The founder of the Congregation of the Daughters of St. Anne died in 1961, after a lifetime working to educate villagers. In November 2015, the first diocesan commission to vet her holiness was set up. in July came the 'nihil obstat' from the Holy See. For Card Toppo, “It is all God's mercy”.
Ranchi (AsiaNews) – Sister Mary Bernadette Kispotta Prasad, founder of the Congregation of the Daughters of St. Anne, is the first tribal woman to be declared a Servant of God by the Catholic Church.
After the nihil obstat declared by the Vatican in July, Card Telesphore Toppo, archbishop of Ranchi, today confirmed the decree that opens the path for the nun’s canonisation.
"It is a rare honour for a tribal woman to be declared a Servant of God,” the cardinal said. “Today, she became the first tribal nun in India to start her journey towards a possible sainthood. It is all God's mercy.”
Born on 16 June 1878, Mother Mary Bernadette Prasad Kispotta, along with three other Sisters – Cecilia, Veronica and Mary – founded the Congregation of the Daughters of St Anne on 26 July 1897.
Throughout her life as a nun, she worked extensively for education and travelled across forested hinterland without roads to reach and teach villagers.
In the first part of the 20th century, cholera struck large parts of Chhotanagpur, Sister Mary and Sister Veronica died in the epidemic. Undeterred by such tragedies and dangers, Mother Mary Bernadette and her congregation went on with their work in the region and started branching out across India.
On 16 April1961, Mother Mary Bernadette breathed her last at St Anne's Convent, Ranchi, from TB.
Card Toppo celebrated a thanksgiving Mass this morning in St Mary Cathedral in Ranchi.
"Mother Mary Bernadette's bravery came from her unshakable faith in Jesus,” he said. She and the “Sisters of the congregation defied all odds to spread faith and education in the region. They are heroines of the Catholic church”.
Sister Linda Mary Vaughan, superior general, Daughters of St Anne, said they sent a formal petition last November to Card Toppo to start the process to declare their founder Mother Mary Bernadette a Saint.
The Cardinal's decree asks the faithful and people at large to submit documents, photographs and other material evidence relating to Mother Mary Bernadette that they may possess, to Church authorities.
Mgr Theodore Mascarenhas, auxiliary bishop of Ranchi and general secretary of the Indian Bishops' Conference, said that the diocesan commission that made the first investigations was formed by "All 9 Bishops of Jharkhand and the Andamans, two auxiliary Bishops to Cardinal Toppo, and one Bishop Emeritus”.
“All available documents and photographs, including a memoir written by Mother Mary Bernadette, were examined. It was unanimously concluded that Mother had led a holy life and that a recommendation should be sent to the Vatican for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints of the Holy See.”
Currently, the Daughters of St. Anne number 1,040 in 142 convents in India and other countries.