A Humble Start
The Congregation of the sisters of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (SABS) was founded on 8th December 1908 at Champakulam in Kerala.It had its origin in the personal experience of the Eucharistic presence of the servant of God Thomas Kurialacherry (1873-1925) the first bishop of Changanacherry.
He was fortunate indeed to have his priestly studies in Propaganda college Rome and to know of a Perpetual Adoration convent chapel near Propaganda College whereafterhe became a constant visitor to spend time with the Eucharistic Lord in adoration.The long hours spent before the Blessed Sacrament instilled in him a deep personal relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist and an ardent desire that the Holy Eucharist be known, loved and adored by all, always and everywhere.A strong desire gave him the impetus to found a Congregation for women to adore the Blessed Sacrament constantly (day and nignt). Following his ordination on 27 May 1899 he returned to Kerala as an enthusiastic young priest with the desire to begin the congregation.
During a Sermon on “Devotion to the Sacred Heart" in his own parish of Kalloorkad church in Champakulam, a young widow, Philomina Vallayil experienced an unusual kind of joy and peace within her and expressed her desire to accept religious life.He in his turn hoped that she would be the right person to work with him to establish the new congregation that he had visualized.He enthusiastically blessed her saying “You have come to me today like a Chantal going to Francis de Sales and a Clare going to Francis of Assissi and your aims and intentions could be materialized only by Almighty God and His blessed Mother".
Father Thomas, well aware of the risks and challenges involved in the founding of a new religious congregation, with a unique charism placed himself totally into the arms of God with an absolute trust.When he was appointed as the Vicar of Edathua, a neighboring parish, he accommodated Philomina along with five other girls in a cow shed of Puthenparambil Thommachan. It was their first abode, so that they may grow in a spirit of poverty, and humility from the very beginning.Indeed the congregation is fortunate enough to have its origin in surroundings similar to that in Bethlehem, that they felt privileged to imitate Jesus, the poor of Yahweh so closely. They were shifted to a boat house near the Edathua church after a few days.
On 8th December 1908, the first six members were given the veil as a sign of aspirants and formally accepted in to religious life, thus marking the birth of the congregation. On 10th December 1908 the aspirants were shifted to the first convent at Champakulam.Amidst the priliminary hardships, in 1911 by divine providence Father Thomas was appointed as the new bishop of Changanacherry and thus was able to conduct the vestition of the first five aspirants of the congregation on 10th December 1911 as his first official function. Hence the new congregation was recognized and accepted by the founder himself.On 18th March 1916, the members made the religious profession at the Parel Church, Changanacherry.
The mustard seed that was planted in 1908, sprouted and flourished and the members grew in spirit and strength under the guidance and patronage of Bishop Thomas. Though Bp. Thomas enriched the congregation with an intense spiritual leadership, he was called to his eternal reward on 2nd June,1925 at the time of his visit to Rome.
A Word about the first member:Mother Mary Chantal
Inspired by the personal guidance and direction of the Founder, the first member, Mother Mary Chantal enthusiastically led the congregation through hardships and tribulations towards the realization of its charism. She strived for its external growth by opening new houses in remote areas of the diocese. Being an intelligent and enterprising lady, she withstood the various obstacles in the early days with rare courage.The long hours spent before the Eucharistic Lord made her an apostle of the Holy Eucharist, and she remained a supreme model of an ‘active contemplative’ till she was called for her eternal reward on 25th May 1972.
Period of Transition
After having the paternal care of the Founder in its period of infancy, the congregation found itself in a period of transition soon after the demise of its beloved Founder. Having been called to his eternal reward on 2nd June 1925 at the time of his visit to Rome in the holy year, on 25th July 1935 his mortal remains were brought and buried in the Cathedral of Changanacherry.At the time of his death, the congregation had nine houses, seventy-three professed sisters, sixty-one novices and thirty-five aspirants. Later the congregation was nurtured and faithfully guided by Dr. James Kalacherry, the next bishop of Changanacherry. The first perpetual Adoration chapel was blessed on 2nd October 1935 at Vazhappally in Changanacherry, which was visualized by Bishop Thomas Kurialacherry.
At the request of Mar Augustine Kandathil, a devotee of the Eucharist, a group of sisters were sent and a house was opened at Koratty on 7th May 1930. For the convenience of the administration the Holy see decided to divide Changanacherry into two dioceses, Changanacherry and Pala. On 25th July 1950 Rev. Fr. Mathew Kavukattu and Rev. Fr. Sebastian Vayalil Kalapura were appointed bishops of Changanacherry and Pala respectively. As a result of this bifurcation SABS congregation in Changanacherry was divided into two free units of Changanacherry and Pala under the two dioceses on 8th April 1952.
On 31st December 1953, the Holy See raised Thalassery a diocese and appointed Mar Sebastian Valloppally as its first bishop. The farmers who had emigrated from Kerala were suffering because they had no sufficient means for living and facilities for travelling. The bishop was convinced that to uplift his people he needed service minded and dedicated sisters. Filled with missionary zeal the sisters from Pala and else where came forward to render their services and the first house was opened at Mananthavady in 1956. In 1965 St. Joseph ’s Province Thalassery was erected.
When the Ernakulam diocese was bifurcated in 1961 the congregation got a new unit in Kothamangalam diocese. Thus the growth of the congregation being fast and steady, the sisters were thrilled to reach out to all parts of Kerala to make known Jesus in the Eucharist.
Unification & Pontifical Status
The congregation in different dioceses thrived well and made remarkable progress under the respective mother generals in different dioceses. The congregation functioned as independent units. To be united under one mother general became a necessity to get the constitution approved by the Holy See. Hence the unification efforts started in 1954. Rev. Fr. Eliseus OCD was appointed as the apostolic delegate for this. Later Rev. Fr. Francis Sales CMI was appointed as the Roman delegate to help the congregation in the tedious job of amalgamation. It became a reality on 15th September 1963 when Mother Espirith was elected as the first Mother General of the Unified Congregation. Thus, the long cherished desire to be united into one was fulfilled.
A Generalate was the felt need of the moment and, the foundation stone of which was laid in Dec. 1964, on the occasion of the Eucharistic Congress in Bombay It is located at Karukunnu near the Pontifical Seminary at Aluva. In memory of ‘Sehion’ that witnessed the institution of the Holy Eucharist and the coming of the Holy Spirit, the new house was named ‘ CENACLE’. This was a mile stone on the path of growth and progress of the congregation. Cenacle, the Generalate was blessed on 18th March 1969 by His Eminence Cardinal Joseph Parekattil and is rightly called the powerhouse of the congregation, the force that binds all the sisters together.
A day to be written in golden letters in the history of the congregation is 11th February 1968. Holy mother the church officially accepted the constitution of the congregation and raised her to the Pontifical status. His Eminence Cardinal Furstuinburg, the prefect of the sacred congregation of the eastern rites did the proclamation of it at a solemn function in Cenacle, attended by dignitaries like His Eminence Cardinal Parekattil, Rt. Rev. Joseph Caprio, the Internuncio, Msgr. Rici, Msgr. Duprex, several Bishops, numerous Priests and Sisters. Thus, SABS became a pontifical congregation and the revised constitution of the congregation was approved on an experimental basis.
Reaching Out to the Missions
It was rather a turning point in the history of the congregation to move out to other parts of India to extend God’s kingdom and to make known the Eucharistic Lord. At the request of Bishop Hubert D’Rosario, the then bishop of Dibrugarh in Assam , a group of sisters from Palai Province stepped out of Kerala to the far plunged NorthEastern state of Manipur on 3rd December 1965. Thus, the first house outside Kerala was established in Hundung. It was a leap into the darkness but paved the way to open more houses in the North. In the years that followed the provinces in Kerala opened more houses in the North, and started missionary activities to bring the good news to the people who have never heard of Jesus Christ.
As the numbers of houses increased in the various missions, for the sake of development, four regions were formed in 1986 under the four major provinces in Kerala, namely Changanacherry, Ernakulam, Pala and Kothamangalam. There the sisters are involved in the field of education, healing ministry, social services under developmental programmes to uplift the people of interior villages. In 1998 the regions were raised to the status of vice provinces in various parts of India The Vice Provinces are, Pavithratma Vice Province with its centre in Jagadalpur, Jyothirmai Vice Province with its centre in Ujjain , Jai Rani Vice Province with its centre in Pillaur, Punjab, Christu Jyothi Vice Province with its centre in Satna and Corpus Christi Vice Province with its centre in Dimapur. In all, there are around 600 sisters working in these Vice Provinces. Besides these the sisters from Thalassery Province are working in Rajkot Diocese in Gujarat, Vijayawada Warangal , Elur and Nalgonda dioceses in Andhra Pradesh. Kanjirappally province has its mission stations in Chanda, and Gorakhpur Nepal Kurnool diocese in Andhra Pradesh , and Mandia in Karnataka.
When the bifurcation of Changanacherry diocese took place in 1977,in to Changanacherry and Kanjirappally dioceses St. John’s Province Kanjirappally was erected in 1978. In 1973 the Thalassery diocese was bifurcated into Thalassery and Mananthavady dioceses. Hence Mary Matha Vice Province was erected in the diocese of Mananthavady in 1980. It was elevated to the status of a province on 20th December 1997.At the erection of Thamarassery diocese, Udaya Region was formed as a dependent region of Thalassery Province on 10th June 1993.
It was a long cherished dream of S.H province, Ernakulam to extend their services to the diocese of Thrissur and Palakad. The first house was opened in 1986 at Palayoor in the diocese of Thrissur As the number of houses increased, Nirmal Rani Region was erected on 15th August 1999 as a dependant region of the province Ernakulam . This region was elevated to the status of a Vice Province on 11th January 2001.
The first house in the diocese of Palakad was opened in Chilttoor which is situated in Attapady Tribal Belt Gradually more houses were opened in the diocese and their services were extended to Coimbathore, Erode and Pothanoor in Tamil Nadu. So there arose the need to form this as a region. Hence on 4th March 2000 Vimal Rani Region was inaugurated as a dependent region of S.H. Province, Ernakulam.
The Sisters of St. Mary’s Province Kothamangalam extended their services to the diocese of Irinjalakuda in 1986. The sisters have opened six houses in the diocese so far.
The fruitful missionary activities in India inspired us to venture into the whole world to make known the compassionate love of the Eucharistic Lord. We are fully immersed in the healing ministry and pastoral care of Germany and Italy for the past 25 years. Recently, we have started our apostolic mission in USA too.
African mission was the long cherished desire of our superiors over the ages. Though the sisters had worked in Kenya and Sambia earlier they left the places after serving there for some 6 years. In 1994, another attempt was made to open houses in Kenya and Tanzania. Sisters from different provinces were sent there to establish the houses. They took it as a challenge to work among the Africans by offering their services to them. A total of 46 sisters are working in 5 houses in Kenya and 5 houses in Tanzania There are possibilities to extend our services to other countries and dioceses in Africa.