Founding Members of DMI
All the members of the first three groups who came forward boldly to join and begin our Society are honoured as the ‘Founding Members’. These members helped in building up of the Society by their spirit of sacrifice and exemplary life. We owe our lives and spirit to them. The Society was born purely out of need and even the Founder Fr. Arul Raj does not claim full credit for its coming to be. He humbly acknowledges it to be God’s work done under the inspiration of the Archbishop His Grace Dr. Arulappa in response to the needs of people. But he is generous in sharing the honor of founding the society (though he considers it more a responsibility than honor) with the sisters of the first three groups.
The Reason Behind
The sisters of the first three groups are called the ‘Founding Members’ not because of any role in founding but because of their fidelity and faithfulness. The sisters of the first three groups held together in faith and rallied around the Founder when things were in a state of abyss. Even when there was no such entity as a society, neither perceptible signs of a bright future nor any certainty or evident proof of a flourish, they stuck together. Only love of God, love for the poor, trust in God and unwavering faith in the Founder kept this little flock together. It is to honour this faithful fidelity; the Society calls them with love as the ‘Founding Members’.
Building up the Spirit
The involvement of the first group of sisters in building up the spirit of the community is to be thankfully acknowledged. They became the backbone and the models of DMIs. Even though the second group of sisters was small in numbers, their vitality in giving leadership to the Society cannot be forgotten. The third batch of sisters followed the first two groups in spirit and service; all the members of these three groups came to be known as the ‘Founding Group’. We can never forget the hard labor each and every one of them put into the Society. The bricks they made, the buildings they built, the land they cultivated, the blocks and granite stones they carried can never be forgotten by history. When they built the compound wall of Pune house, about the length of nearly 600 feet, with solid cement blocks, each weighing nearly 24 kilos, “for the first time, the religious communities in Pune have seen sisters doing tough manual labor” remarked a priest of that place. The determination and the fortitude of service they showed in serving God and the poor are the foundation of the Society of DMI.
1ST BATCH : Sr.M.Fatima, Sr.G.Sarala, Sr.S.R.Vijili Dali, Sr.S.Paschali, Sr.M.K.Teresa, Sr.Molly P.J, Sr.A.Mary Jehani
2ND BATCH : Sr.J.Rose Mary, Sr.C.Pushpa, Sr.M.Virginammal, Sr.S.Gnana Selvam
3RD BATCH : Sr.M.Reetha Mary, Sr.K.Michealammal, Sr.A.Sabeenammal.
Unfortunately a few of them are no more with the Society for reasons best known to them. Some of them had given a lot of their time and energy and had done much which the Society never fails to recognize. But, it equally respects the sentiments and freewill of every individual in the Society. One of the second group members, Sr. Virgin who held the post of the Superior General of DMI for two terms passed away during her tenure as the Managing Trustee of DMI Foundations (DFT). Her services are also greatly remembered.
Present Group of Founding Members
The Society is indeed proud and immensely glad to have at present Srs. M. Fatima, G.Sarala, S. R. Viji, S. Paschal, M. K. Treasa, P. J. Molly and A. Jahani of the first group, Srs. Rosemary, S. Pushpa and Gnanaselvam of the second group and Srs. M. Rita, Sabeenammal, and Michaelammal of the third group as its Founding Members.
The founding years had been really tough and the founding members have been showing their great endurance by persevering in the face of stiff oppositions and tough conditions. As the Scripture says, “Indeed we count them blessed those who endure.” (Js.5: 11) Blessed are they, who have for long, endured every pain and agony to serve the Father and His Kingdom. Thirty two years have gone by and the journey is still on – the journey with all humanity and the entire universe – marching towards Father’s Kingdom.
In the words of the Founder
“Never in my life have I desired to be a Founder. Not even in my dreams, have I thought about it. I sincerely believed that I was not made with the stuff of a Founder. I was more like a freelancer trying to help people in whatever situation they were in and in whatever way I could. As the Parish priest of Pandravedu, I was actively involved in pastoral ministry. Even before the Society was started, I had established Grihini School to provide non-formal education to girls, night schools in five of the Catholic villages and tuition centers in all the sub-stations of the parish to impart education to the children. I had always wanted the youth to be employed and tried to make them profitably engaged. I used to help a lot of people with money to buy seed for their cultivation and many to acquire cattle/sheep to earn their livelihood. Thus I was involved in various kinds of socio- pastoral ministry.
Helping hands that supported me
I always saw St. Joseph‟s Mission –Pandravedu as a “rich mission in hand”. The harvest was plenty but the labourers were few. When my initial efforts to get some religious sisters failed, God opened up a new door. Out of nowhere, the idea of starting a Society came to me and the Society of Daughters of Mary Immaculate was born on a Saturday night i.e. 28th January 1984. Again, my initial efforts to recruit candidates failed. But, God brought 21 young girls, mainly through the help of my sister Amali and some others. They formed the first group. In the following two years, we could not recruit many candidates due to certain difficulties. However, the few who came remained strong and committed; they glued well with the first group.
Bound by Mutual Trust
The girls who formed the first three groups were with me when there was no such entity called the ‘Society’. They believed in God and His call through me. When they joined, DMI was only a name and it never existed as an entity. They had nothing and no one to rely upon except me. They remained together purely in faith: faith in God and faith in me. That is why I love to call them the Founding members. Not by virtue of their part in founding, but by virtue of their fidelity to God and me, they are given the honour of being called the Founding Members.
Well-formed even when formless
Even the basic necessities of life such as a permanent place, healthy food and decent clothing were not guaranteed. We really struggled to have them. The Society has been built upon their sweat and hard labour. The amount of manual labour they put in and the types of work (bricklaying, cultivation, animal husbandry, running a supermarket, working as labourers in farms) they were involved in are hard to believe. Not that the girls of the following groups namely the fourth and fifth put in less labour. They too were equally hardworking, willing and sacrificing. But there was one great difference. When they came in, they came into the Society. It was already approved by the Archbishop and the first batch of twelve sisters had made their first profession. The Society was already in a recognized and identifiable shape. It was not the case with the girls of the first three groups.
Strong in strange situations
The situation was like a flux. They trusted my words to be unfailing truth. In spite of the so many rumours that were going on, the efforts of vilification against me and the attempts to thwart our endeavour, they held firm. I was not with them all through the day to guide and support them. I was like an itinerant rushing to fulfill the obligations entrusted to me by the OMI Congregation, executing my responsibilities as the Parish priest, involving very much with the socio-pastoral activities of the vicariate and also looking after this new group of girls. The effective time I spent with these girls was very little but the little time I spent with them always turned out to be the quality time. I could see in them the zeal for mission.It is that bond that kept us together. They were on their feet before the dawn to see me off to perform my daily duties and they were awake even after twilight to receive me after my daily chores. The bond that existed between us was like that of a family and their life revolved entirely around their reliance and trust on me. This unquestionable fidelity and irresistible loyalty made me decide that I have to be committed to them and see that their lives become meaningful and fruitful.
Their trust honoured
It is not because of their role in founding the Society they are called “Founding members”. In fact, they did not have a role to play at all. The Founding was purely due to the inspiration of the Archbishop and in response to compelling needs. It was never a planned one and the entire process took place impromptu, more out of compulsion to act because of the external forces acting on us. So, No one really did have a defined role, even my role was more determined by impending situations. They also had no pre-defined role. But, their unlimited trust in God and me, their infinite loyalty to the mission, and togetherness in tough situations has won for them this title of founding members.
Steadfast in faith
St. Paul captures the faith of Abraham this way: “Hoping against hope, he believed… He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body… No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Therefore his faith was reckoned to him as righteousness.” (Rom.4:18-22). Just like Abraham, the sisters of the first three groups believed when there was no evidence to believe. Just as his faith was reckoned to him as righteousness, the faith and fidelity of the sisters of the first three groups was reckoned to them as deserving the title “Founding Members.” I am only too happy to bestow them with this honour which they truly deserve.”