Medical Sisters of St. Joseph is a religious congregation for women founded in the Church to respond to the sublime and ineffable love of God the Father who chose us in Christ even before the foundation of the world (cf. Eph1;4) we are consecrated to conform ourselves to the merciful love and compassionate Christ who went about doing good (cf.Acts10,38) and healing every kind of disease and infirmity (cf.Mt.4,23)
We dedicate ourselves to make present the merciful love of Christ to all people, especially the sick, the poor and the least of the brethren irrespective of cast and creed, thereby carrying out the mission of proclaiming and bringing about the kingdom of God among them. (cf.Lk. 9,2; Mt. 10, 7-8)
Our Ecclesial Identity
The Medical Sisters of St. Joseph is a religious congregation for women canonically ascribed to the Syro Malabar Church. Therefore the members pay great attention to learn and promote its ecclesial patrimony, especially to celebrate its rich liturgical life. Living the evangelical counsels of obedience, chastity and poverty the members of this congregation have accepted a mode of life that is both contemplative and active. This congregation of pontifical right has MSJ as its abbreviated title.
The Historical background
Our religious congregation is the fruit of the deep God experience and the merciful love of our revered founder father, servant of God Msgr. Joseph Panjikaran (1888-1949) towards the sick and the suffering. Msgr. Panjikaran who was the director of the propagation of Faith in the Vicariate of Ernakulam had taken keen interest in his life to proclaim the Gospel to the poor. A zealous pastor that he was, Msgr. Panjikaran had directly seen the pain, the hardships and the loneliness of the sick and the poor during his many pastoral visits. It was his deep conviction that the church had the responsibility to provide medical service to these people. Realizing that the proclamation of the Gospel and all other activities towards the conversion of people are to be supported by genuine acts of charity, our revered founder decided to reach the good news of salvation to the people through the care of the sick. As a result of his earnest prayer and hard work, Msgr. Panjikaran opened a hospital under the title Dharmagiri (Charity Mount) at Kothamangalam, Kerala in 1934. At a time when that not many in the Catholic Church in Kerala had opted to nurse the sick, our founder decided to found a religious congregation for women that has care of the sick as its apostolate. For he was strongly convinced that only consecrated persons can see Christ in the sick and lead them to salvation by their compassionate service. On 31st October 1944 the then Metropolitan of Ernakulam Archdiocese, Mar Augustine Kandathil granted official permission. With the profession of seven sisters on 3rd July 1946 the religious congregation under the title the “Medical Sisters of St. Joseph” (MSJ) was canonically erected in the Church.
The Charism and the Spirit of our founder
Love of God is the supreme gift of all other gifts. It is a personal divine experience. Our revered founder contemplated Christ, the reflection of God’s love and mercy in the deep silence of his heart and received with humility the merciful love of the father in his pure heart. He desired the intensely to share this merciful love with the least of the brethren. In the course of time he realized that the healing ministry is the best means of sharing the compassionate love of Christ. To translate his vision into a reality, he drew spiritual power and strength from the words of Jesus. “as long as you did it to the least of my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt. 25:40). An inner call, which was totally evangelical and divinely inspired, compelled him to serve the poor, the sick and the least with the merciful love of Christ. Our Congregation is the response of our beloved founder to his inner call. The glorious gift of bringing the poor, the sick and the least of the brethren to salvation and an experience of the Kingdom of God through healing ministry is the charism that we received from the founder.
It was the zeal of our founder for the salvation of souls that inspired him to choose healing ministry as the apostolic mission of the congregation. The word of Jesus on the cross, “I thirst”, aroused in him a thirst for souls. He went down to the sick with the maxim, “through the body to the soul”. The words ‘this is a matter of souls’ always rested upon his lips. It was because of his zeal for souls that he instructed the first members that while nursing the sick they should also take care of their souls. Perfect surrendering to the will of God, respect and obedience towards authorities and humility were shining virtues that we could find in him. The motto of his life was ‘thy will be done’. He surrendered himself to the will of God till the last moment of his life.
The life of our founder was a constant movement towards the love of God. From the very childhood, he used to pray before the crucified Christ for a long time and experienced the merciful love of Christ that gushed forth from the cross. He listened to the voice of the Holy Spirit in prayer and surrendered to the promptings of the Spirit with humility. He meditated upon the word of God every day and grew up steadily in the experience of God. He spent sufficiently long hours before the Blessed Sacrament and filled his heart with the merciful love of Christ, the divine healer. He had a strong faith in the providence of God, which strengthened him to be firm in the face of difficulties. His devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the3 ocean of love filled his heart with compassionate love and he learned the meekness and the humility of the Heart of Jesus. He had a filial devotion to Mary our Blessed Mother. He accepted her as his counsellor in times of difficulties. The love and piety he showed towards St. Joseph, his heavenly patron, generated a deep faith in the intercessory power of St. Joseph, which enabled him to say even at the last moment of his life, that “St. Joseph will take care of you”. His spirituality, which was made mature through asceticism and self - denial because more luminous with purity of heart, sincerity and humility. He always experienced the presence of God within him. It enabled him to see Christ in every person he met, especially the poor, the sick and the least of the brethren. He taught us to see Christ in the sick and minister to them as we minister to Christ. Our first members imbibed the spiritual treasures of our founder and handed it over to generations.
Our Mission in the Church
Care of the sick that flows from the merciful love of Jesus is our mission in the Church. Our founder has advised us to include all types of hospitals, dispensaries, public health centres, mobile clinics, and centres for the care of the deaf and the dumb, the blind, the physically handicapped, mentally retarded children, old people who are sick, orphans and welfare activities in the sphere of our apostolate.
Our founder was fully convinced that through the care of the ailing body one could reach out to the soul. In order to make his mind clear he took the principle, ‘through the body to the soul’ as the motto of the healing ministry.
Spirit of Apostolate
According to the instruction of our revered, “we must be contemplative like Mary who sat at the feet of the Lord listening to his word and active like Martha who was busy serving the Lord” (F.I) the words of Jesus, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me: (Mt. 25, 40) shall inspire us to see Christ in the people whom we serve.
The care of the sick demands a lot of sacrifices from us. Therefore we must constantly recall the exhortation of the Lord. “if any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me”(Lk;9,23). We must give ourselves as a holocaust for the care of the sick.
Qualities of MSJ (F-I)
Meekness of disposition
Affability of character
Ceaseless watching over the patient who is Christ to them and
Successor of our Founder
Along with our revered founder, we love, respect and cherish the fond memories of Msgr. George Menachery who, as the director of our congregation for 19 years (1950- 1969) worked tirelessly to foster the charism and the spirit of the congregation. His spirit of prayer, trust in the divine providence, obedience to the authority, equanimity in times of crisis, family spirit, compassion, humility and simplicity are of immense help and encouragement for us to grow in our charism.