Letter written by the founder of the Congregation to the President of Propagation of Faith.
Rev. Father, knowing how ardent you are in your mission to spread the Catholic Faith in every respect, I am eager to inform you about the spread of faith and to strengthen it through the congregation established through Godís grace .
When I became the principal worker in the diocese, people expressed the felt need for womenís education. They said that the misery in the family life of women on account of ignorance was the greatest evil to the society .
In the Indian psyche there was a deep-rooted conviction that women should never be educated. A woman used to be ashamed to tell that she was a literate. In order to rescue the women from this traditional evil, to empower them with self respect, to develop the ability to come up in the male dominated society and the Church, to share their knowledge in their families, they had chosen me to found a society for women to carry on the noble apostolate.
To realize these desired aims, I felt the need to found a congregation for Indian Women. I chose a few young women who were desirous to dedicate their lives to God. In the beginning it was very discouraging. At last the clanging of the church bell announced the founding of the ďSt, et Immaculate Coeur de MarieĒ. ďThe Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of MaryĒ for the education young women through free education.
At first people were wondering what these women were up to. No child came near these sisters. Yet the sisters kept living a lonely but happy life. At last one little girl ventured in and seeing her many more came. As time passed by, the wrong notion of not sending girls to learn vanished. More and more people sent their wards to learn. As the education spread, people were happy and nourished great hopes in the bright future of their children. Boys and girls vied with each other to excel in their studies. The children learnt catechism and the replies to prayers said in the church. People were faithful to daily family prayers. Children were prepared to receive sacraments. Young women learnt to dress neatly with modesty. People frequented sacraments with fervor. The desire to learn spread to small and remote villages and farms. On the request of the people we established convents and sent our sisters. Our Mother House had to be expanded in order to meet the growing demands.
We established convents at Nellithoppe and Purathakudi. The local people received the sisters and marched along in procession accompanied by dance and local music. Literate mothers could teach their children. It is easier for the learned women to teach other women. These literate women were of great help in the spreading of our Catholic faith.
9-11-1858. L. DUPUIS
Model letters of our Founder to the sisters of his Congregation.
Very dear daughters in Jesus!
From the beginning of last month I had to prepare to print the list of winners for the 2 colleges for our schools and for the inspection of our school. I had many more burden of work apart from preparing for the prize distribution.
As I had informed in my previous letter, after the completion of important works at Kumbakonam and after getting ready the convent at Viragalur, we had sent sisters to these 2 convents. They from the beginning of May conducted schools for the pagan women and at Viragalur conducted school for all ordinary Tamil female children. By Godís grace both are running well. Many are joining in both the schools. Because of the efforts of the sisters, the children who knew no letters 3 months before are able to read a little. So many are wonder struck. In the same way you too may achieve all if you work hard. It is not enough to read alone, not only must you teach to write, 4 types of mathematics to do and to sew but also as far as you can teach the fundamental grammar for children and Social Science. Among you if any one has not mastered the subjects should learn as far as possible. It is not too difficult.
If there is no mass in you village, even though the desire to hear mass is good, to go against the rule of that place is not good. Some told that Kandamangalam and Viragalur are near. There are good paths and so asked for permission to attend mass. Without knowing the facts I gave permission. When I enquired about the way, I am told that both the places are far apart. There are no proper ways. There is a river and a sand cannel to be crossed. So we have cancelled the permission. More over in another village either with the permission of the superior, or their sister superior, I do not know, our sisters went to another unknown village where we have no convents and roamed about for a long time. I was very sad to hear about it. Our Bishop also came to hear about it and was very sad too. So with his permission what I teach is that as per the ancient rule it is important that the sisters should stay quiet in their convents. When it is needed go to the church in your village, go to the school, and when the superior sends you go from one convent to another one. Do only these and nothing else. By Godí grace our sisters in many of our convents have vast convents, gate ways and in some places gardens. When needed you can walk comfortably about in these places. If for the cure of the sick need to go for a long walks out side, you must ask me for a special permission. Apart from that when there is no urgent need, sisters should not go even to the presbytery of your superior. For urgent matters you may send to him the one who goes for marketing. All these things if your congregation follows correctly, you will learn not only respect and honor for your congregation but also be of good example or models for others. Whenever there is no mass in your village, go to your chapel, be united with the mass said in another place, receive the communion of desire and say the prayers said in the mass with piety. In this way in the evening instead of litany say other needed prayers.
By Godís grace the learning of the children, the inspection, and the prize giving ceremony went on with pomp. This year the studies of the children, and the works of sewing have increased.
At the end of this month in this place there will be the retreat for our sisters. At the end of it 4 will be novices and 8 will take vows. Pray that all may go well. Pray for me too. Blessings
16/4/1873 L. Dupuis.
My dear daughters in Jesus,
As I had to complete writing a book, on account of illness and due to many other reasons, it was late to write to you. A few days ago when there was no one I fell down on the ground suddenly unconscious. I suffered much on account of vomiting and weakness. Now I suffer for many days due to obstruction in my throat. I am also unable to say mass for some time due to giddiness and weakness. I do not know what will be Godís will. I am telling you a few advices for your convents to follow properly.
1. At first I shall teach the orders of the church for the convents and how you must submit your income and expense accounts. I do not know if some have forgotten or ignorant in the mean time. In order that none should forget I tell you once again. You must submit the accounts once in 3 months. The procurator sister in charge in Pondichery and the sister superior of Ariankuppam, Nellithoppu and Ulavarkadai convents should send their accounts once in three months to the superior of Pondichery. The sisters from the rest of the convents submit your quarterly and annual accounts to the superior of your convents. More over all the sisters of this congregation should send their annual accounts to the Big Superior at Pondichery. The Mother Superior of Pondy should submit her accounts to the big Superior. It is good to submit daily expense to the superior and the Mother Superior. It is enough if you send the daily income on different headings to Mother Superior. Anyhow on every account you must show the income and the expenditure. Please enter the followings in different headings Money spent by superior on salary. Income got from Government subsidy, and the income got from the hostel fees of the boarders. Arms given by minister, money given by any one for celebrations of a feast, what you earn from your works as salary, income got from sale of fowls, bran and all other incomes whatever you got in the name of the sisters, what was given for the chapel of the convent, value of things you have received as gifts, thus all income and expenditure should be entered in the register. Do not think that I do not trust you and so I demand for accounts. This strict order is a demand from the Church, so that none gets spoiled like Judas by the love of money. So in our convents everything should be orderly done. For these reasons the financial rules are enforced. If any one submits a false account or if any one fails to write income and expenditure, till she corrects her fault, she will not be allowed to receive communion. So follow these rules always faithfully.
2.To avoid unnecessary worries and loss, people of the convents should not give as presents either things or money. Do not give either free or free of interest. If any one asks tell them that the great superior had forbidden this practice and so we cannot help it.
3. The safeguarding of the outer gate is the strict order of the church. When it is not locked it should be at least bolted close. Do not allow any carelessness in this matter. One nun should guard the gate always. If she needs to go another should guard it. If there is no one then lock the gate. To prevent too much hustle for the sisters, with the knowledge of the sister door keeper one child may open the door for another child. Without the permission of the sister superior no one should take things out or bring it in. The doorkeeper should enquire about it. If for any reason boys need to enter the convent the sister superior should permit it.
4. If one comes to gossip or carry tales, never listen to anything not concerned about the convent. Do not listen to such gossips and felony. Be careful to avoid them. It will do harm to the convent and to your self to listen to people who come to talk about secrets. Those who come to tell about others will carry all falsehood about you to others. Be careful about them. If there are factions among the villagers never favor any group.
5. As per the opinion of the church, the sisters should be quiet. This is the wish and the order of the bishop. When it is necessary go to church or to school. You are permitted only for these. If you need to talk to your superior about the matters of the convent, you can talk to him through your assistant sister, or when it is time at the confessional. Or when the superior comes for inspection of the convent you may talk to him. Otherwise nuns need not enter the doors of the presbytery.
6. The superior of the house has the right and the duty to open and read all the letters addressed to the sisters and the boarders. At the same time if any sister of a convent for the matters of her soul or for any urgent matters writes either to Pondy Big Superior or Mother General or if the superior writes to the superior of the convent or any one member, that letter should not be opened and read it. Even then one should not write this way unnecessarily. This is the law of the Church. To this day there was no necessity for this procedure. Even then as your congregation has grown with Godís grace, I hope that it is good that you understand this.
7. By Godís grace as big convents are built I need to advice you on this. The children of this country are afraid of cold. Some times many sleep in a closed room. As there is no opening for ventilation it is very unhealthy. It may even cause loss of life. For example some time ago in a convent in Italy 20 vent to sleep in a room. On fear of cold they had closed all the doors and windows. On the next day as no one had come from that room the sister of that convent went to open it. They found all were dead because there was no ventilation. All died of suffocation and not on any other reason. The reason is if all ventilation is shut then the air within that room gets spoiled It emanates bad smell and Carbon monoxide. (CO). It causes not only inconveniences but sicknesses too. If one stays too long a time it will be the cause of death. So if many go to sleep in a room you must keep some windows open. If you open two windows on opposite sides it will be very good. Because of cross ventilation the air in that room will be renewed and so no one will be sick. Do not sleep where there is a drought of air. If so it may also cause sickness.
8. Follow the good manners of sisters. So you should not come out with out veil in front of men.
9. By Godís grace the goodness of your convent is growing. The studies of children under you are improving on all sides. So teach well all the children who come to you. Teach well all the lessons you have to teach them. Chiefly make constant efforts to inculcate good habits and good manners.
10. The most important thing is that you must grow in virtue and constantly try to grow in piety. Keep to the rules of the convent faithfully. Be a model of virtues. Be at peace with yourself and follow obedience, humility, patience and the love of God and the love of the neighbor. Avoid meticulously the following bad habits such as: particular friendship, envy laziness and want of piety and arrogance. Work ever harder in Godís service to earn eternal happiness in heaven.
To ever remember these commands enjoin this letter to the rules of the convent.
18/11/ 1873. L. Dupuis
THE DEATH OF REV. FR.DUPUIS
MOTHER MARIA NATCHATRAM THE FIRST MOTHER GENERAL
My dear sisters!
Our dear Father in the year 1874 in May 31st on Sunday said mass in our convent and blessed the people, finished his meditation and as usual began to talk to me on things that I didnít know some times. He talked on many other happy events and went to his presbytery.
On that day, Fr. Prele who used to accompany him in his tottering age had gone to Cadalur to celebrate May Devotions. On the first of June, on Monday morning our dear Father could not say mass as he began to faint. So Rev. Fr. Arul Maria Nather celebrated mass in our convent. Fr. Prele came back at 9.00 A.M. to Pondy after the celebration of May Devotion. Knowing the state of Big Father and deciphering the way his face changed, he came to the convent and informed with great sorrow about the disease of Father. How can I narrate the sorrow we had. Just as the solar eclipse, the sorrow that we were going to face on accounts of the death of our dear Father engulfed us. Even then without losing hope, raising our eyes to God, we prayed. God have mercy on us. If it is your will to let Father to stay with us, to comfort us in this world, keep him. If it is your will to stop his suffering and grant him eternal rest, let your will be done in all things. We prayed thus and kept weeping.
The disease began to be severe on Tuesday second of June. Then Bishop Lavona treated him with great difficulty. But by Godís will death came on account of the disease.
That night all the priests and the deacons in a group came and administered the last sacrament to our dear father. After that Rt. Rev Bishop asked our Father if he could invite the sisters. To that our father agreed with joy. On Wednesday 4th June, in the morning all of us went to our fatherís room. I could not explain the depth of sorrow he and we had. Rev. Fr. Prele and we knelt down. Though our Father wanted to say many advises and many things, he could not talk at that time. On that, his Lordship asked our Father if he could say to his sisters to follow as per the rules he had taught and pray for him. Our Father replied that is what he desired. After, the more he saw us, the more sorrow over powered him and caused shortness of breath or panting. Bishop Lavonya told us a few comforting words and asked us to come to the portico. He said, ďYou do not worry. I shall be your Father after him.Ē He also told some consoling words. Then our dear father looked at us with sorrow from the chair he sat, through the window. I cannot describe how sorrowful he and we felt. We came weeping and lamenting to the convent. Even though we could not see him after that, Fr. Prele and assistant sister Savariammal went to him and later reported to us how he was. On Thursday 4th June at 8 p.m. he was sinking. All the fathers came and prayed for him. Seeing this Sr.Savariammal came to the convent and told that Father had passed away. Then we all went to the presbytery. Then we came to know he did not die, because we heard him panting. After we went home. At 5p.m. our dear Father had a happy death. Immediately bells were rung. All the people in the church prayed. They transferred the body of our dear Father from his room to the infirmary.
I revealed my desire to Rev. Fr. Prele, that he should be dressed in the cassock and mass vestments stitched by the sisters. When he went to ask permission from the Bishop, Bishop gave permission to the sisters to do whatever they wanted to do to their dear father. As per that we dressed him in the cassock and the mass vestment sent by his nephew. We kept the crucifix on the pillow. I got an inspiration when I was praying to him before the burial that is, to cut a part of his beard. I did that and kept it safely. We were at the altar of St. Joseph when our fatherís body was being bought to the Church for burial. When his body was blessed in the Church and taken to the symmetry, if I had to write about the deep sorrow in me, my eyes would be covered with my tears. Whenever I think of the death of the father I suffer most anguish. Godís special grace saved us from this misery.
After burying our dear Father our sister stayed there for an hour and turned to the altar of St. Joseph and prayed, Lord we have lost our dear Father. Here after you will be Our Father. But we now prayed, please make Father Prele who was the assistant to our father as our father. We returned to our convent. That night, sisters of Carmel convent sent us supper .
The next day we desired to have a solemn requiem mass for the repose of the soul of our father. But we could not do, as that day was the feast of the Most Sacred Heart.
On 22nd June we tied black cloth from the convent street to our convent and celebrated requiem sung mass. Numerous people came for the mass. At the end of the mass we began singing the song composed by Savarael Nayakar on what good our father had done to the church and to Pondy diocese. At that time I canít express how we were trembling from heart and body and suffered. Our hearts were drowned in the ocean of sorrow just as the sky was covered with dark clouds.
My dear Sisters! After describing the death of our dear father and the resulting sorrow I cannot but write about his holiness, the outstanding noble qualities I had known from the day of the founding of our congregation. So I am writing these so that, the coming future sisters of our congregation may know something at least.
My dear daughters, how can I enumerate all his good qualities?
1.We were struck with wonder about his respectful attitude because 30 years after founding our congregation, we know what color his eyes were. He lived among us, moved with us socially but he could not distinguish the face of the sisters. He knew and recognized only through the voices of the sisters. I think he knew the faces of those who moved with him closely.
2.He was calmness itself. We due to ignorance behaved in such a way as to cause him pain and anger. Yet he never got angry with us, or used harsh words. He used to advice and corrected us quietly with calmness. Even when he had to correct us lawfully, like a mother who gave bitter medicine to cure the disease, he used to teach and correct us through his advice.
3.He never wasted time. He was always busy. Whenever we went to his room he used to be busy writing books and translating. Even when he was sick and when was not saying mass, he kept writing. He never sought rest. Apart from these times of work, he used have on his hand a prayer book and a rosary.
4.He was a very pious person. Many a time he used to spend his time in prayers and meditation. At that time, whoever stood before him he would not look at him/her.
5.He meticulously followed the virtue of poverty for our edification. There were no expensive articles for his use. He used only old and low quality materials. As we repaired his dress he had very few new clothes. He had many old and patched dresses.
6.He was very proficient in Tamil. He has written many new novels, translated and printed them. The leading ones are: First part and the second part of the Sacred Month of St. Joseph. Apart from this he had written many books for the priests. He has written the following books namely: the secret of religious life in two major parts solely for the sisters. We must read them once a year in our convents. This was the wish of our dear Father. In his old age as a legacy before his death he had bequeathed us. As good children who meticulously follow the dying messages of their father, we must faithfully observe his holy teachings.
When our dear Father was dying we had our 10 convents, 12 schools, professed sisters 84 and novices 16. He founded our congregation in 1844. He died on 04-06-1874 on Thursday at 5p.m. He founded our congregation and ruled it for 30 years. We cannot enumerate what he had suffered, worries and hardships, because he had to search for women who were virtuous and had astuteness or sharpness of mind, resoluteness and piety to make them nuns. As these sisters firstly had to teach, he had to teach them first. Of the many difficulties he had, a very sad one that was, there was a deep- rooted notion among public that, girl children should not be taught. So little by little, with patience, calmness and with care, he removed this false belief. Even Hindus had requested to include their children along with the Christian children as beneficiaries by the congregation of the sisters of the Immaculate Heart. He had established schools for the Hindus at Pondy and Kumbakonam. He worked hard to establish convents for the sisters, constructing buildings for them, training the sisters in learning and teaching them proper behavior. Apart from that, he was appointed as inspector of schools and did the work as an examiner. In the mission he assisted the Bishop as vicar general. He was the manager of the Press. Because of the excess of work, he soon became weak and sick. Let us imitate him, as he was the best in following all the virtues, dear to God and men. He was a suitable father to us. He gave us his parting gift, all the books he had authored. Let us imitate and follow him. Our dear father was a member of the Foreign Mission Fathers, (Mission Estranger) for 43 years. On his 68th year, he died as a Saint.
Dear sisters! Our big dear father and founded our congregation, helped it to grow and did very many great things. He even wrote his will Rs.4425/- to our congregation. So for the repose of his soul offer masses on the anniversary of his death on 4th June, on his birthday on 25th August and on 16th of every month, in Pondy motherhouse. So it is our duty to offer 16 masses for him every year.
Sr. Maria Natchatram
Sister Superior of Pondy