Congratulations to MSMHC Sisters on their Platinum Jubilee
Missionary Sisters of Mary Help of Christians (MSMHC), the first indigenous Congregation in Northeast India is celebrating its 75th year of foundation. By founding the MSMHC on October 24, 1942, at Guwahati Assam, His Excellency Stephen Ferrando, SDB, the then Bishop of Shillong made one of the greatest contributions to the Church of Northeast India, the country and the universal church at large. The name of the Congregation that bears the title, ‘Mary Help of Christians’ indicates the profound love the founder had for the Blessed Mother. The Congregation is Salesian and is intimately linked to Salesian spirit. Initially, the Congregation was entrusted to the care of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (FMA). It became an Institute of Pontifical Right on 21 March 1977 during the Pontificate of Paul VI. The Congregation was officially recognised as a member of the Salesian Family in 1986 by Fr. E. Vigano, the then Rector Major.
The aim of the Congregation is to work for the glory of God and building up of the Church. The members strive to promote this by following Christ closely and collaborating in the spreading of the Gospel and in every work of charity connected with it. The primary and essential element of the charism of the Congregation is missionary evangelization, which affects all the aspects of its apostolic undertakings. It is expressed in the motto: “Go to the whole world and proclaim the Good News.”
The Congregation is fully involved in the mission of the Church, which is “missionary by its nature.” The primary charism of the Congregation being missionary evangelization, its main focus is on evangelization and catechetical instruction, especially of women folk and children in the villages. Family visit, strengthening of local Churches through SCC, schools, boarding houses, oratories, dispensaries, mobile clinics, homes for the aged, orphans and street children, vocational training centres, youth animation, schools for the disabled, rehabilitation of HIV/ AIDS patients and organizing the domestic workers are the various other ministries of the congregation.
In the context of modern day changes, the members continue to work with pastoral inventiveness and creativity. For this the Congregation has trained personnel in Missiology, Theology, Scripture, Catechesis, Spirituality, Social Work, Anthropology, Law, Psychology, Spiritual Direction and Counselling, Medicine, Mass media and Communication.
The Generalate of the congregation is situated in Guwahati Assam. It is the administrative center of the Congregation and a place where seminars, courses and retreats are held for the Sisters at the Congregational level. It also functions as the Juniorate House of the Congregation, where a ten-month-long course is held for every batch of junior Sisters after two years of their first profession.
The Congregation has six provinces in India and a delegation in Italy. The provincial headquarters are at Bangalore, Guwahati, Kolkata, Shillong, Tinsukia and Tezpur, and the delegation headquarters is at Turin, Italy. The Congregation has over 1200 members belonging to 60 ethnic groups working in 202 centres in India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Italy, Germany, Hawaii, Ethiopia, Swaziland, Lesotho, South Africa, South Sudan and Mozambique.
In the year 2000, the Missionary Animation Centre (MAC) was launched to facilitate the Sisters and lay collaborators for the mission of the Congregation. It organizes seminars and courses on various topics related to the mission of the Congregation, conducts updating courses on specific charism and publishes a missionary journal. It is engaged in conducting periodical survey and evaluation of the missionary undertakings, formation of lay missionaries and training of youth and Catholic women for family faith formation.
To share the missionary charism with the lay people, a new movement called ‘Young Apostles of Christ’ (YAC) has been initiated. It is a movement rooted in a spirituality of reflection and action. Through this movement the young people are called to respond to the living and loving God who calls and challenges his children to be partakers in the mission of establishing his Kingdom. Its ultimate purpose is to lead young people to God-experience and offer them sanctity. Another initiative of the Congregation is the ‘Women Apostles for Catechesis’ (WAC). Its purpose is to empower women to teach and impart Catholic faith in villages, oratories, schools, and in their families.
During the VII General Chapter 2006, the congregation started a new apostolate, called ‘Social Apostolate’ to facilitate the empowerment of women and integrated development of the weak and vulnerable group, particularly the women in the society, through capacity building, training in community development programme and sustainable source of income. Its Centre for Development Initiatives (CDI) is committed to empower the marginalised communities of the society, especially women and children. It act as the co-ordinating body in the social and development work of the entire Congregation, providing expertise, guidance and facilitation to the Provinces and Delegation. Registered under the Societies Registration Act 1860, it works for the development of the exploited and voiceless women, girls and children. It bases its activities on the foundation of human and social values.
‘Bethel Prayer Centre’ was established in 2006, mainly to meet the spiritual needs of the religious and lay people of the region. It provides facilities for organizing prayer services, retreats, workshops and seminars. It is located in the beautiful bank of the Umiam Lake in Ri-Bhoi District, Meghalaya.
The Congregation founded the Ferrando Institute of Spirituality (FIS) in 2009, a daring venture of the Congregation, which is the first of its kind in Northeast India. It has a programme of studies meant mainly to prepare missionaries, Formators, educators and leaders. It also provides opportunities for the on-going formation of the sisters. Its various sectors of studies are: Department of Diploma in MSMHC Spirituality, Department of Master’s Degree in MSMHC Spirituality, Department of History, Department of Philosophy, Department of on-going Formation and Department of Publication.
Personal encounter with the Lord is the support of all missionary activities. Thus God experience becomes the source of life and action. Besides observing the feasts of the principal patrons of the Congregation, the sisters observe 20th June as Founder’s Day (Death Anniversary) and 24th October, the foundation day of the Congregation and other prescribed days in keeping with their spirit and charism. The Sisters learn the local languages and adapt themselves to the cultures and customs of the people that make them effective in their work of evangelization.
The Congregation today is the beneficiary of the fruits of the toil of the pioneers. The life of the Founder and the pioneers continue to motivate the members. MSMHC today witnesses the flowering of local vocations. Though spread far and wide the missionary identity of the Congregation with its Salesian touch unites everyone and opens the path for a greater missionary endeavour.
The Diocese of Miao is sincerely grateful to the MSMHC Sisters for their dedicated service at Miao, Roing, Deomali, Mahadevpur, and Khonsa missions. (With input from Sr. Shiji James MSMHC)