Sister Antonie, what is, in brief, the story and the mission of your Congregation?
Our congregation, the Daughters of Mary and Joseph, was established in 1820 by Rev. Father Jacobus Antonius Heeren. He was touched by the poverty that resulted from the French Revolution in the town of Hertogenbosch, Netherlands. In particular he was attentive to the elderly, widows, orphans, and disabled/handicapped children. He was the treasurer of a large Institution for the deaf– St. Michielsgestel– in the Netherlands. This institution continues to operate today and is administered by a public foundation.
In 1938 we started a school for the deaf in Indonesia, in the town of Wonosobo and in 1996 we established a school for deaf and blind children in Yogyakarta. Then in 2013 we began a school for the deaf in Baucau – East Timor.
In addition we also serve the poor. According to our social analysis in 1990, the poor in Indonesia were farmers and women. So, we initiated the JPIC (Justice and Peace for the Integrity of Creation) in order to serve those poor men and women. This was done in accord with our constitutions (#49): “We, as Christians and as religious, cannot accept the injustice and discontent in the world. We have to be aware of the major problems and we try to exert our influence wherever it is possible.”
Let’s go to your origins: what is the relationship with Saint Vincent de Paul? What is your spirituality?
We live our religious life through a Vincentian spirituality and in accord with our constitutions (#8): “The founder described the current needs of Society and urged the Sisters to devote themselves to ministries such as education and providing assistance to the mentally and physically handicapped, with special attention to those individuals who are deaf and/or have a hearing impediment.
From the Special Rules (which were issued in 1852), Article #1 states: “and these works of charity are to be practiced with cordial affection according to St. Vincent de Paul’s perspective and spirit, regardless of the class or religious beliefs of individuals.”
Based on the words of our Constitutions, our Congregation decided to make Saint Vincent the patron of the charitable work of the congregation.
What are the missionary activities to which you dedicate yourself?
I am now serving the congregation as general superior. So I was responsible for the development of the congregation’s policy: a) motivating the Sisters and ; b) establishing a policy of staying true to the works of charity; c) adapting our charitable works to the needs of the present era.
In the Netherlands I am encouraging our Sisters to support immigrants through social assistance projects.
Charity in our day has been upset by the arrival of COVID-19: how did you respond as a religious congregation to the pandemic?
We continue to offer our employees, whether in schools, dormitories or other works, the same salary as usual, even though it is financially difficult for us because so many parents of our students are currently unable to pay tuition fees.
We are engaged in many different charitable works, but the number of vocations is declining … that is a very serious challenge for us.
MISSION OF DMJ CONGREGATION
Constitution #8 :
“The founder describes the present needs that as nurses must respond to, such as education and teaching the physically and mentally disabled, especially those who are deaf and/or have a hearing impairment. These works of love are to be carried out with heartfelt affection according to the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul, regardless of the class or religion of the persons being served.”