Mother Mary Charles Magdalen, Foundress
The Congregation of the Handmaids of the Holy Child Jesus (H.H.C.J) was founded by Mother Mary Charles Magdalen, a Religious Sister of Charity who came to Nigeria in 1923 at the invitation Bishop Joseph Shanahan (CSSP) of the Vicariate of Southern Nigeria.
The Founding Members
Mother Mary Charles Magdalen, lived out the preaching of being all things to all people she engaged in any ministry that would uplift the standard of life of the people she served. Her desire for an indigenous Religious Congregation was fulfilled when four of the young women she taught in St. Joseph's Convent School, Calabar, Nigeria expressed the desire to become Religious Sisters.
The names of the four women are:
- Lucy William - Sister St. John from Cameroon, Central Africa
- Kathleen Bassey - Sister Mary Ignatia from Calabar, Nigeria, West Africa
- Agnes Ugoaru -Sister Mary Aloysia from Umuahia, Nigeria, West Africa
- Christiana Waturuocha - Sister Mary Gertrude Nwaturuocha, Nigeria, West Africa
Building the Congregation
The Congregation was canonically erected on April 1937 by Bishop James Moynagh SPS, the Prefect of Calabar Prefecture while the Society of the Holy Child Jesus guided the formation and growth of the young congregation. The first Religious Profession of Vows of the Foundation members took place on April 21, 1940.
The Congregation became autonomous on December 28, 1959 with Mother Mary Gertrude Waturuocha one of the foundation members, as the first Superior General of the Congregation. A 'Decretum Laudis' (Decree of praise) was given by His Holiness Pope Paul VI, elevating the Congregation to the status of a Pontifical Right on February 29, 1971.
As an International Congregation
The international and inter-tribal nature of the Congregation extends to all parts of Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Togo, Sierra Leone, Kenya and England, Presently the Congregation has established convents in Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Togo, Sierra-Leone, Kenya, Italy, England, Germany, United State of America and Canada, and Grenada.
As a result of its numerical growth and geographic spread, the 7th General Chapter of the Congregation conducted from 8 - 26 March 1996 mandated that the Congregation be divided into four Provinces for effective administration and apostolic ministry. Consequently four provinces were created, three in Nigeria and one in Ghana as follows:
- South Eastern Province
- Ghana Province
- Central Eastern Province
- North Western Province
Currently, we have Six Mission Territories:
- Cameroon Mission
- England Mission
- Germany Mission
- Italy Mission
- U.S.A Mission
- Canada Mission