WW I was over. In 1919 King George V in England proclaimed Delhi as the Imperial Capital. Fr Luke OFM Cap longtime Missionary had purchased 14 acres of land in New Delhi for Rs 7000 with a perpetual annual lease of Rs 365. A wise investment for the Church! Archbishop Bernacchioni commissioned Fr Luke to make preparations for the erection of the Sacred Heart Church in New Delhi. Fr Luke expressed his hope to Provincial Superior M. Dorothy Tarleton for the JMs to be the pioneers of education in New Delhi then known as Raisina.
Superior General M. Clare Bray decided to open a Convent in Delhi. It opened on 1 October 1919 as a coeducational school in a rented house on Alipore Road, Old Delhi. They had scarcely moved in when the Chamber of Indian Princes came for their prescheduled month long Annual Meeting. The Sisters moved out to tents pitched as residence and school rooms in St Mary’s Church compound. Foreseeing that Delhi would need good educational institutions, the Chief Commissioner was keen that this promising school should transfer to New Delhi. The Directress of the School M. Collette Cournane with the other pioneering Sisters: M. Aloysius O’Dwyer, M. Rose Smith, Sr Francis and Sr Zoe opened a Day School on 25 January 1923 in the veranda of a cottage next to where the Sacred Heart Cathedral stands today. The house was enlarged, renovated and known as Maria Bhavan (later used by the parish and in 1997 rebuilt as the Cathedral Parish House).
The Chief Commissioner of Delhi, the Superintendent of Education and the Engineer in Chief, all were in favour of establishing the School. The State Officer lent the Sisters some tents to be pitched in the Cantonment which they vacated in winter to occupy the “Old Club” nearby. The summer heat forced not only the Government Officers and their families to retire to the hills for six months, but the Convent School also was obliged to close. The Religious Staff and pupils went to Hampton Court, Mussoorie on 30 March 1922 where, during their stay they gave generously of their time and experience to Hampton Court School.
The Staff of Hampton Court School too was equally helpful in Old Delhi and in Raisina in turn when they came to Delhi for the winner months. Considering the Delhi and the Hampton Court Schools as one, simplified their work and that of the Education Department as well. The little School in Old Delhi closed on 23 September 1923. The Sisters directed their efforts toward raising the standards of the new Day School on the Cantonment Road, Raisina while they resided in the house beside the Cathedral.
There prevailed... “ a happy atmosphere, excellent discipline and the good tone of the school” The English teaching, St Joseph’s unrecognized department was sanctioned by the Superintendent of Education in 1925. This educational setup continued at the “Old Club” till 1926. It grew in reputation and demands for admissions were ever on the increase. A proper school building was needed. Part of the land belonging to the Church was leased to the Sisters.
The Army Headquarters and Telegraph Offices from Agra and Lahore were installed in the capital by 1926. The consequent increase in numbers would improve the financial condition of the School but a larger school building had to be provided. Fund raising campaigns and a Building Grant of Rs 10,000, led to the construction of “a suitable and permanent Day School in keeping with the surrounding buildings of the Imperial City” in 1926
Land was acquired for a playground. The new Chief Commissioner remarked “the new day School is an ornament in New Delhi... the best he had seen in the country.” Fr Luke:“ ...they are one of the glories of the Catholic Church”.
Staff Quarters in 1928 and in 1931 a garage and driver’s quarters followed. Numbers were still increasing, so in 1935 the two storied “Avila” block was built for the new “Branch School” and two years later, the “St Joseph’s” Block for Staff Quarters.
M. Colette received Government recognition for her work in the cause of Christian education for girls. On 20 February 1936, the Governor of the Punjab invested her with the Kaiser-i-hind medal at the Convent of Jesus and Mary, Lahore (M. Lucie Chartier and M. Gregory Canty also were recipients of the same award)!
When M. Blandine Carrol was head, numbers had increased and the School was granted Middle School status in 1935. It was replaced by the Junior Cambridge in 1938. The results of the Junior and Senior Cambridge girls were satisfactory,”...the spirit of cheerfulness and co-operation... the success and the happy atmosphere prevailing are very largely due to the devoted work and good influence of M. Teresa Guiness... who has built up the institution from a small school into a full fledged high school”. In 1939 as the School was still coeducational, a qualified Munshi taught the boys Urdu-as specified by the Code.
M. Bede Murphy took over the School in 1939. She was assisted at different times by M. Assumption Ortiger, M. Consilo Browne, M. Margaret Mary Lane, M. Imelda Carver, M. Germaine Robbins, M. Clementine Munnelly, Ms Clare Williams and Ms Irma Ince-almost all of whom were trained in St Bede’s College, Simla. M. Bede was nominated by the Government of India to the Inter Provincial Board of Anglo Indian and European Education.
School life flowed smoothly during WW II years. Children were aware of human needs in India and abroad. The Superior General’s M. Del Rosario’s letter urging the Schools and Colleges in India to Social Awareness boosted the thrust of the Students to drives such as: Fetes, Programmes, Collections...organized for the downtrodden and poor, and victims of tragedies and calamities-not forgetting those of the Chelsea fire in 1946 and later, their own, the Krist Raja School!
Being located in the Capital City of India major events: Indian Independence and its consequences cast their shadow over the School, but it emerges unscathed.
In 1948 M. Bede Handed over charge to M. Francis Hammond who continued in the path set by her predecessors. Her enriching experience in these years of change led to a blend of cultures seen in the performance of plays and other productions. The first School Magazine, “The Merry Go Round” was initiated. This was later replaced by “Happenings”. In 1970 the School celebrated its Golden Jubilee. With M. De Sales Timlin at the helm, various programmes were held among which was magnificent Drill Display. The Former Students’ Association was constituted on this occasion.
Sr Dorothy Rodrigues took over as Principal when M. De Sales was transferred to Pakistan. A storey on the Junior School Building provided classrooms for the Kindergarten. The School transferred affiliation from the ICSE Board to the CBSE Board in the interest of the students. The Parents were made aware of their role in education through the inauguration of the PTA. The School also cooperated with the Ministry of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation in 1973 to initiate evening Coaching Classes for young women of Scheduled Castes and Tribes to train them to be eligible for employment.
In keeping with the mission of Jesus and Mary, The School adopted a nearby slum to give the students opportunities for Social Service. Projects were undertaken to sensitize the students and their parents to the needs of the underprivileged: the Krist Raja School for the poor, Prem Dan Creche for the children of 42 Municipal workers in which the whole school is involved, Ujjala, an outreach education programme for 120 neighborhood slum children. The School has adopted the Baleswa Village of evicted slum dwellers. They visit them, make regular collections provide free medical checkup for them and sponser two teachers.
Different activities and programmes continue to bring out the best in the students. Hopefully they will in turn give to society what they have received. Today, CJM Delhi is a Senior Secondary School. It has kept up with modern trends and demands of education through the Smart Classroom and e-learning. Administration has been updated with e-Care and websites which keep parents abreast with the happenings in school.
In 1996, the CJMOSA (CJM Old Students’ Association) celebrated its Silver Jubilee. It honoured distinguished ex-members: Aung San Suu Kyi, Selja Kumari etc.
May CJM Delhi continue to lives up to its motto “to serve with love”!