The Birth of DMI
Rev. Fr. J. E. Arul Raj was a missionary Priest of “Oblates of Mary Immaculate” (OMI). He was offered to go as a missionary to a place “Pandravedu” a remote village in Tamil Nadu, which is considered to be a hostile environment for the Gospel, further no one is will to go there. In the year 1981 there were not enough training, to equip a missionary with proper resources and tool which is essential for him to work in a mission field.
Eventually he was struggling in all areas, at this juncture a group of religious a group of sisters who volunteered to serve the mission, and be a helping hand to him as well, also left the mission field within couple of weeks, due to the nature of the mission field….
The problems people facing in this area are diverse, these people belonged to lower caste “since Indian society is classified and identified in to cast system. Most of the women wear only one ‘saari’ (a traditional dress for the women). The men wear a dress called ‘lungies’ on their waist and to carry their sandals in their hands when they walked through the street of upper caste.
Moreover these people were, so vulnerable of being their women been raped, and abused, by the culprits of the upper class, exploiting their labor and wealth is a constant issue. Almost every family lived on a single meal a day. In addition to that Illiteracy, child abuse, and child marriage were all part of their life.
They have the mindset of accepting all these factors as ‘fate’. Which made him to realize the plan and purpose of God, of not only to preach the gospel, but also to bring a social reformation, and to shed light in areas of, education, health, and other social welfare? This ultimately Paved way to start “The Society of Daughters of Mary Immaculate and collaborators (DMI)” into existence!!!
The Journey of DMI
On 29th January 1984 just 10 hours of the declaration of the Society, he was shown a piece of property. And in the middle of it was a huge mango tree! Even though it was not the season for mangoes, he prayed like Gideon prayed in the Book of Judges of the Old Testament, that God should give him a sign to confirm, weather it is His Will by showing him a mango on the tree.
Standing under the mango tree he found a huge mango. He brought it down with a stone in a single throw. In the early days of my ministry, a couple of girls who has completed their higher secondary education joined the Society to serve the Lord and simultaneously pursuing for their higher education.
The Lord blessed as by adding our members one by one nearly twenty one girls committed their lives to the Lord to serve under the capacity of a religious sister. Beginning three years we were filled with struggles, pain and misery. Some people who encouraged and supported him in the beginning, became envy and tried to destroyed the ministry, by false accusation to the Higher level personalities in order to wipe him completely!, but as the Apostle Paul declare in his epistle “I Timothy 1:12 “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given him strength, that he considered him trustworthy, appointing him to his service”.
He took everything in prayer to Lords Feet, who gave him the favor in the eyes of the Archbishop, who found that neither him am nor his Ministry is of no guilty. The Religious sisters had to work hard to generate revenue by working hard in the sugarcane fields and spent day and night in tending cattle and sheep’s, for few liters of milk. He will never forget the moments when he had to pawn his mother and his sister’s Golden ornaments Jewry in a Bank to provide food to his members.
There are also days they were without food, which they considered as fasting days. The situations made them to think about the quotation of St. Paul the Apostle: “Vs.26 – I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. Vs.27 – I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Vs. 28 – Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches” – II Corinthians: 26 – 28.
The Lord has made us to endure hardship in order to grow strong, mentally and spiritually. This was a time of trial and refining, suspicion and secret surveillance were on the move monitoring us every day in all sides. God allowed this to test my commitment and calling! Even the supporting parish priest and the parents of our religious sisters were in a dilemma to withdraw the girls who already joined the congregation.
DMI has no proper shelter or any facility in those days; They were literally living and operating our ministry under the Big Mango tree. One of the partners Ms. BRIGITTE MEUER, Aachen, Germany; helped them in building a house. The foundation for this house was laid on 11th March 1984 at Keechalam and named as Brigitta, which was given after his name.
After acknowledging the missionary spirit and the growth of the Society, on 25th December 1985 the late Archbishop of Madras Mylapore Most REV. DR. ARULAPPA gave his first approval to the Society of DMI, before his bypass surgery in his bed from one of the prominent HealthCare Centre in Chennai.
The Motto of DMI
The Moto of the society is to “Love God is to serve the poor to become fully human and fully alive” which was later modified as “Loving God in serving the poor to be fully human and fully alive”.
The Sisters of DMI
In the year 1987 a group of twelve members made their first commitment on 12th May 1987, after going through various levels and stages during their formation period. Their training includes not only spiritual and religious life but also in community integrated, with the people of the area in part – taking in their daily events of planting, weeding, harvesting and cooking.
While working along with the people, the sisters motivated the people to come out of their bondage which they called “fate”. The contribution of the first group of sisters in building up of the spirit of the community is to be thankfully acknowledged. They become the backbone and the models of DMIs. Even though the second group sisters were small in numbers their potential in giving leadership training to the Society cannot be forgotten.
The third batch of sisters followed the first two groups. He began to call them the FOUNDING GROUP, later called as the FOUNDERS GROUP. Hw cannot forget the hard labor of 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 in the history of DMI.
When they were building the compound wall of Pune house, which has a length of nearly 600 feet, by solid cement blocks, each weighing nearly 24 kilos. One of the Jesuit priests said to him “for the first time the religious communities in Pune have seen sisters doing hard manual labour”. The stamina and the spirit of service they showed in serving God and the poor are the foundation of the Society of DMI and MMI.
The Birth of MMI
Looking back into the humble beginnings of the Missionaries of Mary Immaculate a Priestly Society founded by him; He made DMI as the Co-founding society of MMI. It means specifically the founding group members who stood strongly behind him in founding the Society. Today the MMIs have grown a strong Society of 400 members and more.
The Missions of DMI in India
The DMI’s involved initially in 10 villages in and around Keechalam, responding to various needs of women and children. Their first mission outside Madras Archdiocese was opened in our neighboring State called Andhra Pradesh in the year 1988.
It was started with a mission to help the tribal’s in Kodai Hills with the invitation of the Jesuit fathers, introduced by FR. C. AMAL RAJ S. J. Mrs. Brigitte Meuer along with the mission committee of the St. Katharina’s parish in Aachen Germany continued to be our partners in building up of the missionary life of DMI. Mrs. Maria Krutz continued to support him with various programmes. DMI was given a boost in the arm when MISEREOR started supporting DMI in a very small way in the year 1989.
Eventually this partnership grew into a major collaboration and remains until today. In the year 1997 MISEREOR came forward to support him almost for eleven programmes for women development, which also includes support for our Intensive Motivation Training (Novitiate).
At this time they were held in a crisis for funds, unable to precede the second stage of the development work. Mr. Ulrich Fuesser my good friend in MISEREOR organized an evaluation of DMI’s work which was the turning point in the history of DMI. In 1998 this evaluation helped him to turbo his engine to diversify our activities. Till then they were a Society depending very much upon foreign contribution for our survival.
The evaluation helped them to be self- sustenance and to concentrate upon their next phase of developmental work. Moreover they began to strengthen their existing institutions. By this time the globalization entered strongly into the Indian Sub-Continent. The need of the hour was to have technically qualified personnel. Unqualified and unskilled laborers are becoming jobless. Taking the opportunity many unethical and corrupted anti social elements were opening Technical Institutes and Colleges for higher level Educations. The Church did not have an immediate answer to this unexpected educational development.
He felt that this is the time that God called DMI to answer. He felt the need of the hour is to give technical education to the Christians and the poor. With support from various banks, they converted their non-formal technical institutions into formal Engineering colleges. The colleges are always for the poorest of the poor through a scheme of “Study Now Pay Later”. Even our own poor children who were brought up through sponsorship are given preference in the colleges.
The Strategies of DMI
His method of working for the upliftment of the poor, is classified in to two parts; “Giving fish” when they are hungry and providing net to and training them to catch their own fish. “The sustainable development of the poor who are trained to sustain themselves” so, we not only taught them to catch fish and sustain themselves, but also “we trained them to trade it”. Today we are in the mode of making them the models. We train them “to teach others to catch, to sustain, to trade and also to teach others.
Our ministry involvement in North India was never meant to be big but effective. The mission in North India was a training ground for our missionaries to integrate with other cultures. Many of our beneficiaries have become entrepreneurs and co-workers. The stories from rag to riches are many. This has helped us to put the Word of God into action.
Our service to the poor, low castes’, tribal’s and others were openly recognized by the Chief Minister of Our State Tamil Nadu, Mr, M. Karunanidhi and various Central and State ministers, who gathered on 8th March 2007 in the Nehru Stadium at Chennai along with 15,000 strong women leaders from all over India. Child development programs of DMI are one of the Key factors. The work among children started by me in 1980 at Kancheepuram, continued to be the venue by the DMIs as a fully fledged program of child development, through various supports from Germany and Japanese organization ESNAC.
Nearly 3000 children are directly benefited for their primary education and helped them to pursue master degree and placement. DMIs believe that “Children are our Future” and the best place for the child is to live in his or her own home.
The Future of DMI
The future of DMI also depends upon our ability to involve in Mass Media and communication along with latest technology. Having this in mind we have entered into a partnership with the Cardinal of Dar Es Salaam in the T.V. Tumani programme. This T.V Channel in a way is the brain child of the DMIs and their collaborators. DMIs also plan to involve in other such programme that the message of socio – pastoral efforts of the DMI and MMI may reach out to large number of poor and the needy.
Through our various ministries, he wants the DMIs and MMIs to be meaningfully present in the spiritual, social, educational and every other aspects of human development. They should find the world and beyond; the Kingdom of God, where Peace and Joy will always prevail for one and all.
The Birth of Collaborators
He always believed that the involvement of the lay people in the active ministry of the missionary church is more important than or equally important like recruiting celibate priests or sisters. That is one of the reasons when he registered the official Society of DMI with the government of Tamil Nadu in 1984; He added the name “Collaborators, with Daughters of Mary Immaculate”. So it is our duty to collaborate with our Redeemer Christ in bringing in more collaborators to His Mission. In a way he recognizes Tanzania as our collaborators mission as they went and prepared the way for the sisters and priests.