The diocese of Lucknow, North India, has the privilege of being the birth place of the first secular institute in India. Most Rev. Dr. Conrad De Vito OFM. Cap., the first bishop of Lucknow was installed in 1947. It was in the same year, a few days before his installation, on February 2, Pope Pius XII gave official recognition to the Secular Institutes, a new way of consecrated life in the involvement of temporal realities of the world to restore them according to the plan of God.
The teachings of Pope sank into the heart of Bishop Conrad and found its new expression in the founding of the Institute of the Maids of the Poor. Women in Uttar Pradesh were not allowed to meet men. Moreover, the religious habit of the time was a too drastic a contrast to the life style of ordinary men and women. Paratroopers of Second World War, who would easily enter the enemy camp, were his inspiration. He wanted missionary women without religious habit who would enter every house and be able to go anywhere unhindered by too many rules and regulations. However, this remained as a dream for a long time.
Having great reverence for human life, the Bishop wanted to tackle the problem of abandoned babies, poor girls and marginalized women. He acquired a building in Barabanki to provide a home and impart primary education to the poor. The Canossian Daughters of Charity agreed to carry out this task. Later the unhappiness of sisters to include baby boys brought back to him his dream of missionary women. He tried to get the assistance of the existing Secular Institutes from Europe and America. But his effort to arouse the interest of any of the existing Secular Institute did not meet with success. Hence Bishop Conrad took up the challenge of setting up a Secular Institute in his diocese. On July 6,1951 with four zealous women-Ms. Anna Joseph, Ms. Mona Hosaiah, Mrs.Getrude D’Costa and Ms. Olive Foster, a new Secular Institute with the name ‘Nursing and Teaching Society’ was founded. Soon he changed the title of the new institute into ‘Maids of the Poor’. This was to prevent the professional pride. He desired to give to the poor the services of the Maids. He used to ask, “Why can’t the poor have the privilege of having Maids as the rich?” He wanted the Maids develop the inner attitude of Mother Mary of listening and waiting upon God and repeat with her ‘Behold the hand maid of the Lord.’ He also wanted to encourage women from all walks of life join the new Institute. He was envisaging a group of women who are zealous, simple and available for service; ordinary with ordinary people but consecrated, anchored in Christ and connected to the whole cosmos.