Servants of Blessed Virgin Mary
It had been Bishop Louis Auneau’s wish to establish a local religious congregation of sisters. At that time, Daughters of Wisdom sisters were already in the country. He thus, requested Father Joseph Deleuney to mobilize girls for this new local congregation.
From a humble beginning
Father Deleuney was appointed to work at Nankhunda Minor Seminary in Zomba. In 1919, a woman known as Elizabeth Nyambalo from Chingale (now Namitembo Parish) came to him. She came to seek medical attention for her leg wound which was not healing. After she was healed, the woman never went back home. Instead, she asked him what she could do to devote her life to God and the mission. Father asked her to cook for the seminarians. Elizabeth Nyambalo accepted the work and did it wholeheartedly.
In 1920, Martha Bwanausi Phiri came from Mpiri in the area of what is now Mangochi Diocese. She came all the way to Nankhunda to join Elizabeth Nyambalo. The woman asked Fr. Joseph Deleuney if she could stay and help with the mission work. After receiving some Catechism instructions, Martha Bwanausi Phiri was baptised at Nankhunda.
The two ladies worked together hand in hand. Seeing their perseverance, Father Joseph Deleuney had a good talk with Bishop Louis Auneau about them. They both decided to confine the two women to Mother Jean Camille de la Croix, the Provincial Superior of Montfort Sisters. This dedicated female missionary received them at Nguludi in April 1922. They were given the charge of orphans. The Provincial Superior was of the thought that, if the women could devote themselves to children who were not their own, there should have been something in their vocation. The women did this apostolate and remained faithful.
In June 1922, seventeen year old girl known as Amata Amabilis Kalonda Simbwi from Mzama Parish in Ntcheu District, walked down to Nguludi. Her aim was to join the two women in serving the church as sisters. These were the three pillars who formed the congregation.
The girl, Amata Amabilis Kalonda Simbwi, was accompanied by her father. She explained that the journey from Ntcheu to Nguludi was terrible especially at night. One time, she recounted; “as I walked with my father the whole day, we stopped at a certain place to sleep. My father lit fire to cook some food. Then we could see something glittering at a distance. Those were the eyes of the lions which came out to search for food.
We were very much afraid that we spent sleepless nights. Then, next day, we would start off again until eventually we reached Nguludi after two weeks. I am happy to see the progress of the congregation. Indeed my sacrifices contributed to the foundation of this congregation”.
The Birth of a Religious Congregation
When Father Louis Auneau was consecrated bishop, he chose to reside at Nguludi. That is why he agreed with Father Joseph Delauney to move the girls to Nguludi. It was there that the Montfort Sisters or simply Daughters of Wisdom took charge to continue with formation. Bishop Auneau himself gave them a simple Rule of life. The basics centred on the time of getting up, prayers, meals and recreation. In September 1922, Bishop Louis Auneau started giving them instructions and lessons every week. After a preparation of three months, the three women consecrated themselves to Our Lady. This was according to the true devotion of St. Louis Marie Grignon de Montfort on 8th December 1922. Slowly, other girls joined the three pioneers to make the number a total of seven.
On 25th March 1924, the first postulants left their own old secular clothes and were dressed in their habits. The habit was a blue dress and a little cape.
The clothing took place after a three day retreat preached by Bishop Auneau himself. The blue dresses had no pleats like those of today. They looked more or less like a robe.
Now the Daughters of Wisdom started giving the girls instructions for formation. They also taught them to do all kinds of work such as serving in the kitchen, laundry and taking care of the church. Bishop Auneau also taught classes as part of formation.
Holy See Approves Novitiate Opening
On 24th January 1925, Bishop Louis Auneau received a letter he had been patiently waiting for. It was a letter of approval from the Holy See in Rome that the postulants were now allowed to enter into novitiate. This was the beginning of the congregation of SBVM.
Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary have different apostolates such as teaching, nursing, administration, accounting, social work etc.
Requirements to join SBVM
- Be a committed, baptized and confirmed Catholic woman
- Be a Catholic woman who sincerely wants to follow Christ and love His mother Mary through the vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience
- Have at least passed the Malawi School Certificate of Education or its equivalent. Those with a University or any other tertiary education qualification are welcome.
- However, those interested must show their interest through their parish priests or convents where Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary are found.