The Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary had its foundation in Pondicherry on 16th Oct.1844. The proud privilege of our Congregation is that, it is the First Indigenous Women Religious Congregation in the Continent of Asia. The Founder of this Congregation is Rev. Fr. Louis Savinien Dupuis MEP, a French Missionary.The Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Immaculate Heart of Mary is an outcome of the ‘felt need’ of the Fathers of the Diocesan Synod of Pondicherry, as a result of their concern for the education of Women. The Fathers of the Synod believed that the education of women would become instrumental in fostering true piety in families and generally in raising the quality of families. During the Diocesan Synod held at Pondicherry the President Msgr. Clement Bonnard, the Vicar Apostolic of Pondicherry, spoke emphatically about the necessity for the education of women. The Fathers proposed the idea that an Indian Sisters’ Congregation should be started and the sisters should be entrusted with the responsibility of teaching women, secular education together with religious and moral education. By the Grace of God, with the blessings and consent of His Holiness Pope Gregory XVI and His Grace Msgr. Clement Bonnand, the Vicar Apostolic of Pondicherry, the seed for the new Congregation of the FRANCISCAN SISTERS OF THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY was founded on 23rd of February 1859 the Congregation was affiliated to the Third Order of St.Francis. In 1864, Msgr.Godelle officially instituted this pious association as a Diocesan Congregation. On 18th July, 1886 the Congregation was united juridically to the Third Order of St. Francis. Under the capable and responsible guidance of Rev. Fr. Dupuis, the Congregation grew and began to spread to the neighbouring Dioceses. The Founder Father, Fr.Louis Savinien Dupuis tirelessly worked for the growth of the Congregation till his death on the 4th of June 1874 and his body was laid to rest in the Cathedral. Later on the 13th of April 1989 his body was exhumed and again solemnly laid to rest at Nirmala Novitiate at Pakkumudayanpet in Pondicherry.
Thereafter Sr.Maria Natchatram one of the first 4 sisters of the Congregation became the First Superior General and a body of a Four Member Council was also formed with the Directorship of Rev.Fr. Francis Berges.
The Superior Generals paved the way for the growth of the Congregation under the encouragement and guidance of the successive Directors (most of whom belonged to the Paris Foreign Missions) and it grew like the mustard tree and spread in all the corners of the land. In 1946, after consulting the Bishops of the dioceses of Pondicherry, Kollam and Vijayapuram and the General Councillors of the Congregation, the Holy See gave permission to the Apostolic Delegate of the East Indies to separate the Malayalam section from the Congregation. This division was effected in 1947. The sisters from Kerala were given option to choose either Malayalam or Tamil section. From that time onwards the sisters in Kerala began to function as a separate congregation with the name: ‘Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Quilon’
After 163 years, the Congregation is now spread over 5 countries with 1050 sisters. The Motto of the Congregation is ‘Love and Sacrifice’ and its charism is ‘The sanctification of sisters for the sanctification of women’. The Congregation at present has 186 houses in four Provinces viz: Lourdes Province with its Provincialate at M.N.Kuppam covering the Pondicherry and Cuddalore area; Infant Jesus Province with its Provincialte at Madurai covering the Madurai, Salem, Coimbatore, Kottar, Tuticorin and Sivagangai area; St. Joseph Province with its Provincialate at Trichy covering the Trichy,Thanjavur,Kumbakonam,Dindugal,Pondicherry,Karaikal and Vellore area and Assisi Province with its Provincialate at Keesara ( Andhra) covering the Andhra, Chengalpet ,Chennai and the North Indian area. There is a region covering the East African houses under the name Dupuis Region. Our congregation runs 160 educational institutions which includes 45 primary schools,18 middle schools,58 high schools, 26 higher secondary schools,2 special schools ,7 arts & science colleges,3 teacher training institutions,1 B.Ed college, and 1 engineering college. Besides the nuns manage health care, community development and faith propagation centers.
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for the mighty one has done great things for me.” (Lk. 1:46-49).
Crossing many summits and valleys, imprinting impressive charitable activities and service in the hearts of people, launching innovative techniques in educating young girls and opening new avenues to serve the less fortunate and needy, the Congregation has reached the pinnacle of 175 years of its foundation.
The Franciscan sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Pondicherry continues its journey with Divine Providence, under the protection and intercessory power of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Founder Servant of God Louis Savinien Dupuis. May the Immaculates march towards holiness to be greater witness to Christ through their selfless service to women and needy! .