The first core of the Daughters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was formed during WW2 in 1943 in Italy in San Salvatore, near Varese.

Suor Maria Liliana ToselliSister Maria Liliana, the founding mother, was invited by the Parish priest of San Salvatore to move there from Malnate while her family was in Switzerland : she started living in San Salvatore with Sister Maria Paola ( Pierina Cavadini) , eager to share with her her religious calling.

Soon after, other young women joined them: they wanted to consecrate their life to the Lord following the charisma of the newly-born community : apostolate and pastoral care in the parish. Father Umberto Biagioni, IC, a Rosminian, was their guide and spiritual advisor.

In San Salvatore they used to live in a shack , experiencing want and sacrifices. They organised the first activities ; a nursery school, a Sunday oratory, workshops for young women. They stayed there till 1946. In the same year Maria Liliana was invited by Mons. Baranzini, Archbishop of Siracusa (Sicily) to work in his diocese in the refugee camp to look after the refugees, who needed care and education. It was on that occasion that the young women were allowed to wear a religious dress / religious clothing, so that they could be identified as women religious.

They stayed in the refugee camp for 5 years , till its closure : through that period they were in charge of the school management, they offered moral and religious support and they offered advice to the lay people who ran the camp.  In the meantime, Sister Maria Liliana was invited to offer her help to organise activities called “Settimane della Giovane” ( Weeks for Young Women) and “Settimane Sociali” (Social Weeks) throughout the diocese of Siracusa. Other young women asked to share this experience as women religious and Maria Liliana started a new activity in Carlentini ( Siracusa) . Here she opened a nursery school for around one hundred children, a workshop for about 40 women , a charity for people in need and a summer camp for children.

In 1948 she was invited by Mons. Oldani to open a center in Caidate (Varese) in order to provide the parish with a religious presence and with a nursery school.

In 1951 the community opened a house / a center in Rome, on the outskirts, in Torre Gaia : it was called Parva Domus Mariae ( The Little House of Virgin Mary) : it became the community’s mother house and formation center after the approval of the community as a Pious Union ( the Pious Union of the Daughters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary ) by the Vicar Cardinal.

In 1958 the religious community was involved in a fruitful mission throughout Sicily : the diffusion of the Marian message after the request of the Archbishop of Siracusa. In that period,in Siracusa, a picture of Virgin Mary and her Immaculate Heart had shed tears and the community started a collaboration with the “Comitato della Madonna delle Lacrime” (Commitee of Our Lady of Tears). The sisters also worked in the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Tears, which was built to celebrate this event and to make the devotion to Our Lady known

In 1959, Maria Liliana’s family made a donation in memoriam of Francesco, Maria Liliana’s brother , who had perished in a car accident : a new centre was opened in Milan, on the outskirts, at the same time with the erection of new parish, “Santa Maria Liberatrice” . A nursery school was christened by cardinal Montini, the future Pope Paul VI. For years the centre worked not only as a nursery school, but also as an oratory for girls.

In 1967 Mons.Zioni, Bishop of Baurù (Brasil), asked the Pious Union to take charge of a country parish which had been left without a priest in Lucianopolis. It was the first mission outside Italy and a novelty for those times : definitely a turning point , which was reported in many Italian newspapers and in TV programmes, where the focus was on the great changes after Vatican Council 2. When the sisters went back to Italy, this experience was inspiring for a group of young people, who joined the religious family first in Milan, then in Rome. These young men and women gave a name to their group : GMG ( Missionary Youth Group). During a General Audience in Rome, on 31st Dec., 1968, Pope Paul VI invited them to be aninated by this missionary spirit and traced a programme of life for them, giving them a name : the Heralds of the Great King.

In 1969, after a spiritual retreat in Fai della Paganella (Trento) the young people of GMG officially joined the community of the sisters, through the vows of charity and unity, which also set their obedience to the religious authorities. What united them was not a common interest or common activities but the strong charisma and spirituality transmitted by Maria Liliana , which can find its essence in a sentence: “ Let me , your Lord, live in you”. This spirituality was also transmitted through writings, like “ La mia via” ( “My Way”), “Suore senza convento”; ( Sisters Without a Convent”), “Um balzo nel divino” ( “Jumping in God”). In the two groups of young people ( one from Milan, the other from Rome) there were young men and women, either with a religious or lay calling. The desire was not to separate what God had united: they wanted to live the same spirituality and share the same activities finding a way which enabled everyone to link their calling ( priesthood, the religious state or lay state ) to the same reality, the same “family”

In 1972 some members started their philosophical and theological studies at Pontifícal Lateran University in Rome as a preparation to priesthood or to missionary life. The calling to priesthood of the first members sprang forth from an intense spiritual life and a caring formation given by the founding mother herself, with the approvation of local ecclesiastic superiors.

The religious authorities , in particular Mons. Terrinoni, Auxiliar Bishop of Rome, the Episcopal Vicar for religious Mons. ... and the Parish priest , don Edo, followed with paternal care this newly-born form of consacrated life, which brought a break-through in the post-Council Church.

In 1975 the communitarian life of the religious Family found its fulfilment with the entrance of lay people, some of them involved in a steady love relationship which would be blessed by the sacrament of marriage. As a matter of fact, the small community was formed by women religious, young men called to priesthood or young men and women called to religious life, as well as young lay people: they all started their common life in a small house which had the purpose to gather the 3 different callings. In this house, there was also a chapel, where the Holy sacrament was kept and a Holy Mass was celebrated daily. Thanks to this first communitarian experience, the members of the Pious Union ( now “Daughters and Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary”) could discover the human and spiritual value of brotherly life, living in charity and prayer, in the service of the Church and moved by the glory of God. The religious family could develop the potential of the single callings inside the community. Though the mission of evangelization and of being witnesses of the “kerigma” is common, each calling has been given a different task, according to the different charisma and to the different setting.
Thanks to this first communitarian experience, the new name of the Pious Union became “Daughters and Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary”: the male and female dimension turned into a reciprocated richness. Throughout this path of communitarian life, the members of the Pious Union have been discovering the human and spiritual value of brotherly life, living in charity and prayer, in the service of the Church and moved by the glory of God. The charisma of the community has always been clear : to witness the “mystery of the Church”, which St Paul summarises in the words “ Christ in you” (Col.1,27) The communitarian life lived through a simple and family style is the basic vehicle to bring the Gospel to people looking for God. This charisma is also shown through unity. Unity is clearly visible in the different states of life, without any separation, since they are associated in the same desire for consacration.

Recently the Pious Union settled some activities in different dioceses, enhancing its charismatic potential: the members witness their unity in a social context which risks separating people and making coexistence more and more difficult. A shared life is the most immediate symbol through which the Gospel can be widespread consistently : “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another “ (John 13, 35)