Pope Francis to canonise Kerala nun Sister Mariam Thresia on Sunday
Come Sunday, Pope Francis, the supreme head of the Roman Catholic Church, will canonize Kerala’s Sister Mariam Thresia, fourth from the state, at the Vatican.
Of the four saints from Kerala — St Alphonsa, St Kuriakose Elias Chavara, St Euprasia and now St Mariam Thresia — three were women. In his Mann ki Baat programme last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said Sister Thresia’s elevation was a matter of pride for the country.
“It is a matter of pride for every Indian that on coming October 13, his holiness Pope Francis will declare Sister Mariam Thresia a saint. I pay heartfelt tributes to Sister Mariam Thresia,” PM Modi had said in the monthly radio programme.
Mariam Thresia’s native village Puthenchira in Thrissur district and the congregation she founded in 1914, Holy Family, are jubilant as the ball set rolling for month-long celebrations. A delegation has already left to witness the event at St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. “It is a proud moment for us. Kerala is truly turning into God’s Own Country,” Sister Elsy Xavior, one of the mother superiors of the congregation, said before leaving for the Vatican.
On Sunday, special prayers and services will be held in all Catholic churches across the state to mark the occasion. “It is an occasion for us to uphold values taught by our beloved Mother. Education of girls was her liberation theology. And family was key to her teachings. Several girls were attracted to the congregation by her humility and sanctity”, said Sister Udaya, another nun of the congregation.
Born in Puthenchira in Thrissur district in 1876 as the third child of Thoma and Thanda, she made a vow to remain chaste in 1886. She rose in religious hierarchy and founded the Holy Family congregation in 1914, said congregation officials. “She was the leading light for suppressed women. She encouraged family values and blended them with Christian traditions properly to remove evils from the society,” said another nun.
Canonization is an official act with the Roman Catholic Church or Eastern Orthodox churches, which declares one of their deceased faithful, who led a life of sanctity or shed blood for the faith, a saint worthy of being venerated.
On July 1 this year, Pope Francis had formally approved Sister Thresia’s canonisation at an ordinary public consistory of cardinals on causes of canonisation at the Vatican.
The process of ordaining a saint involves four stages — Venerable, Servant of God, Blessed and the Saint — and at times, it takes decades to cross each stage, say church insiders. With Sister Thresia (1876-1926), the process began in 1978; Pope John Paul II had beatified (Blessed) her in 2000 and her canonisation is happening 19 years later. Among the four, Sister Thresia became a saint in the shortest period of time after beatification.
Interestingly, a miracle has to be attributed to the saint in the making and a high-level committee from Vatican will examine its veracity before canonization. Sister Thresia had chosen Father Joseph Vithaythil, then priest, as her spiritual father and he journeyed with her till the last moment of her life — Vithaythil is only a Venerable now but his favourite disciple has turned a Saint. The miracle attributed to Thresia is that “she saved the life of a baby born premature in Amala Hospital in Thrissur in 2009”.
“She helped women to come out of their shackles. In 1915, she started an exclusive girls school on the premise of the church. In a short span, she succeeded in starting two schools, two boarding schools, one orphanage and three convents. In Kerala’s women education and empowerment, her role was supreme,” said Sister Elsy Xavior.
Hailing the move, Father Paul Thelekkat, former editor of ‘Sathyadeepam’, a church-run magazine, said, “It is an honour for believers. It is the outcome of our faith and sacrifice. It is a stamp of approval for our selfless service and it will help the community in the long run. No doubt, it is a moment to cherish.”