A common, particular feature to all the founders is that they would not have founded anything, if it had been up to them. Nonetheless, in history there is One, one Presence operating who makes providence work through all the circumstances. So, even those who have no intention to establish anything find themselves starting something new.
This is what actually happened to Father Domenico Masi. Life had led him to leave the orphaned girls under the charge of the nuns of the Maestre Pie in Coriano, who had also followed him to Miramare. He, therefore, had never thought of a community composed of 'his own' sisters. In 1925, however, the congregation decided to call back the nuns belonging to the Maestre Pie, who therefore left the orphanage on July 2nd of the same year, thus leaving 40 young girls without anyone who could look after them. However, the One who operates in history had already planned something. From the pages of his newsletter Ramoscello d’Olivo, Father Domenico had already asked for some young people to help him in his mission and four girls had answered his appeal: Maria Caterina Ferreri, an unemployed teacher; Palma Pesaresi, a nurse; Giuliana Giulianelli and Maria Montanari, two orphaned girls who had grown up and could help look after younger girls. After praying and reflecting, Father Domenico decided to entrust the four girls with the responsibility of the work.
The experiment proved successful. After a few months, the four girls showed their wish to be ordained and serve God and the poor and orphaned children as nuns. On December 8th, 1925, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the birth of the new religious congregation was celebrated: the four girls took their vows and wore the habit. Their name could be no one else than Sisters of Mary Immaculate as a clear sign of the deep devotion of Father Domenico towards Our Lady, who was worshipped with the name She personally had revealed to the young Bernadette in Lourdes. Maria Caterina Ferreri would be the first Mother General of the Sisters of Mary Immaculate.
In 1933, they were officially recognized for the first time when the Bishop of Rimini, Father Vincenzo Scozzoli, approved the foundation of the Sisters of Mary Immaculate provisionally (ad experimentum).
After World War II, the new congregation experienced a time of growth and expansion. Many bishops and priests asked for the nuns of Father Domenico to be sent to their dioceses and parish churches to carry out their mission. The Sisters of Mary Immaculate thus opened houses in Colunga di San Lazzaro, Bologna (1946), in Forlì (1948), in Porporana di Ferrara (1948). Other openings took place later on in Bologna, Filetto di Ravenna, Sabbiuno, Malborghetto di Boara, Cesena, Borghetto San Nicolò di Imperia, Rome.
A milestone on their way is the Marian Year, which was celebrated in 1954: at the end of the year the bishop of Rimini, Father Emilio Biancheri, signed the decree for the canonical erection of the congregation.
As all the founders, the wish of Father Domenico was to see the new religious order to be officially recognized and approved by the Catholic Church. He therefore asked Pope John XXIII for the pontifical approval. Several recommendations letters were also sent to the Pope by seven bishops of the dioceses where the Sisters were carrying out their mission. On February 24th, 1960, the Sacred Congregation of Religious signed the decree of approval thus making the Sisters of Father Domenico a congregation of pontifical right. The old priest could then die peacefully because he knew his spiritual daughters would have a future inside the Catholic Church. The decree pointed out that the specific goal of the new religious community was to «dedicate themselves to charitable works» and in particular «to educate children left orphaned according to the Christian Catholic faith and prepare them to live life».
In 1983, the Sacred Congregation of Religious approved the new constitutions drawn in conformity with the spirit of renovation pursued by the Second Vatican Council. The decree by the Cardinal Prefect Eduardo Pironio can read at the end the solemn exhortation of Father Masi of which the sisters are reminded: «Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament – Mary Immaculate – the Church – the Poor: they are our ideal, they must fill our life; they will allow us to become like the saints and ascend to heaven».
Today (2012), about 200 nuns belonging to the Congregation of the Sisters of Mary Immaculate operate in 22 religious houses over the world, in Italy, Venezuela, Paraguay, Philippines and Indonesia.