Sisters Adorers in India: Arrival, Presence and Ministry (1947 – 2016)
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Around 1945 and 1946 Rev. Fr Enrique (Henry) Albiol, CM, was invited by the Sisters Adorers in Zaragoza, Spain, to give a series of talks on missionary life to the Sisters, Novices and their students in the school as well as the inmates of the Rehabilitation Centre. Those inspiring and captivating talks awakened the missionary zeal of the Sisters and novices who listened to him. The echoes of his voice, the description about ‘Cuttack Mission’ throbbed their hearts, coloured their vision and crowded their imagination with dreams of becoming a part of it. Following his suggestions, Sr Antonia Mene of Jesus started corresponding with Fr Valerian Guemes, CM, a veteran Vincentian missionary already active in Cuttack Mission from 1922 onwards.
In the obituary of Mother Antonia Mene of Jesus, we read: “Her novices maintained an enthusiastic correspondence, with a missionary priest, Fr. Valerian Guemes, CM. He invited the Sisters Adorers to found a convent in India. Mother Diosdada Andia, the then Superior General, saw in this “the gentle manifestation of the Divine will” and was quite open to the proposal. At this positive response from the Superior General, the enthusiasm of the novices increased and Mother Antonia Mene became the leader of that movement in favour of India.
An Invitation from Bishop Florence Sanz for a Foundation in Cuttack Mission
FrGuemes On August 31, 1946, Mother Diosdada received the most favourable reply, flowering the dreams and longings of the Sisters Adorers. It read “I had an encouraging and cordial meeting with our admirable Fr Guemes. He gave me a book to read, “Obra Magna” written by a canon of Logroño. By reading this book I came to know about the wonderful activities of your Institute and I began to have a great affection for your amazing Foundress, St Maria Micaela and the Charism of the Congregation she founded. We all agree unanimously that your arrival will be epoch-making in the Annals of our Cuttack Mission”.
A Tabernacle in India!
TabernacleThe arrival of Sisters Adorers is categorically confirmed in the article by Fr J. Taboada, CM, under the title “a Tabernacle in India” in the magazine “Reina de las Misiones”, November, 1947.
The Sisters bade good-bye to Spain and flew towards Calcutta, with a stopover each in Rome and Karachi. They sent all their baggage including their beloved Tabernacle on board of a ship. The Tabernacle was designed by themselves; its bronze door carries the engraving of the Good Shepherd, watched over by the Father and the Spirit, a missionary Good shepherd running through oriental scenery of palm trees brightened by the sun, searching for the lost sheep in a distant yellowish field.
The first batch of Sisters Adorers landed on the Indian soil (Calcutta) on November 14, 1947. After staying for a couple of days with the “Little Sisters of the Poor”, they proceeded to Cuttack (Orissa) and were accommodated with the Sisters of St Joseph of Annecy, until they found a House of their own. They waited anxiously for the arrival of the ship with the Tabernacle. At the same time they began to learn English and the local language: Oriya.
Mother Diosdada had written to Bishop Sanz, the then Bishop of Cuttack Mission, on April, 1947: “I have read a letter from venerable Fr Guemes, CM, in which he speaks of Puri or Berhampur as most suitable localities for the first foundation of Sisters Adorers”.
The Four Pillars of our first Foundation in India.
The pioneers of the Indian foundation of Sisters Adorers were Mother Antonia Mene, Sr Jovita Fernandez Gabanes, Sr Maria Luz Martinez Caballero and Sr Adelaida Romero Amillano. Fr Vincent Franco, CM, has mentioned in an article. “The Cuttack Mission has to be congratulated, because in its territory a convent is founded by Sisters Adorers Handmaids of the Blessed Sacrament and of Charity. The Spanish Sisters Adorers will blend prayer with teaching. Their convent will also be a Centre for young needy girls”.
The first Foundation in Puri
Having enjoyed the hospitality of the Sisters of St Joseph for nearly a year, on October 1, 1948, after a thanksgiving Eucharistic Celebration, the pioneer Adorers left Cuttack for Puri, our first house in India with the hope and trust placed in the infinite providence of God. The FIRST HOLY MASS in our Chapel at Puri, on October 2, 1948, was indeed very moving with Eucharistic emotions and fervour.
On the same day October 2, 1948, the FIRST NIGHT ADORATION was held in our first House in Puri, together with our venerable Missionary F. Guemes, CM. This Adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, a vibrant factor of our founding Charism, started in our Indian soil on
October 2, 1948, is being continued even today in all our Houses.
As years passed by, our Congregation in India grew in size and number and has gone deeper into its identity and Charism in the socio-cultural context of our country.