The Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady Mother of Mercy (SCMM) started its mission in Indonesia on 12 July 1885, in the city of Padang, West Sumatra. The Congregation started its charity mission in the field of education, particularly for the Chinese and European children. In spite of great difficulties, the Congregation by means of its first Sisters was able to build three schools, which rapidly grew as did the communities.
Until 1960, the SCMM Sisters in Indonesia were considered as a mission region of the SCMM from the Netherlands, that was in a status where this part could not support itself yet either financially as well as its members. Most of its members at that time came from the Netherlands and its Superior was directly appointed by the General Superior. In community life the Sisters used the Dutch language to communicate.
The process of Indonesianisation had started since the beginning of its independence in 1945: this concerned the adjustment of the culture and the identity of Indonesia as well as the use of the Indonesian language as a medium of communication. Since that time the initial formation for the candidates of the Sisters of SCMM started in Indonesia. In accordance with the national development where the Catholic Church in Indonesia became autonomous, the Sisters of SCMM in Indonesia officially became a Region in 1961. A Region was a status where the local Superiors were still appointed by the General Superior from the Netherlands, but at this point the local members started to develop, the process of enculturation such as using the Indonesian language was largely used in activities such as daily prayers, statutes and the community rules as well as in the initial formation and other kinds of formation programs for other members of the Congregation. But financially, the region still depended on the General Council (in the Netherlands).
On October 17, 1975 the SCMM Sisters of Indonesia were officially recognized as a Province, where an Indonesian Sister was elected as the first Provincial Superior and so were the other Council members. In 2001, the last missionary Sister from the Netherlands departed from Indonesia. Since that year the members of the Indonesian Province only consist of local Sisters. The Sisters of SCMM in Indonesia has been officially recognized as the Congregation of the SCMM Indonesian Province and later on turned into a religious corporate body with a Notary Act Number 04 dated August 6, 2002 made by Public Notary JAP VERONIKA, S.H.
In 1989, the SCMM Indonesian Province enlarged its mission to Timor Leste, which at that time was still called East Timor (and which was still part of Indonesia). Until 2015, the two communities in East Timor: Dili and Ossu were still part of the Province of Indonesia. On 2 February 2016, the General Council of SCMM decided to separate them from Indonesia and they became communities under the responsibility of the General Council of SCMM in the Netherlands.
The Congregation of SCMM in Indonesia was divided into twelve Dioceses/Archdioceses and had 29 communities consisting. Nowadays there are 226 Sisters, which were distributed over various islands as follows:
- Six communities are on the Island of Nias: Amandraya, Hiliniondrasi, Teluk Dalam, Gunung Sitoli, Tuhemberua, and Lahewa. Among the SCMM Sisters this is known as the subprovince of Nias, by the civil name: Congregation of SCMM Queen of Peace.
- Thirteen communities are on the Island of Sumatra: Banda Aceh, Lhokseumawe, four communities in the city of Medan, Pematang Siantar, Tarutung, Sibolga, Sarudik, two communities in the city of Padang, and Pasaman. Among the SCMM Sisters this is known as the subprovince of Sumatra, by the civil name: Congregation of the SCMM Indonesian Province.
- Nine communities are in other regions which are spread sporadically over the Island of Java: two communities (Jakarta and Yogyakarta), the Island of Kalimantan: two communities (Banjarbaru and Banjarmasin), one community on the Island of Bali (Jimbaran), two communities on the Island of Flores (Maumere and Nebe), and two other communities on the island of Sumba (Waikabubak and Waipaddi). Among the SCMM Sisters this is known as the subprovince of the East, by the civil name: Congregation of SCMM Morning Star.
Over time there are constant developments in its members, its candidates and its charity missions. The mission concentrates on the following areas: education (early stage education, Play Group, Kindergarten, Elementary School, Junior High School, and Senior High School); health (clinics, policlinics, maternity clinic, hospital); in social ministries (dormitories for girls and boys, orphanages, Elderly Houses, pastoral works, canteens, tailoring, day nurseries for children). Some sisters work in others institutions that belong to third parties such as schools, hospitals, in the diocesan office, and in KOPTARI (Indonesian Conference of Religious Superiors).
During the last four decades, there have been a lot of changes in religious life as well as the life of the Sisters of SCMM. The works of charity that used to be managed by the Sisters in Europe have been handed over to the government or to laypeople. Most Sisters no longer wear habits and some have decided to live alone or in a small group and together they are searching for new life within religious life. In developing countries such as Indonesia, where the average age of the Sisters is relatively lower, the Sisters take care of charity missions and work hard to manage all the works of the Congregation. They are trying to live a good religious life in their communities and all of the Sisters still wear habits. The world changes but one thing remains that is the courage to work together for the poor. An SCMM Sister once said, “charity works will remain forever”.