Alphonsa was always determined to be nun (Profile of Saint Alphonsa)

October 12th, 2008 - 7:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Kozhikode (Kerala), Oct 12 (IANS) Alphonsa, or Annakutty as she was born, was not one to be cowed down by tragedies. She lost her mother when she was barely two months old. At the age of 14, tragedy struck again when she suffered severe burns and was not able to continue her studies. But her mind was made up - she wanted to be a nun and serve Jesus Christ.

Alphonsa was annointed a saint by the Pope Sunday at a ceremony in the Vatican.

Saint Alphonsa was born in Kudamaloor, a typical Kerala hamlet in Kottayam district, on Aug 19, 1910, to Ouseph and Mariamma. After her mother passed away, Annakutty was in the custody of her maternal uncle.

In 1916, she began her schooling in Arpookara and received her First Holy Communion on Nov 27, 1917.

Seven years later, in 1924, Annakutty suffered severe burns and had to discontinue her studies.

But by then she was determined to become a nun and made it clear that no one should decide on what she should do.

Finally in 1928, Annakutty joined the Franciscan Clarist Convent at Bharananganam and later moved to a convent near Changnacherry, also in Kottayam district.

By then she became Sister Alphonsa to all. She soon fell ill and was brought back to the Bharanganam convent. For a short period she was a teacher at the Vakakkadu School.

She faced her illness with a lot of courage and determination and found solace through prayers. She died at a fairly young age of 35 on July 28, 1946.

She was buried at the St Mary’s Church at Bharananganam, which according to records was established in 1004.

History points out that the village Bharananganam has had very important visitors like St. Thomas, the founder of Christianity in the country, social reformer Sree Narayana Guru and Mother Theresa, to name a few.

According to legend, a portion of the cross used to crucify Jesus Christ is kept at the St Mary’s Church.

Archaeologists unearthed coins belonging to the Buddha era (563-483 BC), and silver coins of the 18th century from Bharananganam. The place is considered to be a settlement of early Buddhists.

With the presence of the more than 1,000 year old church, the shrine grew in significance and people started getting solace after praying at the tomb of Sister Alphonsa.

Over the years, the importance of the shrine increased with stories of miracles after praying at her tomb.

People claimed they were cured of their sickness after praying at her tomb.

On Dec 2, 1953, Eugène-Gabriel-Gervais-Laurent Cardinal Tisserant inaugurated the diocesan process for her beatification and Alphonsa was declared a Servant of God.

From then on, it was only a matter of time for even more glory to be bestowed on her. On July 9, 1985, Alphonsa was given the title Venerable Sister Alphonsa.

Then came the big day when she was beatified on Feb 8, 1986, along with Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara by Pope John II at Nehru Stadium in Kottayam.

Pope Benedict XVI cleared her name for canonisation on June 1, 2007.

The date, Oct 12, 2008, for canonization was announced by the Vatican in the last week of February this year.

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