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St. Alphonsa

Sr. Alphonsa, (Annakutty) was born on 19th August 1910, as the fourth child of Joseph and Mary in the famous Muttathupadathu family in Kudamalur near Kottayam in Kerala. Following the untimely death of her mother, she was looked after by her Peramma (maternal aunt), Annamma Murickan in Muttuchira who fostered Annakutty with strict discipline so that no one should ever blame her for anything. She wanted to give Annakutty to a handsome and rich young man in marriage, but Annakutty wished to become Jesus’ own by being a nun.The virgin even dared to undergo fire testing in a burning pit, thinking that her family would not force her to marry if she lost her beauty. Despite further opposition, she remained steadfast in her determination and arrived at Bharananganam convent with her father on the day of Pentecost in 1927. Mother Mary Ursula,the Superior of Bharananganam convent welcomed Annakutty warmly into the convent as a candidate. On 2nd August 1928 she received the religious veil and took the name Alphonsa. Mar James Kalassery gave her religious habit on 19th May 1930 in St.Mary’s Forane Church Bharananganam. She went to Changanassery for further studies and was afflicted with severe bleeding within a few months. When she was cured, she started her career as a temporary teacher at Vakakad School in 1932. She was loved by her students and co-workers. But getting sick again, she returned to Bharananganam after a year of teaching. She gladly accepted the suffering of her beloved Jesus.

Sr. Alphonsa entered the novitiate at Changanassery in 1935 but due to her illness, the authorities decided to send her back from the novitiate. ‘If she dies, let her die here’, by these words Bishop Mar James Kalassery allowed her to remain in the novitiate. Fr. Chavara Kuriakose Elias cured her in a vision, but he also warned her of the impending grave illness. After completing novitiate on 16th August 1936, Alphonsa took her vows dedicating completely to her beloved and returned to the convent at Bharananganam and made her loving presence available by doing good to all. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24). This was the scriptural motto that led Sr. Alphonsa. She suffered from various ailments, but offered her sufferings along with the sufferings of the Lord. She was willing to bear the sufferings of others as well. As she had often said, her soul flew calmly and quietly to her Heavenly Father like a light bird, following an agonizing seizure on 28th July 1946.

The children were the first to recognize the fragrance of her virtuous life. Through her intercession, many children passed their examinations. Knowing this, lots of people from various places reached her tomb seeking the intercession of Sr. Alphonsa. Miracles and healings had made Bharananganam the ‘Lisieux of India’. When the church authorities realized that many miracles were happening by the intercession of Sr. Alphonsa, the beatification process was initiated in 1953. On 13th April 1957, under the governance of Mar Sebastian Vayalil, the Bishop of Pala and Mother Mary Ursula the tribunal members exhumed the body of Sr. Alphonsa, examined the mortal remains, and preserved it in a specially prepared casket and re-interred it in the same tomb at Bharananganam cemetery chapel itself. Sr. Alphonsa was declared venerable in 1984.

As part of the beatification process, the tomb was reopened on 13th May 1985 under the supervision of Mar Joseph Pallickaparambil, Bishop of Pala and Mother Romuald, the Superior General and the mortal remains were re-interred on 11th September 1985 after the renovation of the tomb. Sr. Alphonsa was declared Blessed on 8th February 1986 by Pope John Paul II in Kerala along with Fr. Chavara Kuriakose Elias1. On 12th October 2008 Sr. Alphonsa was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in Rome.

More than 200 F.C.C. sisters attended a three-day celebration in Rome, as part of the Canonization ceremony of St. Alphonsa, under the leadership of Mother Ceelia, the Superior General. Jinil, whose miraculous cure of the congenital deformity of the foot through the intercession of Blessed Alphonsa was accepted by Rome for the canonization, and his parents from the diocese of Pala, were present to witness these sacred moments.

During the magnificent celebrations organized on 8th and 9th November 2008 at Bharananganam, there were the vestition and first profession of 98 novices from India and the final profession of 3 sisters from Kenya. A solemn public meeting was held on 9th November in the presence of many Bishops, priests and millions of the faithful at Bharananganam. This assembly was presided over by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and inaugurated by Mr. A P J Abdul Kalam the Former President of India who was recognized as the Missile man3. A three-day celebration was held in Portiuncula from11th to 13th November 2008. A beautiful souvenir was released in Portiuncula on 11th November 2008 summarizing the celebrations conducted in connection with the Canonization of St. Alphonsa held in Rome, Bharananganam and Portiuncula. Before the canonization of Alphonsa the emblem of the congregation was renewed in the General Plenary Council in January 2008 and has been in use since 12th October 2008. (See Appendix for details)

In connection with the canonization of St. Alphonsa, a docufiction titled Krupayude Padavukal, integrating the early history of F.C.C. and the history of St. Alphonsa was produced in collaboration with Mr. Benny Punnathara, Director, Shalom Trust. The documentary was directed by Mr. Siby Yogyaveedan, the Chief Producer of programmes of Shalom Trust. The interviews with her childhood friend Lakshmikuttyamma, Mary Chechi (A respectful term to address an elderly lady), the maid servant to assist Sr. Alphonsa and Mr. P.C. Abraham Pallattukunnel (Pala) commonly known as Mission League Kunjettan (A respectful title) who were the contemporaries of St. Alphonsa made this more historic and authentic. This Tele-film bagged the second best ‘Tele-film Award’ from Kerala Film Academy in 2008. Bishop Mar Joseph Pallickaparambil released the Tele-film by presenting the first copy of the CD to Mission League Kunjettan on 19th July 2009 at Bharananganam 4.

In the silver jubilee year of the death of St. Alphonsa (1996) and in connection with her Canonization (2008) Indian Postal Department has released Indian Postal stamps on 16th July 1996 and 16th November 2008 respectively imprinting St. Alphonsa’s image on it. She is the first Kerala woman in whose name the Indian stamp is released5. Postmaster General Mr. P. Gopinath released the stamp, giving a stamp album to the Supreme Court Judge (Government of India) Mr. Cyriac Joseph on the closing day of Syro –Malabar Convention, held in Delhi from 15th to 16th November 2008. Delhi Chief Minister Mrs. Sheela Dixit and several bishops witnessed the ceremony. His Excellency Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, Union Finance Minister released 5 rupees circulation coin and commemorative coins of Rs.100, on which St. Alphonsa’s figure was inscribed, at Bharananganam on 23rd August 2009.

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Bl.Sr. Rani Maria

Sr. Rani Maria (Kunjumary), the holy flower of Pulluvazhi, who died for the love of Jesus serving the poorest of the poor in Indore, was born at Pulluvazhi in Ernakulam Archdiocese on 29th January 1954. She was the second child of Paily and Eliswa Vattalil. She received the first lessons of the Christian faith from her own family and with the desire to live as a zealous missionary, Kunjumary joined S.H.Province Ernakulam of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation and made her first profession in 1974.

When she got permission to achieve her dream of becoming a missionary, she arrived at Bijnor, a North Indian mission station of Ernakulam Province in 1975. She served the poor people of the villages for eight years as their loving mother by providing food for the hungry, employment for the unemployed, relief for the afflicted, and opportunity of education for the children. Her next service was in Satna in Madhya Pradesh where she stood courageously on behalf of the poor with the power of the Holy Spirit and fought against injustice, superstitions and the cruelty of the land lords.

Then Sr. Rani Maria was transferred to Udayanagar in Indore, Madhya Pradesh on 16th May 1992 and she continued her social service activities. She became one among the villagers and the favourite names given to her by them such as ‘Mother of the Poor’, ‘Smiling Sister’ and ‘Indore Rani’ prove her close rapport with them. The dramatic change in Udaya Nagar within just three years time outraged the land lords, and they threatened her with dire consequences. However, she did not lose her heart and went ahead with her village developmental activities.

She spent a long time before the Lord every day and consulted with Jesus before going to the villages. Sr. Rani Maria who preached the Gospel of Jesus opting for the poor followed the same path that Jesus tread. Like Him she was abandoned by all and wasstabbed and dead on a jungle road side in Indore and she became one with Jesus in her death on 25th February 1995. Bishop George Anathil, the Bishop of Indore, was the first person to reach on the spot where the martyr’s corpse bathed in blood was found. The funeral ceremony was officiated by him and her body was buried at Udayanagar on 27th February 1995 where she worked for the poor. It was Bishop George Anathil who persuaded F.C.C. to commence her beatification process7.

Sr. Ceelia (Ernakulam) and Sr. Rosily Parekattil (Bhopal) were appointed the Vice Postulators by Mother Marianna, the Superior General in the Plenary Council held from 21st to 24th July 2002. Diocesan Tribunal was started in Indore and Ernakulam for the beatification process. With the guidance of Bishop Chacko Thottumarickal, Bishop of Indore and Mother Ann Joseph, Superior General the Tribunal members opened the tomb of Sr. Rani Maria on 18th November 2016 and the mortal remains were collected and the entire bones of her body were counted. A few of them were put aside. The rest was kept in a specially prepared casket and it was re- interred in the Sacred Heart church at Udayanagar with due reverance.

On 23rd March 2017 Pope Francis signed the document which was submitted by Cardinal Angelo Amato, the Secretary of Sacred Congregation for the Saints8. On 4th November 2017 in the presence of Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, Superiors of different religious congregations and thousands of faithful during the Thanks Giving Holy Eucharistic Celebration, Cardinal Angelo Amato declared Rani Maria as the Blessed Martyr Rani Maria through the Decree of Pope Francis9.

Thus Sr. Rani Maria remains an inspiration to the Indian Church having a tradition of 2000 years, being the first Martyr of the Syro Malabar Church.

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Servant of God Mother Coletha

Mariamma (Sr. Coletha) was born on 13th March 1904, as the third child of Joseph and Annamma Arampulickal at Cherpumkal in the diocese of Pala. At the age of nine, the girl lost her mother. As she was the eldest, this nine year old girl was forced to take over the heavy responsibility of the family. Consequently she could not continue her studies. She would constantly pray, ‘Jesus, make me too your bride’. Her desire was to become a Carmelite nun. But she was disturbed that her studies would not be enough to become a nun. At the age of fourteen, Mariamma began to have marriage proposals. When she realized that things were going against her plan, she asked her father to allow her to finish seventh grade and to become a nun. She restarted her studies at Cherpunkal School and successfully completed seventh class at the age of twenty one. Mariamma who dreamed of becoming a Carmelite nun entered the teaching profession at Maniyamkunnu, with the Clarist sisters in 1931 quite unexpectedly.

The life style and the simplicity of the Clarist sisters ignited the zeal for love of God in Mariamma. Inspired by the Franciscan spirit, she joined the Clarist convent at Maniyamkunnu and she had her vestition on 11th September 1933 with the new name Sr. Coletha. Her first profession was on 12th August 1937 and final vows on 27th December 1938 and she dedicated herself completely to Jesus, the heavenly bridegroom. Sr. Euphrasia of the Carmelite Congregation, who later became a saint was her classmate when she was doing TTC in the Training School at Mutholy in 1941. The essence of the Franciscan way of life, such as humility, simplicity of life, sense of poverty was illumined in her life. She loved God and man sincerely with childlike innocence and purity of heart. Mother Coletha, who was suffering from various health problems was given prolonged treatments, but it was not effective. In 1942 the doctors diagnosed that she was a victim of tuberculosis. According to the doctor’s suggestion, Mother Coletha was isolated from the community for treatment as it was a contagious disease. It was painful for both Mother Coletha and the community to accommodate her alone, away from the loving community and from the Chapel, and to live without having the presence of the Holy Eucharist. Yet, she calmly surrendered to God’s will seeing good in everything. Mother Coletha was brought back in 1952 to a new house built for the sick adjacent to the Convent after her long stay of 10 years alone in a house. Even though she had been a terminally ill patient from the age of thirty eight, she died unexpectedly at the age of eighty with a sudden seizure while reciting the regular prayers and her soul flew calmly to the Lord on 18th December 1984.

Her body was buried in a new tomb in the cemetery of the parish church at Maniyamkunnu in the presence of many priests and a large crowd on 19th December 1984.10 Fr. Joseph Kappiliparambil, the vicar suggested that no one else should be buried in this tomb. The spiritual fragrance of Mother Coletha’s virtuous life was not confined to Maniyamkunnu alone. Many reached at her tomb to pray for her intercession, as if the Lord Jesus had decided to make the bride more honourable after her death, who had gladly accepted the sufferings on account of her boundless love for Jesus. Numerous blessings have been flowing down to their lives through her intercession.

Mar Joseph Kallarangat, Bishop of the diocese of Pala had requested the Syro-Malabar Synod to submit the application to initiate the beatification process of Sr. Coletha to the Sacred Congregation for the Cause of Saints. The Synod which convened in August 2019 approved it after a long discussion and study11. Fr. Cherian Thunduparampil C. M. I. was appointed Postulator and Sr. Ancilia ( BHM ) the Vice- Postulator. The first report regarding the commencement of the beatification process was sent to Rome by the commission appointed for it. The initial steps towards the canonization of respected Mother Coletha are now in progress.

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