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Saturday, Nov 16, 2019

Kerala nun Mariam Thresia to be declared a saint by Pope Francis today

The nun will be canonised during a mass at St Peter’s Square .along with John Henry Newman from England, Italy’s Josephine Vannini, Swiss Marguerite Bays and Brazilian Irm Dulce Pontes.

kerala Updated: Oct 13, 2019 11:28 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Sister Mariam Thresia was born on April 26, 1876, in Thrissur district’s Puthenchira and belonged to the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church.
Sister Mariam Thresia was born on April 26, 1876, in Thrissur district’s Puthenchira and belonged to the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. (mariamthresia.org)
         

Sister Mariam Thresia will on Sunday become the fourth person from Kerala to be declared a saint by the head of Catholic Church Pope Francis in the Vatican City.

The nun will be canonised during a mass at St Peter’s Square along with John Henry Newman from England, Italy’s Josephine Vannini, Swiss Marguerite Bays and Brazilian Irm Dulce Pontes.

Sister Mariam Thresia was born on April 26, 1876, in Thrissur district’s Puthenchira and belonged to the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. She was professed in 1914 and died in Kuzhikkattussery on June 8, 1926.

According to Christian belief, a saint is a person in heaven who intercedes for the faithful with God. A canonisation 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.

The process of ordaining a saint is time-consuming and has four stages—Venerable, Servant of God, Blessed and the Saint—which at times takes decades, say church insiders.

Sister Thresia was declared venerable on June 28, 1999, and beatified or Blessed on April 9, 2000, by Pope St John Paul II in Rome and she is being ordained a saint 19 years later.

The other three who have been declared saints from the southern state are St Alphonsa, St Kuriakose Elias Chavara and St Euprasia. Among the four, she is fastest to become a saint after beatification.

Pope Francis had authorised a decree on February 12 recognising a miracle through her intercession, which cleared her for sainthood, and on July 1, he decided October 13 as the canonisation day.

Proud moment

Sister Thresia’s native village Puthenchira and the congregation she founded, Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family, are jubilant as the ball set rolling for month-long celebrations. A delegation had left to St Peters Basilica to witness the event.

“It is a proud moment for us. True, Kerala is turning the God’s Own Country for us,” Sister Elsy Xavior, one of the mother superiors of the congregation, said before leaving for the Vatican.

Minister of state for external affairs V Muraleedharan will lead the Indian delegation at the ceremony, the ministry has said.

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 the values taught by our beloved Mother. Education of girls was her liberation theology. And the family was key to her teachings. Several girls were attracted to the congregation by her humility and sanctity,” Sister Udaya, another nun of the congregation, said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had referred to Sister Mariam Thresia in his ‘Mann ki Baat’ radio programme on September 29. Modi had said it is a matter of pride for every Indian that Sister Thresia will be declared a saint.

“Sister Thresia, in her short lifespan of 50 years, worked for the good of humanity becoming a noble example for the entire world. Whatever task Sister Mariam Thresia undertook and accomplished, she did so with utmost dedication and devotion,” Modi had said.

She rendered service in the fields of education and social service and has built many schools, hostels and orphanages, he had pointed out.

‘Supreme role’

Born as the third child of Thoma and Thanda, she made a vow to remain chaste in 1886. She rose in the religious hierarchy and founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family in 1914, said congregation officials.

Sister Thresia had chosen Father Joseph Vithaythil, then a 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 will become a Saint.

A miracle has to be attributed to the saint in the making and a high-level committee from the Vatican examines its veracity before canonisation.

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.

In the long history of Indian church, believed to be founded by one of the disciples of Jesus Christ St Thomas, has only six saints and the last five came in 10 years ending the long drought of holy men in the country where religion took roots in apostolic times.

The first saint from the country was a Eurasian Gonfalon Garcia but the next saint came after 146 years—Saint Alphonsa was canonised in 2008 and the first Indian to be made a saint. Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara, Saint Euprasia and Mother Theresa followed suit.

Sister Rani Maria, who was killed in Indore in 1995 and beatified in 2017, tops the list now. The family of the nun from Kerala’s Ernakulam district had pardoned her killers.