A new life began to flow through the veins of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Mary Help of Christians after the memorable Fourth General Chapter, 1988. It was a turning point in the history of the Congregation as it brought out the decision of forming Provinces for better growth and administration.
The Province of Mary Help of Christians, Shillong was canonically erected on 13th February 1988, with Rev. Sr. Teresa Varkey as its first Provincial Superior. St. Margaret’s Convent, “Peachlands” which is situated at Laitumkhrah in the city of Shillong is the Provincialate. The Province had at that time 23 centres sited in the States of Meghalaya, Assam and Mizoram and 129 members working in 4 Dioceses of North East.
There is a sound growth in many aspects of life in the Province. The Province has grown in quantity and quality. It has now 54 centres placed in the States of Meghalaya, Assam, Mizoram, Tripura and Kerala and 358 professed members working in 9 Dioceses.
The Province gives its importance to Missionary Evangelization which is the prime mission of the Congregation. Village tours, Pastoral family visit and Catechetical Instructions are carried out on a regular basis. The Province also undertake the Apostolate of Education and has Schools and Boarding houses. Education of the differently-abled is also taken care of. Dispensaries, Vocational Training Centre, Rehabilitation Centre for the physically challenged, Rehabilitation Centre for the Drug Addicts, Women Development Centre, Domestic Workers Movement and Young Apostles of Christ Movement, are other Apostolates carried out in the Province.
"I am sure that in our Congregation, you will continue the spirit upon which the Blessed Lady founded this Congregation that it must be the Congregation of charity, for the little children, for the sick, for the aged, the women and by your charity you will draw all people to our Lord Jesus Christ." (Stephen Ferrando)
Missionary Evangelization, which is the essential element of our Charism, affects our whole life and all our undertakings. We pledge ourselves to proclaim the Good News of God's love through our total commitment to missionary evangelization, which demands self - giving without limits of energy or time.
Two sisters in 27 houses are set apart to carry out the prime mission of our Congregation. The sisters enthusiastically go on their missionary journeys whatever be the weather of life. In the centres where there is no touring, the sisters engage themselves in family visit. The Church has grown in vitality and number as a result of the hard work of our sisters involved in this apostolate. During their Village visits and tours the sisters prepare the people for the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, First Holy Communion, Marriages, conduct Prayer Services, Retreats, Seminars, organize YACs, SCCs, Sunday Classes, Oratories, visit the Sick, etc. The sisters also learn the language and the culture of the people and dedicate their life for the Mission.
Young Apostles of Christ (YAC)
The YAC Movement is very much alive in our centres. Many young students of our schools have enrolled themselves in the Movement. We already have good vocations from the group. The Young Apostles of Christ under the guidance of the Animators share much in our mission of evangelization. They take lead in attending prayer services, conduct prayers, take active part in the church Choir, play the role of leaders in schools and villages, visit families, tour villages and even get involved in preaching. Apart from the YAC formed in schools which include school students and boarding children, we also now have Senior YAC in the Province which was inaugurated in May 2008. It is the first of its kind in the Congregation. The Senior YAC includes the college students and the employed youth. They are 29 in all.
Apostolate Of Education
"The school is always the foundation of our holy religion’’ (Stephen Ferrando)
- Education in General Schools: Our call to be educators has its basis in our vocation to be missionaries. Through the apostolate of education we inculcate Gospel values in our students, so as to promote their integral development. Our schools are educative communities wherein, through our loving presence and friendly relationships with the staff, the students and the parents, we radiate the Gospel spirit of truth, love, kindness, goodness, unity and justice. In the fulfillment of our educative mission, we follow Don Bosco's method of education, which is based on reason, religion and loving kindness.
We have 22 Schools of our own, 2 Higher secondary, 9 Secondary, 6 Proceeding High Schools, 2 M. E. and 3 Lower Primary Schools. Our schools provide plenty of opportunities for an all round development of students. Value education, Peace Education, Career Guidance and Sex Education is given importance and other co-curricular activities are being carried out in the schools.
- Education of the differently-abled: At present, we have two schools meant for the hearing impaired. The extra love and care the children receive help them bloom beautifully despite their physical disabilities. The children are also trained with vocational skills to help them stand on their own.
- Boarding houses: Our boarding houses accommodate both catholic and non catholic children especially from remote villages. Faith formation of the children is being taken care of, so to help them become evangelizers and future leaders of the society. Leadership and personality development programme are conducted for the children. We have 42 boarding houses. We also get good vocations from our own boarding.
"The sisters who serve the aged and the sick have their names written in heaven.’’ (Stephen Ferrando)
Social Apostolate is to make Healing Ministry and Social Action creative and effective. The role of Social Apostolate in the Mission of Evangelization is that, we are evangelizing persons, who are subject to social and economic condition. One cannot evangelize today, unless one sees evangelization from Social perspective, in the touching realities of people's lives. This is what we call social dimension of evangelization - eradication of injustice and spreading the Good News, love and peace, equality, liberation, human dignity, progress, peaceful co - existence between communities. And so, Social dimension of evangelization is to play the prophetic role to proclaim the Gospel values, to give constant support to live a dignified life as a human person. Under Social Apostolate we have Dispensaries, Vocational Training Centre, Rehabilitation Centre for the physically challenged, Rehabilitation Centre for the Drug Addicts, Women Development Centre and Domestic Workers Movement.
- Dispensaries: Many poor and needy in the rural areas have experienced the healing touch of the Lord through our sisters. Thousands of lives are saved through the sacrificing spirit and dedicated service rendered by our sisters. We have 19 Dispensaries in the Province and 22 Nurse Sisters who are actively involved in this ministry. Awareness programmes on Health Education, HIV/ AIDS, alcohol, antenatal, postnatal, control of rickets etc are conducted. Baby Show programmes, Health and Eye Camps are conducted for people.
- Vocational Training Centres: We have 5 vocational Training Centres.
Ferrando Vocational Training Centre at Umnuih Khwan Barapani
Ferrando Integrated Women Development Centre, Durtlang
Ferrando Integrated Women Development Centre, Champhai.
Domestic Workers Movement in Shillong
Ferrando Convent, Dengagre.
Our Vocational Training Centres cater to the needs of the poor and rural drop out girls and women, equipping them with skills and enabling them to become self - reliant.
- Rehabilitation Centre for the physically challenged: We have 2 Rehabilitation centres for the physically challenged at Ferrando Speech and Hearing Centre Barapani and at Ferrando Rehabilitation centre, Nandannagar. These centres have different units catering to the needs of the people. They are: the Vision unit, Orthopedic and workshop, School for the hearing impaired and Community based rehabilitation. The sisters approach the disabled in their outreach programme, conducting camps and door to door survey. Sisters are specialized for this work.
- Rehabilitation centre for the Drug Addicts: Ferrando Integrated Women Development Centre, Peace Home, provides service to recovering drug users, alcoholics, sex workers and HIV/AIDS victims and the most vulnerable young girls of the society. It has got four sub - centres in Saiha, Champhai, Lawngtlai and Bawngkawn. 6 of our sisters collaborate and commit themselves totally to the cause of the depressed and rejected ones of the society. They empower and uplift people through counselling, psycho therapeutic treatment, spiritual exercises and provide vocational training.
- Domestic Workers Movement: There are 2 centres. Shillong and Mizoram.
Shillong: 3 sisters are totally committed to the cause of the domestic workers. The sisters work to ensure security and dignity of the domestic workers and to uphold their rights. Various programmes are being organized for the domestic workers like Advocacy Programme, Rescue, Rehabilitation and Education of Children of the domestic workers, Formation of Self Help group and Anti - Trafficking and Migration. At present, the Movement in Meghalaya has 2,735 registered domestic workers and in Mizoram 1832 domestic workers have been registered.
"Vocations are born of love of Jesus at the foot of the cross on Mount Calvary’’ (Stephen Ferrando)
Formation is an ongoing process, which is centered on the person being formed. The primary objective of the formation process is to prepare people for the total consecration of themselves to God in the following of Christ, at the service of the Church's Mission. Formation aims at the transformation of the whole person.
The formation particularly of junior sisters and the candidates is being taken care of. Besides, annual retreats, other renewal programmes are organized. Currently, we have 94 junior sisters. 13 second year Novices and 18 first year Novices spread in three Novitiates of Mawroh, Tinsukia and Siliguri, 25 Pre - Novices in Sonaighuli 38 Post Matric Aspirants in Umroi.