sacrifice of the Mass with Holy Communion”
(Memoirs of Father Bishop, pp 59, 73).

First Members
All the 15 Sisters of the former congregation were accepted into the new congregation. However, six were transferred to Dinajpur [Bangladesh] as per earlier agreement with the Bishop of Dinajpur; one expired shortly; and five returned to the secular state. The three who remained were Sisters Anna Das, Bartholomea Biswas, and Santina Mullick. They became the very first members of the Congregation of the Catechist Sisters of Mary Immaculate Help of Christians.

The Founder himself went about promoting vocations in and out of India for his incipient congregation. As expressed in his Memoirs: “Returning from Bangalore, [where he attended the first Plenary Council of the Bishops of India in January 1950] I read in the plane the life story of Sister Alphonsa, our Indian Little Flower [canonized in October 2008]. During this trip itself I made up my mind to try to get vocations for our Sisters of Mary Immaculate from the South.”

Our Lady of Guadalupe

He visited several schools and colleges, met priests and bishops who could be of help in securing vocations. New candidates began arriving from February 1950 onwards from various parts of India and even from the U.S.

The arrival of every new candidate thrilled our Father with great hope, and he himself gave them a warm welcome, and took a fatherly interest in seeing them grow in grace, virtue and wisdom.

Meanwhile he appointed Sr. Pierina Colombi of the Sisters of Charity of Milan as the first superior and mistress of novices. They were accommodated in the then Junior Don Bosco Boarding School building, our present novitiate in Krishnagar. In June 1950 the Founder shifted them to their new ‘humble building’ - the motherhouse and novitiate. The first group of novices began their novitiate in 1950.

The First Ceremony of receiving the Religious Habit
On Sunday 20 April 1952 at 4:00 p.m. the first group of eight novices: Julia Narayan, Lena Puthussery, Margaret Cheriakakaramcherry, Teresina Gonsalves, Monica Das, Regina Biswas and Frances Honorine Edith Esper received the religious habit. (Memoirs p 103)

It consisted of a white sari edged with three blue bands, which was designed by the Founder after much consultation with the little group and several others. The ceremony was held in the new Cathedral of Krishnagar, enlarged and embellished by our Founder, and was a grand celebration, a day of great joy for our little congregation, just beginning. The civil leaders and other prominent people of the town also attended the ceremony. (See slideshow above for picture)

It is interesting to note that in his generosity and magnanimity, when Saint Teresa of Calcutta, foundress of the Missionaries of Charity, approached him with the request if her congregation could also use the same kind of sari with three blue stripes for their habit, our Founder readily consented.

First Profession of Vows Sisters
Julia Narayan, Teresina Gonsalves, Lena Puthussery and Margaret Cheriakakaramcherry made their first profession of vows on 6 December 1952; Sisters Frances Honorine Edith Esper, Monica Das and Regina Biswas on 16 July 1953. On 4 January 1964 the first group of seventeen Sisters made their final vows.

Founder prepares the members for action
Our Founder loved us so dearly, and took personal interest in the spiritual and apostolic formation, and academic training of each one of us to be effective in our ministries in the Church and society. He drew up a syllabus for the overall formation, and assigned his own priests as staff. He was ever ready to make any sacrifice on our behalf. Like a mother with endless love and patience, he taught us many little characteristics of ladylikeness and Marylikeness. He himself gave instructions through his fatherly talks, conferences, retreats and practical lessons. As a result within a few years the Sisters were able to reach out to the remote areas of his diocese, along with his priests to fulfil his vision of a well-organized pastoral plan. He established small institutions like nursery and primary schools, dispensaries, maternity hospitals, boardings and oratories to instruct our people and to help them to help themselves, especially women, girls and children, and above all as openings to their homes to share the Good News.

First Superiors
In May 1950, our Father Founder appointed Sister Pierina Colombi of the Sisters of Charity of Milan as temporary Superior and Mistress of Novices. In 1952 he appointed Sr. Julia Narayan, SMI as acting local superior. In July 1958 Sr. Clementine Pinheiro was appointed as the local superior of the Motherhouse. On 6 December 1961 Sr. Grace Chiramel succeeded her. On 8 July 1964 Sr. Pieta Manavalan succeeded Sr. Grace.

Our First House
The Motherhouse in Krishnagar, West Bengal, India (See slideshow above for picture of our 1st tin-roofed house) As our Founder recalls, “The first days of our congregation were busy ones and full of sweet and sorrowful memories. There were plenty of sacrifices to be made to attain to the unity we have now.” With much prayer and meticulous planning he began to materialize the request of the Holy See for the formal establishment and growth of his new little incipient congregation. The very first step was to provide a suitable house, for which he had to beg for funds. In late January 1950, the first building was started, a humble building with a corrugated iron roof. It was to be our motherhouse and novitiate, which our Founder thought would last for twenty years.

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Father Bishop with Saint Teresa of Calcutta
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