The foundation and growth
of the Congregation of the Poor Sisters of
Our Lady continues to be a journey in faith.
From the beginning, each step has been taken
with total trust in God, believing in His
Word and He has not failed us.
In the 1930s, the requirements of the
Archdiocese of Bombay were peculiarly its
own and these could best be met by the skill
and devotion of women religious, drawn from
and based within the Archdiocese. Conscious
of these needs, some members of the Diocesan
Clergy along with a few prominent lay
persons approached the Archbishop of Bombay
to start a new Diocesan Congregation of
groundwork for the commencement of this
congregation was spearheaded and undertaken
by our Founder, Msgr. George Fernandes.
His indefatigable efforts saw the
congregation of the Poor Sisters of Our Lady
come into being on September 15, 1939,
the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows by
the decree of the Most Rev. Thomas D.
Roberts, S.J., the then Archbishop of
Bombay, and a band of seven eager
This was a
landmark event in the life of the
Archdiocese - a coming of age in the
religious development of her people; and
palpable proof of the practical mind that
Archbishop Roberts brought to bear on the
social problems of the parishes.
The formation of the first seven members was
entrusted to the Sacred Heart Nuns at
Sophia College, Mumbai. The pioneer
group took their First Vows in 1942 and
their first residence at Stephen Hall
, next to Archbishopís House, Fort. This
residence has been, since then, the
Generalate of the Poor Sisters of Our Lady.
The first works undertaken were the
instruction of poor children in Gloria and
Sacred Heart Schools, Sankli Street,
belonging to the Parish of Gloria Church,
Byculla; supervision of the Sacristy of the
Pro-Cathedral of the Holy Name, Fort; rescue
and preventive social work; and the
Employment Bureau of the then Catholic
Womenís Welfare Society which operated out
of Stephen Hall.
were war years and stress was laid more on
social work because of the problems of
extreme poverty, unemployment and the influx
of refugees and migrants to the city. To
equip the Sisters for this apostolate, they
were lovingly trained by the Congregation of
the Franciscan Missionaries of Christ the
King from Karachi, who had wide experience
in this field.
the fledgling group was ready to take their
final vows which they did on March 27 of
that year. They also announced the election
of the first Mother General - Mother
Patricia Frank - which had taken place on
March 19, 1946. The congregation was well on
its way to fulfilling the purpose of its
Constitution was approved and the Rule of
Life was presented to the congregation by
Cardinal Valerian Gracias on June 29,
1956. The first General Chapter was held in
1957 when Mother Patricia Frank was formally
elected Superior General - a post which she
had held in trust from 1945. It was her
determination that saw the Poor Sisters of
Our Lady grow and spread, from her final
vows till her death on February 2, 1999.
This vision and mission has been ably
discharged by her successors - Mother
Antoinette DíSouza, Mother Cecilia DíSouza
and our present Mother General, Teresa Pinto.
As years passed, the Congregation grew under
the patronage of His Eminence Cardinal
Valerian Gracias, who took a very
personal interest in its life and growth .
He encouraged the Sisters to start convents
not just in other parts of Bombay, but also
in other dioceses in India. The then
Archbishop of Vienna, Franz Cardinal
Koenig, while visiting Bombay in 1960
was so impressed by the Sistersí work that
it moved him to request Cardinal Gracias to
send a group of Sisters to Vienna,
Austria to take charge of different
works such as nursing, kindergarten, care of
the aged, etc. This was our first
footprint abroad, soon to be followed by
households in Italy, Austria and now
in Africa and the Netherlands.
The 38th International Eucharistic Congress
which Cardinal Gracias was instrumental in
hosting in Bombay in 1964 was also a
milestone for us. Stephen Hall was the
headquarters for many of the activities
which were integral to the Congress.
Visiting prelates and dignitaries, indeed
Pope Paul VI himself, were able to see
firsthand, the work, capability and prayer
life of our congregation.
At the General Chapter held in December 1996
a decision to seek Pontifical recognition
was taken. The decision was approved by
Cardinal Simon Pimenta, Archbishop of
Bombay, and we were granted the status of a
Religious Institute of Pontifical Right
on December 8, 1999. We see this as a
crowning moment in our apostolate and also
as an indicator that we must dedicate
ourselves more fervently to our mission.
We are now known as the Institute of the Poor Sisters of Our Lady. The strength of the Institute today is 180 professed Sisters, 8 Novices, 3 Postulants and 7 Candidates.