SMMI-BANGLADESH

Salesian Missionaries of Mary Immaculate

Bangladesh

General History

The Religious Institute, Salesian Missionaries of Mary Immaculate constitutes the Missionary Branch of the Society of the Daughters of St. Francis de Sales. This Society was founded by Fr. Henri Chaumontand Mme Carre de Malberg on 15th October 1872, to live and spread the evangelical charity in the world. From the beginning of the society, the founder had awakened among the members a deep missionary enthusiasm which expressed itself in a guild of fervent prayer on behalf of non-Christian women.

The missionary branch was formed in 1885, setting out its first missionary journey to India in 1889 led by pioneers Mother Marie Gertrude, Mother Marie de Kostka, Sr. Magdalene and Sr. Joseph.

The Aim of the Society:

a) Personal Sanctification: It consists to answer with grace of God,the universal call to holiness, through fidelity to the Gospel in the midst of the world and in every state of life.
Means: the state of life, practice of solid piety, habit of mental prayer, faithfulness to the constitutions and duties of life.

b) Sanctification of others; Apostolate: It is a callto participate in the universal mission of the Church by the witness of their lives and by the apostolic actions adapted to their states of live.

Means: Being at the service of the universal and local Church as Mary in the early Church.

Our Patrons:

(a) Holy Spirit: From the beginning, the Society was under the patronage of the Holy Spirit and Pentecost is the greatest feast of the Society. By virtue of our vocation, we are placed in a very special way under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

(b) Mary: The Founder of the society, Father Henry Chaumont asked his daughters to draw their inspirations and strength from Mary as model and guiding star. “Be Mary” is the Motto of the society given by Him. He wanted them to give Jesus to the non-Christians by contemplating the attitudes and countenance of Mary. In that occasion he says, “Be an apparition of Mary”.

(c) St. Francis de Sales: The spirituality of St. Francis de Sale is called a “Spirituality of Heart”. In his Master piece “Treatise on the Love of God” says “All is for love, in love, to love and of love in the Holy Church”. His teaching is that ‘He who loves God must ride in the ship of God. We don't have to go far to get a ticket for this ship, we just have to do God's will in our daily lives with love. In this desire we will find peace of heart. And the special form of this peace is joy.’Also, he said, “I find comfort in seeing your joyful deed, for our God is the God of joy”.

Our Founders:

a). Fr. Henry Chamount:

A French priest Fr. Henry Chamount was taken up by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sale. From his early age he could realize the condition of women in non-Christian countries.A sentiment of justice made him feel that it could not continue like that, something must be done and he used to take notes and he understood that it is through women that we can reach families and through them that the conversion is being prepared. This conviction revealed in his writings and conferences. We read in the conference given to the novices in 1890, “If the CMMI could undertake the conversion of women in the family, little by little through families they will transform districts and nations.”

Keeping in line with his ever-burning desire to make the women as apostles to carry the Gospel of Christ to all, he founded a group called the Society of the Daughters of St. Francis de Sales. The auspicious day was 15th October 1872 and Madame Carre de Malberg was the pioneer along with Fr.Chaumont. The members lived their daily ordinary lives, at the same time aiming at holiness, taking the light from the Introduction to the Devout Life. This book came out from the hand of St. Francis de Sales, the then Bishop of Geneva.

MADAM CARRE DE MALBERG

Madam Carré de Malberg was born on 8 April 1829 in the family of Mr. Colchen, a business man and was baptized Caroline. When she was 12, she was sent to the boarding school of the Visitation.

At the age of 20, she married her cousin Paul Carré who was a military officer. He was not a practicing Christian and so his wife did all in her power to bring him back to faith. Of her four children only one of them survived. The son followed his father’s carrier and was crushed by his horse in 1885, lingered in pain and died a most edifying death.

Colonel Carré’s return to religious practice was a source of joy for which she had been praying for a long time. During the early years of her marriage MME Carré felt the need of spiritual guidance and ardently prayed for a director to help her to realize her spiritual aspirations. She found in Fr Chaumont the guide she sought but she took him as her spiritual director only after consulting with her brother, a Dominican priest. This young priest had a prolonged study of the works of St Francis of Sales, to whose intercession he owed many graces. He was already directing many souls according to the “Introduction to the Devout Life”. She made a preliminary retreat and adopted the “Rule for a life of perfection”. The war of 1870 made it imperative for her to leave Paris but Fr Chaumont helped her through letters. Fr.Chaumont realized that she was not an ordinary soul but one destined to have a great and lasting influence over others, a soul that needs to be refined as by fire to fit it for that great work of founding the association of St Francis of Sales

MOTHER MARIE GERTRUDE

Mother Marie Gertrude was born on 27th march 1850 in Paris as the only daughter of Mr. Eugene Gros and Madam Léonie Poissant. She was baptized on 26th April 1851 and was named Félicie Gros. Her father died when she was five years old and since then her mother tirelessly worked hard to educate her only daughter and to bring her up with good moral values.

Felicie was very frail in her health due to diabetes which she inherited from her mother. Seized by God’s benevolent love that she experienced very specially through her mother and influenced by the teachings of St. Francis de Sales in the “Introduction to Devout Life”, she felt being attracted towards a life of Holiness and joined the “Society of the Daughters of St.Francis de Sales” in the year 1873.

She made her consecration in this society on 19th January1875 and received her new name Sr. Marie Gertrude of Precious Blood. On the first year of her consecrated life, aware of her spiritual talents and leadership qualities, the founder entrusted her with the task of forming a new group of Christian teachers along with him in different parts of France. Later observing her extra ordinary spiritual gifts, talent and missionary zeal as well as her enthusiasm for the salvation of souls and her willingness to sacrifice anything for the cause of mission in spite of her weak health, the founders assigned her to found the “Catechist Missionaries of Mary Immaculate” - CMMI (The religious branch of the same society) today known as “Salesian Missionaries of Mary Immaculate”(SMMI) in India specially.

She was sent to India on 12th October1889 along with three other daughters of St. Francis de Sales after a special formation for mission countries for the evangelization of Non-Christian women and to make them apostles in their turn. This first departure was realized as a response to the request and in the name of Bishop Riccaz of Nagpur by Reverend Fr. Joseph Tissot, the Superior General of Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales - the congregation which was responsible for the development of the newly formed diocese of Nagpur.

This first group of Missionaries reached Nagpur in India, their missionary destination, on 2nd November 1889 under the vibrant leadership of Mother Marie Gertrude. The pioneers faced with strong faith, filial confidence in God and missionary dynamism all challenges that come on their way in this new mission field. Soon this missionary branch began to spread in the other parts of the India and abroad.

At that time Dhaka (Bengal) was a part of India territory and it was a Catholic diocese. It was at the request of Bishop Hurth, Bishop of Dhaka that Fr. Henri Chaumont had sent seven sisters of Catechists Missionaries of Mary Immaculate headed by Mother Therese of the Epiphany to Bengal. They left Paris in December 1895 and reached Dhaka, Bengal in 1896. Despite her weak physical health, Mother Marie Gertrude was full of zeal and enthusiasm for the task entrusted to her. Focusing her life and also that of her sisters' lives of Eucharistic Jesus, centering her life on the word of God with deep faith and filial confidence in the Divine Providence, she established number of Missions in India and also followed the mission in the other parts of the world like China, Madagascar and Europe in the capacity as co-foundress, general councilor and assistant to the missions.

She sustained the Christian commitment and missionary enthusiasm of her sisters and communities through her exemplary life of holiness. She gave frequent spiritual conferences to the communities, preached retreats to her sisters and wrote personal letters to her sisters and communities. Having lived the virtue of Obedience in a very heroic manner even at the cost of her life, she and her sisters have been instrumental in the evangelization of large number of villages in the central and south India and Bangladesh.

When central India (Nagpur) was hit by epidemics like cholera, plague and famine especially between 1891 to 1903, she and her sisters dared to walk through the streets of Nagpur treating the ill affected people, often welcoming the widows and children orphaned by the death.

In January 1905, she came to visit Sr. Vincent who was very sick at time, but due to her bad health condition, she died in March 18th here in Dhaka, Bengal.