The nun is the founder of the congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family in Kerala. Today more than 1,500 women religious work in India, Germany, Italy and Ghana. Of noble origins, the saint chose a life of penance and prayer. She opened the first school for girls in the state. She realised the value of the family to break caste discrimination.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Many Indian Catholics have expressed an "immense joy" for the canonisation of an Indian nun and are proud to be "apostles to the world".
Yesterday, in St Peter's Square in Rome, Pope Francis canonised Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan (1876-1926), founder of the congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family, in the presence of more than a thousand Indian Catholics, mostly residents of the Italian capital, plus some 300 members of the congregation from across India.
AsiaNews spoke to some believers, relatives and nuns who believe in the topicality of the saint’s apostolate. "First, Sister Mariam Thresia understood the need for service to families, the poor and Dalits, people of every class and religion,” said Sr Lisa Chf. “Whilst the world was fighting the First World War, she was already working for the education of women, to break caste barriers and for harmony between religions."
Mariam Thresia was born on 26 April 1876 in Puthenchira, Thrissur district (Kerala), into the noble Chiramel Mankidiyan family. At three and a half, she began to lead a life of penance, fasting four days a week, reciting the Rosary and praying for the sins of the world. Her mother, Da Thanda, died when the future saint was 12, but had the time to teach her the faith and an intense love for Christ. As a consequence, she decided to give herself over to Jesus.
In her short life, she "experienced tribulations and visions, receiving the stigmata, which she offered to the Lord for the sake of the poor, the sick and the dying," said Sr Mary, a Dominican of the Rosary of Santa Maria in Madhya Pradesh.
As a teenager, Sr Mariam chose a life of solitude. The then bishop suggest she join the Carmelite convent in Ollur, but such a life was not suitable for her. Fr Joseph Vithayathil, who had been her exorcist on behalf of the bishop who did not believe in ecstatic experiences, was allowed to build a hermitage in Puthenchira.
Ekanthabhavan or House of Solitude became the first convent of the Sisters of the Holy Family, elevated to the status of congregation by the Syro-Malabar Church in 1914. Today it has 1,500 sisters who work in Kerala, northern India, Germany, Italy and Ghana with 176 houses in nine provinces.
John, Lisa, Ginza, Paul and Linda, originally from the Syro-Malabar Diocese of Changanassery (Kerala), live in Rome, in the Prenestino neighbourhood. "For us it is important to be here today, the day when the Pope makes holy a nun who comes from our state."
For Lisa, the family, which Saint Mariam Thresia chose as the "special" place for her apostolate, "is important for passing on Christian values. We teach the Gospel to our children and we share it in the community; we go to mass on Sundays and we are together.” For John, "Values are values. Respect for human dignity and faith are universal values.”
Srs Geena Chf and Lisa Chf were both born in Kerala but serve in Punjab. For them, "Our Mother loved everyone, without distinction of caste or religion. For her, the poor, the abandoned, the marginalised are all children of God. She showed compassion and mercy towards every human being."
In Kerala, the nun was a pioneer in women’s education. "During the First World War she set up the first school for girls in the state, giving girls and young women the opportunity to study for the first time, to get out of a system of discrimination and submission.”
The girls with whom she worked with “were Dalits. They couldn't leave home. By the grace of God, the Mother managed to break the caste system. Her example is very topical in modern India, with respect to empowering women, ensuring education, in every social sector."
Her fundamental contribution "was to understand the value of bearing witness through the family, because without the family one cannot touch society. We motivate families to send their children to school, not to marry off underage girls, not to discriminate on the basis of origin."