Bishop Anthony Gogo Nwedo C.S.Sp who hailed from Umudei Village in the ancient town of Oguta in Imo State was ordained the first Bishop of Umuahia Diocese on 17th May, 1959. The Diocese had just been created. The area was backward, undeveloped, with very few Primary Schools and fewer Secondary Schools. His domain was predominantly protestant. He had been given the charge of running and developing the new Diocese and he needed help. First of all, he came to realize that Bishop Shanahan had met, in Onitsha, a similar situation which he handled successfully by building Catholic Schools as tools of evangelization and development. He therefore borrowed the idea to build Schools Colleges, Hospitals, and Orphanages. But the question was: who would run these institutions for him?
He tried to get a religious Congregation to come down to the newly created Diocese to help but none was available. He then asked Propaganda Fide to help him find such a Religious Congregation that could help him. Their reply was loud and clear; “why not start your own?” Initially, he thought it was going to be an impossible venture but as time went on, the idea began to crystallize in his mind. As he saw that there was no way out, he started looking round for prospective candidates to be the pioneers of such a Congregation.
When the Secretary General of Propaganda Fide, Archbishop Pietro Sigismondi sent him the “NORMA” for erecting such society, he then realized that “onweghikwa ihe ozo ji nwantkita onwu”, that is, what else was he waiting for? And so, Nna anyi, as he later came to be fondly called by the sisters (his daughters), became a “Father Founder”.
Precisely, on the 29th of December, 1961, the first eighteen young Girls gathered around our Father Founder in Corpus Christi Mission Ettiti-Ulo, Bende. On 2nd January, 1962 eleven more Girls joined the first batch. They stayed two weeks in Bende and the Principal of Xavier College, Bende was of tremendous assistance. Exactly on the feast of St. Anthony of Egypt, 17th January, 1962 they moved to the uncompleted Mercy Secondary School, Nbawsi, which Nna anyi was building for them. This was how the Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy Congregation started with 29 young Girls.
Nna anyi’s major preoccupation was the spiritual formation and training of these candidates for the work he intended them to do which was, above all:
1. To live a life of prayer and penance, “form a spiritual power house”
2. To teach in schools and colleges
3. To care for the poor and needy in hospitals, orphanages and homes
4. To make their very lives a sign of God’s love for a sinful world and an eloquent sermon to all around.
It was the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Peter Claver in Rome that undertook to train the first group of eight aspirants whom the Father Founder judged ready to go on with a more serious religious formation. They were sent to the Convent of this Congregation of St. Peter Claver in Ibadan where they had their pre-novitiate training. After which they were clothed as novices in Rome in the novitiate house of St. Peter Claver Sisters on 8th December, 1964. Returning to Nigeria in June, 1966, they continued their training and made their first religious profession on December 8 of the same year. This time, they were six in number. These Sisters have continued to lead the way, following Christ closely and faithfully living out the purpose for which our congregation was started. And the congregation is growing from strength to strength and spreading to many parts of the world namely, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Lesotho, South Africa, England, Ireland, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Italy, United States of America and Canada.
The Congregation has had six General Chapters and it was the one held last August that elected the present administration into power and is made up of:
Rev. Mother Mary Casimir Nwadiukwu: Superior General
Rev. Sr. Mary Chinwe Ekeoma: Vicar General
Rev. Sr. Mary Gerard Nwagwu: Councilor
Rev. Sr. Mary Rose Lima Chikeme: Councilor
Rev. Sr. Mary Evangelista Oparaocha: Councilor
With continuous growth in number (currently one thousand, two hundred and fifty professed members) and high demand for the DMMM sisters all over the world, the sixth General Chapter added two new regions to already existing four regions, to assist the central administration in caring for the needs of the sisters. The six regions with their regional superiors are made up of:
Abuja: Rev. Sr. M. Angeline Umezurike
Europe: Rev. Sr. M. Resurrecta Nzeribe
Ibadan: Rev. Sr. M. Colette Onyeocha
Onitsha: Rev. Sr. M. Catherine Nweke
Owerri: Rev. Sr. M. Therese Leo
United States of America and Canada: Rev. Sr. M. Beaty Nkem Chukwumezie
We are grateful to God who called us together to serve Him through the instrumentality of late Bishop Anthony Gogo Nwedo, C.S.Sp.