History of the Indian Province
The history of our missionary presence in India is a story of 122 years (1897-2019) it is an experience of being called by a loving Father, to reveal the primacy of God's love in the different parts of the country, among people of different cultures, languages, and religions according to the signs of the time.
The missionary activities of the Indian Province started in 1897, when missionaries from Belgium arrived in Lahore (in India, then) in response to a call from Mgr. Pelckmas, Bishop of Lahore, to take care of the people affected by a terrible famine. Five Sisters: Srs. Aquiline Balcaen, Venardine Vanhaute, Anna Snauwaert, Winifride Dowd and Melitia Delanoy arrived in Lahore on the 18th October 1897. The Sisters worked very hard and risked even their lives while caring for the orphans. The young Sisters from Belgium could not adjust and adapt to the inclement weather so, some of them died in harness. It became essential to find a place with better summer climate for the Sisters to recuperate their strength and vigour from time to time.
Dalhousie, a hill station with good climate seemed to be the best choice at that time. Mother General Ghislaine Spillemaeckers, Srs. Edith, Alberta Donnay, Nora Kane, Austin Greathead,and Victorine De Smedt left Lahore on 20th February 1901. The Sisters travelled by train to Pathankot, from there they were taken by horse drawn tongas up to half way. The last part of the journey was by dhoolies carried by men. The weather was very bad with snow and rain so much so the end of the journey had to be on foot. Finally they all reached at different times on 21st of February 1901. There existed already a school run by the Sisters of Jesus and Mary. For lack of sufficient teaching staff and unable to run the school, they had left the place in 1900. That school was taken over by the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary. The School opened in the first week of March with five children who came up with the sisters.
The early years were a time of planting the seeds of love and expansion by our pioneering sisters from Europe. The partition of India in 1947 was a historical event that invited us to think creatively and explore new possibilities. Though India and Pakistan became two independent countries, the SCJMs remained as one family moving beyond the socio-political and religious barriers. But numerically the SCJM family began to grow and flourish. In the aftermath of two wars, it became increasingly different to plan and co-ordinate our apostolic activities from across the border. Something good had to emerge from this chaotic situation. So, a process was initiated to allow the SCJMs to take root in the Indian soil as an independent Province.
In the 1958 General Chapter, decision was taken to decentralize the government of the Congregation and erect Provinces under one Generalate. In 1966 districts were tried out for some time. India's visiting sister Sr. Declan Murphy became the district superior. The 1968 General Chapter asked Rome to grant permission to erect Provinces. In the 1969 Provincial Chapter, the Generalate confirmed Sr. Declan Murphy as the first Provincial of the independent Indian Province. Sacred Heart Convent, Amritsar was the district house and that remained the Provincial house till the sisters found a suitable house and moved to Delhi.
In 1975 Sr. Roseline Koikara was nominated as the first Indian Provincial. Since the sisters were staying in rented accommodation, the search continued for a house of our own. In the meantime the sisters came to know from a reliable source that Vikram Hotel had a big house, which was centrally located on the Ring Road, to be sold. The negotiations started in 1977, and the process over, the sisters shifted to the new house on 31st August, 1977. The house was blessed on 8th September 1977, and dedicated to our Blessed Mother.
As an independent Province the SCJM family spread its branches far and wide. In response to the signs of the times, we responded to God's call in various parts of the country, in particular to the call of the tribal population in Chotanagpur.
The Province continued to grow, expand and mature and this expansion brought about the need for division again, for greater apostolic efficacy, better animation and administration. Thus the Indian Province was divided into two independent Provinces in 1993: Delhi and Ranchi. But the fact still remains; Delhi Province is spread over the whole length and breadth of the country.