The Presentation Mission in India celebrates 175 yearsBack
The first Presentation Mission in India began in 1842 when four pioneering sisters arrived from the communities in Rahan and Maynooth in Ireland to Madras (Chennai) on 13th January.
Sr. Xavier Curran from the Rahan community in Co. Offaly was one of the founders and first superior of the George Town Chennai community. She is described in the annals as having ‘a most ardent desire for the foreign missions’ and ‘was pressed to join three sisters from the Maynooth convent as their superior’ in the Madras Mission. These were Sr Regis Kelly, M Aloysius Neville and Sr Martha Kelly. The four sisters sailed from London on 17th September 1841.
However, within a short number of years the fledgling Madras community was shaken by the early deaths of two of these sisters. A passage in the annals in Mullingar, Ireland reads: ‘The foundation was nearly exhausted in its resources of money and members when its wants became known here. They became a subject of very general conversation and a missionary spirit soon developed itself.’
The Mullingar community discussed sending a number of its members out to India: ‘Mother DeSales avowed herself first in favour of it and offered to go to the assistance of the struggling foundation.’
Thus, in 1850 three sisters and a young postulant from Mullingar, M DeSales Nugent, M Xavier Flattery, Sr Ignatius Murphy and Sr Brigid Mangan, travelled to join the mission in India.
A plaque in St Mary’s Co-Cathedral in George Town, Chennai bears the names of nine of the Irish founding sisters. The fact that only four sisters lived beyond 11 years on this mission bears testament to the challenges they faced in their lives and work. Contrasting climatic conditions may have been a possible factor, or indeed TB may have been carried over on the journey from Ireland. The archival material available does not elaborate on the causes.
From these modest beginnings, a vibrant and flourishing mission grew exponentially over the following years. The mission spread to many other states in the Indian sub-continent including Rawalpindi, which was later to become part of Pakistan.
In 2015, two Units were created to cover all of India.
Today, there are currently 165 Sisters in the India South Unit. Their ministries cover a number of states including Tamil Nadu, Goa, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.
In India North Unit, 67 Sisters live and minister in states including Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh.
Active ministries across these two units include those in education, social work, health and pastoral ministry, justice and peace and advocacy on behalf of those on the margins especially women and children.
From Small Acorns do Mighty Oaks grow!
Carolanne Henry, Communications Desk &
Marie Therese King PBVM