Deen Bandhu Samaj (Congregation of the Friend of the Poor) is a congregation of the Syro Malabar Church founded by His Excellency Mar Paulinus Jeerakath CMI the 1st Bishop of Jagdalpur diocese for consecrated women to imitate Christ the Deen Bandhu who remained united to the Father and was the friend of the poor, and liberator of the oppressed, illiterate, ignorant, hungry and suffering, and to bring His Good News to them.(S 1, 4)
About Jagdalpur Diocese
The Holy Father Pope Paul VI erected the new Apostolic Exarchate of Jagdalpur and appointed Fr. Paulinus Jeerakath CMI the Apostolic Exarch on 23 March 1972 in Rome by the Papal Bull "Indorum Gentes" and it was published in the Osservatore Romano" on Saturday the 29th of April. On July 23, 1972 Msgr. Paulinus took charge of the exarchate with Rev.Fr. Simon Stock Palathra, Rev. Fr. Kurian Macheril, Rev. Fr. Joseph Varkey Puthenpura, Rev. Fr. Abraham Thuruthimalil and a few CMC and SABS sisters. Later in 1977 Msgr. Paulinus Jeerakath was ordained the 1st Bishop of Jagdalpur diocese. When he visited the villages and had discussions with the clergy about the growth of the diocese, they felt the need of a congregation of women religious in the diocese.
From history we learn that God calls whom he wants from various situations of life to realize his plan of human salvation. The same happened also in the founding of the Deen Bandhu Samaj. An intense desire for preaching the Good News to the poor and downtrodden began to grow in the hearts of some members of the Catechist Sisters of St. Ann (CSA) at Reddipalem Andhra Pradesh in India. They shared about this desire which was burning in their hearts to a few members. Those who experienced this internal call came together, prayed and meditated on it and came to the conclusion that God really wanted it from them. They surrendered themselves to the plan of God and searched for someone who could help them in the venture. With the help of Rev. Fr. Antony Moozhikuzhy CMI and Rev.Fr. Joseph Manjaly CMI from Chanda, they approached Mar Paulinus Jeerakath CMI Bishop of Jagdalpur, who was in search of a congregation of women religious willing to serve in his diocese especially the poor, illiterate and marginalized people living in the interior villages of Jagdalpur. Foreseeing God's design in their venture, he blessed, encouraged and welcomed them.
A humble beginning
Mar Paulinus asked them to reach Santwanalaya, Konta, a mission station 184 km away from Jagdalpur in the extreme south of the eparchy at the border of Andhra Pradesh, and to have personal experience of the real life situations of the poor whom they have to serve. Accordingly they reached Konta on June 3, 1975. After the initial religious formation Sr. Mary Tresa, Sr. Lilly, Sr. Deepa, Sr. Christella and Sr. Imelda were given religious habit on July 3, 1976 and the novitiate began. The community was approved by His Excellency Mar Paulinus Jeerakath as a "Pious Union" and named Deen Bandhu Samaj on 15th August 1976 vide letter from the Congregation for the Oriental Churches Prot No.122/76, dated 28th July 1976.(S1)
Jesus had a very special love and concern for the poor and he was rightly called the friend of the poor- Deen Bandhu. Hence this community is called Deen Bandhu Samaj which means the community of the Friend of the poor (S2). Sr. Deena, Sr. Eugene and Sr. Helen Mary from CSA and Sr. Kripalata Kiran from SMMI joined this group in 1977. These nine members who had the same inspiration to dedicate their lives for Jesus and to work for his poor people together were hailed by the founder as the founding members of Deen Bandhu Samaj (DBS).
After a solid religious formation the 1st five members were allowed to make the profession of their vows of Evangelical Obedience, Chastity and Poverty on June 22, 1978 in the St. Joseph's Cathedral at Jagdalpur. On the same day Mar Paulinus gave the "Directives or Guiding Principles" to the Samaj for the observance of the members which are quoted in No.S 4 of our present statutes and directory.
Rev.Fr.Papias Mampara was appointed as the 1st director to DBS on Dec.28, 1982. Bp. Mar Paulinus appointed Sr. Mary Tresa as superior General of the Samaj and Sr. Imelda and Sr. Deena were elected as 1st and 2nd councilors respectively in the first general conference convened at Bishops' house on January 9, 1983.
The DBS had its 1st General Synaxis at Koppaguda on July 18th & 19th, 1987. Rev. Fr. Thomas Manickam, director of that time presided over the Synaxis. This Synaxis elected Sr. Mary Tresa as superior General and Srs. Imelda, Lilly, Helen Mary & Helen Thonippara were elected as councilors.
Bp. Paulinus approved the 1st constitution and directory on 25th December 1989 and gave it for our faithful observance. Mother Mary Tresa the 1st Superior General gave her letter of promulgation on 1st January 1990. The constitution and directory was studied individually and discussed in an extra-ordinary General Synaxis under the president ship of Rev. Fr. Thomas Manickam CMI.
The Deen Bandhu Samaj was raised to the status of a "Congregation of Eparchial Right" on 11th February 2003 by His Excellency Mar. Simon Stock Palathra CMI vide letter No.32 A/28/03 dated 10th February 2003 with the approval by the Congregation for Oriental Churches letter Prot N.63/2002, dated 25th November 2002. The generalate was shifted to Jagdalpur in 1982.
God has increased the members of our congregation in number and sent them to different dioceses in India and beyond the sea. At present 4 of them are in Nagpur diocese, 7 are in Balasore diocese, 7 in Kalyan diocese and 5 in Ernakulam diocese, 4 members are rendering their services in the Chennai Mission of Irinjalakuda diocese and 6 are abroad (1 in America, 2 in Austria and 3 in Italy).
God has blessed this congregation with 133 members and 13 candidates though it is situated in a Naxal affected tribal area to where parents are afraid to send their children. DBS is proud of her 10 daughters of the soil (local vocations). At present DBS renders her apostolic services through 13 houses in Jagdalpur diocese and 7 houses in other different dioceses in India.
The sisters are engaged in various apostolic activities feeding the needs of the people, i.e. Faith Formation, Formal & Non-Formal Education through Schools, Hostels, Kinder Gartens, Night Schools for Drop outs and adults. Some other activities of the congregation are Healing Ministry, Evangelization, Family Apostolate and Prison Ministry We serve in the HIV & Aids Care Centre, in Old Age homes, and other Welfare Programmes under Social Work Department. We are happy to say that through 20 convents 104 DBS members are dedicated to proclaim the 'Good News' of our Lord to the people of different religions.
Though we encounter strong opposition and difficulties in the villages, we experience God's loving and caring hands protecting us and leading us forward. Our members are ever enthusiastic to preach His Gospel in the midst of problems. God has kept us safe and sound all through these years. We feel the urge to do whatever is possible for giving Christ to the world and we take it as a challenge to gain souls for Him. We are grateful to Him for his constant love, guidance and help in our lives and mission. We raise our hearts and hands in gratitude for God's providence and abundant blessings on us.
The administration of the Congregation is done by the superior General and a team of four councilors, a secretary General and Auditor General serve the congregation in its level of General administration. The DBS generalate is at Koppaguda village, Bastar Dt. C.G. India.