The Religious Congregation “The Daughter of St. Anne” had its origin in the sacred soil of Chotanagpur. It was erected at Ranchi on July 26th 1897 by Archbishop Paul Goethals in answer to the situation and needs of the contemporary local church.
The Congregation of the Daughters of St. Anne (DSA), Ranchi is the local Congregation, founded by Mother Mary Bernadette Prasad Kispotta in July 26, 1897 along with three companions namely Sr. Cecilia, Sr. Veronica and Sr. Mary.
In 1885 Fr. Constant Lievens, S.J., the great apostle of Chotanagpur landed in Ranchi as a Zealous missionary. The advent of this Belgian Jesuit marks the beginning of the great expansion of the church among the tribals of the Chotanagpur Plateau. In those days the adivasi (the early settlers) of Chotanagpur oppressed, exploited and cheated by the landlords and money lenders. Properties of the tribals were taken away from them and they were forced to work for the landlords without remuneration. The English rulers did not understand their way of life either. Thus the people of Chotanagpur were in great need of liberation. Fr. Lievens understood the misery of the people and helped them to free themselves from their bondage. Thousands flocked to him to get liberation from the Land Lords.
In the times of Fr. Lievens, education was the prime need. Fr. Livens started opening Schools in villages all over the district. With education he also arranged catechism classes. Thus, St. Peter’ School, the present St. John’ School, was established in 1887 in Ranchi for boys. A few years later the Archbishop felt the need of women religious to strengthen the mission work in Chotanagpur, and especially to educate girls. To execute this plan the Sisters of Loreto were sent to Ranchi on 21st of March 1890. They opened a boarding school for girls in their 'Red Lodge'.
During those days Puran Prasad Kispotta worked with Fr. Lievens, S.J. and with his family accepted the Roman Catholic faith. He was named as Paulus for he was a Lutheran. His two daughters, Bernadette and Cecilia were studying in Loreto School. Together with them Veronica, the Daughter of Prabhu Prasad who was the brother of Puran Prasad, and Mary, the daughter of Samuel, studied at the same school. After being with the Loreto Sisters (known as Mothers) for about two three years, these four girls got the inspiration: “if these Mothers work day and night with so much love to save us, the unknown, poor and unimportant tribes leaving behind their dear mothers and fathers, brothers and Sisters, friends, relatives and even their homeland for the sake of Christ’s “can we not do the same for the well-being of our Country and our people?” Motivated and keenly desirous to learn more from them they began to observe their life and conversation more closely. For this reason they refused to marry and wanted to remain virgins. They were fully convinced that they were called by God to live a life of humble service. Their family members rejected such a notion as pretension and even the Church authorities considered ill-convinced and unrealistic. The reason is that such a thing as dedicating oneself to a religion as a virgin had never happened before in tribal Society. It was against the tribal custom. After few years the Loreto Mother, Mother Teresa and Fr. Desmet, S.J. recognized and believed that these girls had a genuine call from God.
By the year 1895, they were found strong in their vocation, but it was not enough that they would be accepted very soon in religious life. Meanwhile a letter came from the Archbishop Paul Goethals, S.J.: “before they enter the religious life, their faith and vocation should be tested.” For this the Archbishop wanted them to wait for eight years. They were ready to obey him. They granted them permission to join the religious life.
Thus, Mother Mary Bernadette Prasad Kispotta laid down the foundation for an indigenous religious Congregation on 26th July 1897 on the feast of St. Anne and St. Joachim.
It was the plan of Archbishop Meuleman (1901-1920) to start a Primary School in every village and an upper Primary School in every Parish, Middle School in some station and a High School at Ranchi. The education of girls too was given importance and the bishop needed agents to implement this new vision of the archbishop.
Meanwhile due to the lack of personnel and other practical reasons Loreto Sisters left Ranchi and went back to Kolkata. They were replaced by the Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk, Belgium, who arrived at ‘Red Lodge’ Ranchi on 13th January 1903.
The Ursulines marveled to see the wonderful works done by the Loreto Sisters just in thirteen years. Now they were to collaborate with the Daughters of St. Anne. On the one hand, it was difficult for the Sisters from Tildonk to begin their work in this mission without the help of the Daughters of St. Anne’s. On the other hand the indigenous Sisters depended on the Ursulines in many respects. It was important that the Daughters of St. Anne should be founded as a full-pledged Religious Congregation. This fundamental change was initiated in 1903. The association now became a Diocesan Congregation. This fundamental change was initiated in 1903.
The association now became a Diocesan Congregation. Its supreme head was the Archbishop and Mata Bernadette became the Superior of the Sisters for the first time; and Fr. Scarlecan, S.J. became the spiritual director of the Sisters. The Ursuline Superior Mother Gonzaga was still their Superior for the practical matters.
Nine years after the foundation of the Congregation the first four members made their Final Profession on 26th July 1906. At the end of the year the Daughters of St. Anne were separated fully from the Ursulines concerning religious life, but on other matters they still collaborated closely.
The Daughters of St. Anne went out to preach the Good News according to their great desire. In this venture, the life of Sisters was full of challenges and demands. They had to face many difficulties and hardships. They had to Journey through dense jungles and mountains; they had to cross-rivers and streams and climb steep ghats in order to preach the good news of Jesus. Sometimes they had to spend night under trees and sleep without food. For the love of Christ they did all this, so that they could spread His love to their fellow brothers and Sisters.
At the end of 1919, Archbishop Meuleman, S.J. took another momentous decision that the Daughters of St. Anne, Ranchi would no longer work in schools that were managed by Ursulines and that they will have schools of their own. Consequently they began to open their own schools and also managed the schools of mission stations.
In the beginning of the 20th century some tragic events shocked the budding Congregation. Cholera had struck the Ranchi town. People used to bring small children from their family to Ursuline Mothers for proper care and the Daughters of St. Anne looked after them. In consequence the Sisters too were not immuned from this disease and two of them died on August 1906. Knowing that the cholera was an infectious disease, important document, registers, files and diaries too were burnt and destroyed. It was so tragic that even the thought of closing down the whole Congregation came into the mind of some authorities. And yet the St. Anne’s Sisters were not shaken from their faith, devotion and zeal to work. They continued to run catechism classes and elementary education for girls in several parishes. It was perhaps the will of God and His special grace that the Daughters of St. Anne survived and grew day by day since then. The Constitution was amended in 1920.
Due to the epidemic Sr. Veronica died in 1921 on the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and five weeks later Sr. Mary died on 30th December. They rested in Peace leaving this earth with deep hope to meet the heavenly groom, Jesus Christ, whom they had loved all through their lives.
As the Congregation grew, the Sisters spread out in different Parishes: Hamirpur (1921), Mandar and Gaibira (1922), Mahuadanr (1923), Torpa (1924), Dighia (1927) and Karra (1928).
On 4th April 1926 Fr. Alphonse Scarlecan, S.J. died after 24 years as the director of the Congregation. After his death Fr. Fredrick Peel, S.J. was appointed as the director in 1933.
June 14, 1927 was a glorious day for the Church of Ranchi. Ranchi was separated from Calcutta Archdiocese and it became an Archdiocese. So the Congregation of the Daughters of St. Anne, Ranchi came under the Ranchi Archdiocese. In 1928, Rev. Louis Vanhuk, S.J. was consecrated as the first Bishop of the Ranchi Archdiocese. The Congregation and the mission were flourishing under the care of this Bishop, but unfortunately soon they had to loose him. He died in 1933. It was a sad event for the fledgling Congregation, but the good Lord consoled them by giving Rev. Oscar Severein, S.J. as the new Bishop of Ranchi in 1934. The same year the Daughters of St. Anne proceeded towards Madhya Pradesh (at present Province) and opened two convents, one in Tapkara and another in Gholeng.
In 1939, a new house was built in Ranchi at a short distance from the Ursuline Convent. On 19th October 1939, The Daughters of St. Anne left the ‘Red Lodge’ and settled in their present Mother House. In the same year Sisters started teaching in St. Aloysius School, Ranchi.
Mother Bernadette, Cecilia, and Dolorosa served the Congregation as Superiors (Bari Mata) consecutively till 1950 and took all the responsibilities upon themselves. With great enthusiasm, courage and love they led the Congregation along the path of progress. The Daughters of St. Anne are very grateful to them. Late Mother Cecilia (2nd Superior General) died on the 5th of November, 1956. She served the Congregation for 59 years. Four years, five months and eleven days later Mother Bernadette (Foundress) peacefully departed from this world to receive her reward in heaven. She served the Congregation for 64 years.
After the death of Mother Bernadette, Mother Serophina led the Congregation for three years (1956-1963), Mother Mary Teresa for six years (1959-1965), Mother Mary Sewika for ten years, (1965-1975), Mother Sheela Chandra (elected) for six years (1975-1981), Mother Subhashi for twelve years (1981-1992), Mother Ethelina for six years (1993-1998), Mother Anupa Kujur for six years (1999-2004), Mother Pushpa Kujur for three years (2005-2007), Mother Tarcilla Kujur for three months (2008) and Mother Linda Mary Vaughan, D.S.A. (Sept 2008 – till date). They all governed the Congregation with great zeal using all their abilities and knowledge. They saw the needs of the Congregation, planned out the works and put them into action. The Sisters will ever remember their valuable services with gratitude.
26th July 1997 was a great day for the Daughters of St. Anne, when they had the Centenary Celebration of the Foundation of the Congregation. The small seed of 1897, today, having sprouted and developed, has like a huge banyan- tree spread its branches in 25 dioceses namely Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Khunti, Gumla, Simdega, Hazaribagh, Daltonganj, Raiganj, Jalpaiguri, Purnea, Bagdogra, Port Blair, Patna, Bettiah, Allahabad, Raigarh, Ambikapur, Bhagalpur, Dumka, Sagar, Raipur, Jashpur, Bogaigaon, Berharpur and Padua (Italy). At present there are 125 religious houses.
The number of the Sisters grew. Thus to meet the needs of the Sisters as well as the animate the apostolate better, the Congregation was divided into regions. Madhya Pardesh region was created in 1974, Andaman’s in 1978, Jalpaiguri in 1984, Gumla in 1986, and finally Ranchi Region in 1992. The Regional Superiors directed the apostolate of these regions. Later on four of them were erected as Provinces – Madhya Pradesh in 1997, Gumla and Ranchi in 2003 and Jalpaiguri in 2009. At present we have four Provinces in India. There are four Convents in Italy which is under direction and guidance of the Superior General. In the Andaman and Nicobar Islands four Convents are there which come under Ranchi Province. The Daughters of St. Anne (Port Blair) Ranchi celebrated the Golden Jubilee Year of their presence and ministry here in the mission of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Diocese of Port Blair in 2010.
On 8th April 2002, the Most Holy Father Pope John Paul II has granted the Institute of the Daughters of St. Anne, Ranchi as a Religious Institute of Pontifical Right. We are very grateful and thank God for His bountiful graces upon us and the Congregation.