A SHORT HISTORY OF THE SOCIETY OF JESUS MARY JOSEPH (JMJ)
Our dear Founder Fr. Mathias Wolff S.J., enamoured by the person of Jesus, His vision and mission, planted the Society of JMJ in the Garden of the Church in Holland in the year 1822. The Charism, he designed for the Sisters, “An ever Adaptable Apostolic Availability” was indeed his life pattern in order to have a firm solidarity with the world. His spirituality was none other than the spirituality of Christ, but practiced in his time. The Charism and Spirituality that have become the heritage of the Sisters of JMJ keep the members ever fresh with an inner freedom in seeking and doing the Will of the Father.
The members at different stages receive solid initial formation as Aspirants, Postulants, Novices and Junior Sisters – which is continued as On-going formation till the end of their lives. This helps the members to be deeply motivated and firmly rooted in Christ in order to be sent out on His mission.
The maxim of our Founder “I want to work like a giant” and his Mandate to the sisters –viz- to have a firm solidarity with the world and to embrace and reach out to the four corners of the world, with an unconditional pliability, with respect to the never-to-be-predicted, never-to-be-comprehended and non-where-to-be fixed Will of God, is the most precious heritage of our Society, that keeps the sisters always on the move to meet the demands of the Church and the world, to build up to God’s Kingdom in tune with the signs of the times.
Very soon the Congregation spread out to the whole of the Netherlands under the leadership of different Superiors General – Mother Clara Lantman, Mother Adriana Pijpers and Mother Seraphine Pullens, inspite of the many odds they had to face from different angles.
The needs were varied and so was the availability of the Congregation and its members. Together with extending their services to the education of girls, which was their priority, apostolate like Health Care, Geriatrics, Schools for mentally retarded, physically handicapped, blind, deaf and dumb and the like, were taken up as and when the need arose, and as and when the requests came from the Bishops of the Dioceses.
Our Venerable Founder passed on to his early Sisters great devotion to the person of Jesus, and our involvement in the plan of salvation in imitation of His ways. His values, His service to humanity etc.
‘Go to Joseph’ (Gen.41:55) was a watch word for the JMJ Sisters, especially those in authority, not to the Joseph of O.T., but Joseph the foster father of Jesus, husband of Mary. Any need of any sort, be it needing financial help, problems, sickness, a serious operation, water shortage, examination etc., would find a petition at the statue of St. Joseph and the result – miraculous.
Devotion to our Blessed Mother too has been a cherished devotion which our Founder passed on to the early JMJ’s. The name “Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary” by which JMJ’s were called in the beginning is a proof of this.
It was the time, the acceptable time in the History of the JMJ Sisters, to start responding to the mandate of Fr. Mathias Wolff –viz- to reach out to the four corners of the world. At the request of the Provincial of Jesuits in Indonesia and the invitation of the Bishop Walterus Stall of Indonesia, the then Superior General of the JMJ’s – Mother Seraphine Pullens, in consultation with her Council took a bold step to send missionaries to Indonesia. Accordingly, six young Dutch sisters set sail to Indonesia in the year 1898.
Our sisters’ undaunted faith in Divine Providence enabled them to perseveringly wait for 11 years to realize their dream of starting education for girls. The Charism “An ever Adaptable Apostolic Availability” enabled them to be useful in many other ways for the welfare of the people while waiting. Health Care and the Social and Catechetical activities that our Sisters introduced, brought them closer to the people and in every way the Sisters’ services were appreciated and sought after. The Education apostolate that was taken up as a priority, picked up fast as young girls flocked to our Institutions because they experienced these to be better and beneficial to them in very many aspects.
This could perhaps account for the Indonesian Vocations to JMJ as early as 1924 at the completion of their High School with us. The first batch of Indonesian girls were admitted into the Society of JMJ directly as they had the Dutch language-bond between them. From then on Indonesian girls have been steadily entering the JMJ Society. Increase of members led to greater availability, varieties of apostolate, extension to different areas and islands and greater openness to the service of the Church in Indonesia and around.
1904 was the acceptable year of the Lord when the Dutch JMJ pioneers landed in India and the dawn of a new era opened for JMJ. Thought many enthusiastic young girls offered to join the Society, lack of education and educational facilities around, did not allow the girls to have the necessary religious training to become JMJ’s.
“Ammagarulu” as they were called, was the community started for these girls who were a great support and help for the early Dutch sisters. As many as 58 sisters were in this groups, who were later amalgamated to JMJ after 2 years of Novitiate training. Novitiate and Formation as such was officially started in the year 1932.
As early as 1920s and the later years India was blessed with the entrance of a few Australian girls – among others was Sr. Dr. MaryGlowry, Sr. Dr. Veronica Pitt, Sr. Peter Julian, Pharmacist and Sr. Anna Patricia Monnghan, Staff Nurse. Besides, the entrance of Miss Isabel Swamikannu of Madras, B.A.L.T., later Sr. Stanislas Swamikannu JMJ in 1923 – was a boon to the Education apostolate of the Society. The Health Care Apostolate and the Education Apostolate sprang up fast in the Society opening the way for many possibilities in the service of the people.
The incoming of more Dutch missionaries and the Indian vocation to JMJ made it possible to open more convents in the different States of India and even send Indian sisters together with the Dutch missionaries to Tanzania (East Africa) and Australia in the sixties. It was the time that our Society was teaming with life with plenty of vocations in Holland, Indonesia and India with hope and chances for Tanzania and Australia.
However, everything crumbled after the Vatican II. Though it was meant for renewal and growth for the Church, Congregations and world. It worked very adversely for our Society in Holland – sisters leaving the Society, not encouraging vocations. This followed the closing down of the mission in Tanzania and Australia and unpleasant situations for JMJ’s in Indonesia and India.
Without encouragement from the parent, India and Indonesia had to swim against the currents to sustain and develop. No one can put a stop to God’s plan! The efforts were rewarded in His time.
In 1985, India could send some sisters to Rome to take over from the ageing Dutch sisters, the running of the ‘College Olandese’ – the Dutch College, as it was known.
It was in 1987, the official dividing of the Indian Province into three with Provincialates in Hyderabad, Guntur and Bangalore with independent Formation Houses saw the dawn of a new beginning.
This resulted in more vocation promotion, more vocations, more houses, more opportunities to be available for the signs of the times and in usually unreachable areas of the country.
As Indonesia was equally making efforts to develop, together we could send out sisters as missionaries to Ghana, West Africa from 1990 onwards. In the year 2007, we have also sent three sisters (one from each of our Indian Provinces) as missionaries to Afghanistan where they will work in collaboration with the Jesuits who have made a footing there a few years ago.