Mangaluru, Dec 27, 2019: The oldest indigenous congregation of Mangalore nuns, the Ursuline Franciscan Sisters (UFS) founded in 1887 in Rosario Cathedral’s vicinity, are set to celebrate the first leader ’Superior General’ - Mother Nympha Fernandez (1850-1909), on December 29, 2019, at their Foundation House in Bolar built by Mother Nympha in 1901 AD. Year 2019 accounts for her 169th Birth anniversary and 110th death anniversary. Three fold celebration of the milestones of this congregation now are : 1.The 110th death anniversary of Mother Nympha the first Superior . 2. Silver jubilee of the approval of the congregation as an institute of Pontifical right. 3. Blessing of a historic museum ’UFS-Heritage’. These 3 fold events are set to be marked with great gratitude and gaiety on December 29, Sunday, presided over by the Bishop of Mangalore, Most Rev Dr Peter Paul Saldanha.
Coastal area of Mangaluru is fortunate, very God fearing, all communities have a special place in the social mosaic and this can be attributed to the wisdom of historic stalwarts; most of those of the past times have contributed in many ways to enhance our today. The culture, morals, discipline and education developed in early times have all gone a long way to make our land what it is now. Christian contribution to education, health care and social development in general is accepted well appreciated and practical, all through the 500 years of Christianity in Mangalore or Mangaluru..
The origin of the Rosario church progressively along the riverfront in the area can be traced back to the Portuguese from early 1500s. The first resident Parish Priest (1879 to 1888 AD) was Rev.Fr.Urban Stein SJ, a German- he is recognised as the official founder of the great and vast congregation of indigenous Mangalore nuns - Company of St Ursula was founded on Easter Sunday April 10, 1887. . Officially called ’Ursuline Franciscan Sisters’ (UFS), of whom Mother Nympha Fernandez is the pioneer, the first. Fr.Urban Stein, died at the early age of 43 years on November 21, 1888, leaving the leadership of ’Ursulines’ to Sr.Nympha Fernandez, whose family hails from the vicinity and still has descendants. Nympha, as per latest research by the UFS congregation has found, was born:October 9, 1850, earlier thought to be October 25, she died February 24, 1909, a 110 years ago..
’UFS Heritage’ a museum :
An articulated museum, that is brilliantly created by the able UFS sisters at the "Foundation House" at St.Ursula’s Convent campus, Bolar on the fringe of Bunder, beside the Rosario Cathedral is set to be a treasure house of history and a memorial, the fruit of much thought and labour. Today they are spread out intensely not only in South India, but in the North, North East and Africa and Europe too. When there is a good reason to look back, you know and confirm you are on the right path.
The Museum : The ’UFS-Heritage" a virtual museum of history matter, can be split into two basic sections, spread across 1. the old foundation block (which has seen periodical renovations but retains it’s original shape) and 2. the annexe, the old school block, all very artistically presenting the foundation, the idea and progress of the UFS ethos over 132 years as in 2019 AD. The artistic work and presentation was carried out under the leadership of Rev Royachen Joseph ..Pallottine Congregation, Palloti Kalaagram Nagpur.
Museum Section 1 : The 1901 foundation Block on the ground floor has the main entrance of the UFS HERITAGE. The hall is particularly dedicated to Mother Nympha Fernandez, the builder of this first structure. It will be used as the prayer room with a unique art of the Risen Christ facilitating meditation.
On the other side of the hall is the documentation room and adjacent to it is a stall depicting the clothing / dresses, religious habits the nuns used from it’s inception. The history of the clothing used show cases; the secular full length dress used in times when the ’Company of St.ursula’ was founded in 1878. Then the start of 1888 the second religious dress was adopted when vows were taken. The the third religious dress in 1934, while the first batch of nuns then called ’Congregation of catechist sisters of St.ursula’. Fourth religious dress was adopted in 1970. The fifth and current religious dress and the saree option from 1993.
The First Floor is dedicated to Fr Urban Stein the Founder. His native place in Cologne Germany, his studies etc. Then note Patrons Sts Angela, Francis and Ursula, Emblem etc. In the long room on the side of the structure are hand painted works of Bishops from the time of the existence of the Ursulines to date and also the Spiritual Directors. In the center of the first floor is depicted the rearticulated Charism and Spirituality of the Congregation. In the centre of the right wing are displayed the articles used by early Sisters., the relics and other things of importance. Down at the inner side of the entrance a huge tree is created depicting the entire Congregation grown from a small seed. Then the intercession of Angela and Francis is shown by the presence of their relics.
Museum Section 2: The annexe, in the oldest school building built in remembrance of Sr Seraphina Noronha (one of the pioneers) the six rooms depict the life and mission of our Sisters. True to the vision of the Congregation: To give life in Fullness and the Motto: For the love of God, the Sisters and the juniors live a life of virtues and carry on the mission in joyful heralds. First Room: the Centre; Second: Mangalore Province; Third: Mysore Province; Fourth: North East Province; Fifth: North and Hubli Provinces; Sixth: European and African Regions
In the surroundings of Rosario, Mother Nympha’s own efforts established the very first house of in 1901, a mud walled structure with a roof of Mangalore tiles, as were most buildings of the time - it came to be known as the ’Foundation House’ and for long was the UFS headquarters. With the fact that ’Nothing is a chance, all is Supreme design’ the UFS sails on, Mother Nympha’s revised birthday of October 9, at this juncture is significant.
There are some insights in to connections of Mother Nympha Fernandez (the use of ’Z’ in the spelling of family name signifies the Spanish roots). Some aspects need deep research. For example St. Mariam Baouardy (1848-1878) the Carmelite saint of the Church, Canonised in 2015, lived in Mangalore from 1870-1872 AD just yards away from Mother Nympha, then in her prime youth. St.Mariam took her first vows here in 1872. It can be possible that these too great souls, of similar age, would have had some close interaction/exchange on spiritual and religious life. Mother Mary Aloysia,(1855-1939) the Second Superior General of the Apostolic Carmel Congregation was a leading light in early Mangalore and would have had some interaction with Mother Nympha around the early times of the Cathedral. Rev Fr Augustus Muller SJ, (1841-1910) pioneer Jesuit of Mangalore, Founder of Fr.Muller’s Hospital and colleague of Rev Fr Urban Stein would have had an influence on Mother Nympha. Also, the first person of the Mangalorean community, on the path to sainthood since 2009, ’Servant of God’ Msgr Raymond F C Mascarenhas, (1875-1960) the first builder of Bendur church and founder of the Indigenous Bethany Congregation in 1921; was ordained at Rosario Cathedral in 1900 and was then Assistant parish priest at nearby Milagres church. Mother Nympha would have had reasonable exchange in those times. These are aspects that can be spiritually interesting and illustrious.
Later, the UFS congregation accepted Franciscan way of life, pointed out by the Capuchin Friars. Thus the services of the ’Ursuline Franciscan Congregation’ became spiritually deep, wide-spread, sailing smoothly forward in diversified directions, with the motto "For the Love of God" with synergy and choice blessings and the leadership of inspired individuals, by the power of the Lord.
This 132 year old Mangalore based Ursuline Franciscan Congregation reiterates the favour of the Lord in the growth from a tiny mustard seed to a great thriving giant tree. Currently spread world over are 913 UFS nuns, with 200 more in various stages of ascending into the congregation. It has 140 communities and 7 sub-communities in more than 38 diocese, the congregation is divided into 9 regions/provinces. An rough of the nuns departed are around 150. The UFS congregation can count on a wide spectrum of ’Resource Persons’ of diverse fields from spiritual to medical and a handful of PhD’s. Indeed the future of this congregation augurs well in the service of the Lord in His vineyard, only for the ’Love of God’ with a new hearty song.