Our Founder was Archbishop Charles Heerey, C.S.Sp. (1890 – 1967), an Irishman born of good Catholic Irish parents.  Sent as a Holy Ghost missionary Priest, he arrived Nigeria in November 1922, was consecrated Bishop in 1927, succeeded Bishop Joseph Shanahan as the Vicar Apostolic of Southern Nigeria in 1931, and was raised to the status of Archbishop in 1950. His natural dignity and native honesty ruled out of his life all pretence and posing…” (cf. Archbishop Charles Heerey, Apostle of Eastern Nigeria by John Roche, C.S.Sp.)


Our Foundation

By God’s providence, he founded our Congregation in 1937 when he was the Vicar Apostolic of Southern Nigeria.  An eminent missionary he was consumed by a burning zeal for the spread of God’s kingdom on earth.  The plight of the less privileged in his Vicariate: their suffering, overwhelming ignorance, malnutrition, women and children subjected to de-humanizing conditions, poor medical care etc – captured his compassionate and humble personality.  A deep concern for their upliftment and for a good Christian family let him to do whatever was possible to bring relief to them, thus enabling them to enjoy their dignity as children of God.

As a good disciple of the Master, Archbishop Heerey knew he would not be able to accomplish all that needed to be done with regard to bringing the compassion of Christ to the people.  He saw the need to found the Congregation of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary as extension of himself.  He bequeathed to us this charism of Compassion and the spirit of Humility to carry on his mission among the people.


The Beginnings

The seed was sown in April 1937 when the very first two members –Maria Anyogu (late Mother Mary Bernadette Anyogu) and Clara Oranu (Mother Mary Magdalene Oranu) presented themselves to follow Christ in Religious life.  Our Founder officially entrusted their formation to the capable hands of SR. MARY ROSE McQUIRE, a Holy Rosary Sister just out from Ireland. On October 7th the same year, the official erection of the young institute took place.  The initial training started at Ihiala in the then Onitsha Vicariate.

The beginning was very slow, full of challenges and difficulties which were surely means of growth for the institute.  It was not uncommon to wake up any morning and find some angry parents/relations forcing their way to the Convent and literally carrying away some Postulants as a result of bitter opposition to their daughters embracing the strange life where marriage was ruled out.

Of course, Archbishop Heerey was conscious he was breaking new grounds in the culture of the Igbo people.  But he also was anxious that the Gospel of Christ be preached “in season and out of season.” (cf. 2 Tim 4:2).  So he held on tenaciously to the message of Christ.  Religious life, as the total consecration of oneself to Christ which, de facto, excludes marriage, is one of the challenges that Christianity offered to the Igbo people, particularly the womenfolk.  It was therefore an uphill task for Archbishop Charles Heerey to get across the message of founding a Congregation of women religious in Igboland in the 1930s.

It was after seven (7) years, that the first two members were received into the novitiate on 6th January 1944.  The ceremony was in the Holy Trinity Cathedral, Onitsha. In the evening of that same day, the Novitiate House was transferred to Urualla, which was also in the then Onitsha Archdiocese.  In 1948, Owerri diocese was carved out of Onitsha Archdiocese and Urualla became part of the new diocese of Owerri. When the young Congregation took abode in Urualla, girls wishing to enter started presenting themselves and so, slowly but steadily, God blessed the institute with good vocations.



This happened in 1957. The Administration of her affairs was now entirely in the hands of the native Sisters, with the Late Rev. Mother Mary Bernadette Anyogu - one of the first two members - elected as the first indigenous Superior General of the Institute.

Our First Mission outside Nigeria

Our first missionary step outside Nigeria was into Sierra Leone, West Africa in 1966.  Our Founder happily visited the community in Kenema diocese before he was called to his eternal rest in 1967.

Attainment of Papal Recognition

This was in December 1973, by the grace of God, during the Pontificate of Pope Paul VI of happy memory.  

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