The dream and vision of Mary Ward gave birth to the first Apostolic Congregation of women in the church. Her firm belief, ‘Women in time to come will do great things’ has been the inspiration for centuries of women who followed in her footsteps, carrying God’s message of love to the world all over. In the years that followed, these brave women worked whole heartedly to spread God’s Kingdom in the Indian subcontinent, establishing new houses, reaching out to the poor and needy.
In 1852, at the invitation of Bishop Hartmann, the Apostolic Vicar of Patna, a group of five IBMV sisters from Munich Province (Germany) came to India. They landed in Bombay by ship and then set out for Patna. Their historic journey by bullock- cart from Bombay to Patna through thick jungles among unknown people and in an unknown land goes to prove their great heroism. They left Bombay in early September and reached Patna in Feb.1853. The first IBMV House was established in Bankipore in 1853, on the bank of River Ganges. The house and school bear the name ‘St. Joseph’s’. St. Joseph’s Convent and School bear testimony to the sacrifice and heroism of our pioneers, Srs. Maria Groeppner, Angela Hoffman, Aloysia Maher, Antonia Feth and Catherine Schreibman.
Bankipore, as the first foundation, was considered the mother house of the Institute in India. St. Joseph’s was the only convent between Calcutta and Agra at that time. The initial years were full of hardships of various kinds- inclement weather, great poverty, sickness, natural calamities; in short, these brave women were tried in the crucible of suffering. During the 1857 Mutiny, for example, the sisters went through turmoil. Two young sisters died in a small congested room in the Church in Danapur where they had taken shelter.
Again on 15th Jan. 1934, a terrible earth quake hit Patna. Half the building and roof of the orphanage collapsed and the rest was crumbling. The inmates clutched the crucifix hanging on one of the walls of the building and in agony prayed earnestly for safety and all were saved!
From Patna the sisters expanded their activities in the field of education and other humanitarian efforts to nearby states, especially to Uttar Pradesh. In 1866 the IBMV sisters came to Allahabad and started a convent at Phaphamau which was later shifted to 32, Thornhill Road Allahabad where they founded St. Mary’s School, next to the Bishop’s House of Allahabad. In 1958 the Provincial House was shifted from Naini Tal to Allahabad where it still stands to this day, on 21 Thorn hill Road.