Kerala town rejoices for native saint-to-be

October 11th, 2008 - 4:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Kottayam (Kerala), Oct 11 (IANS) There was much excitement in Kerala’s Bharananganam town Saturday as people converged in large numbers to attend special prayers being held Sunday to celebrate the canonisation of Sister Alphonsa.Hundreds thronged the tomb of Sister Alphonsa at St.Mary’s Church in Bharananganam in Kottayam district, where a mass will be held every alternate hour from 5 a.m. onwards Sunday.

“We are really happy that our town has become famous because of Sister Alphonsa. With her sainthood, it will become holier than ever before. For the suffering people, praying here is a real solace,” said Pappachan, a retired driver.

Over the years, Alphonsa’s tomb has turned into a centre of pilgrimage and many miracles have reportedly occurred there.

“Whenever I go to the tomb of Sister Alphonsa, I get a feeling of spiritual satisfaction. This is something that cannot be explained and one has to experience it. With her sainthood, there will surely be an increase in the number of visitors to the church,” said Mary Joseph, a pilgrim.

After a 55-year-long process, Sister Alphonsa will be canonised at the Vatican Sunday at around noon India time.

Father Paul Thellekat, official spokesperson of the Syro Malabar Catholic Church, told IANS that the ceremony would last around 90 minutes.

“There will be a holy mass led by the Pope, who will deliver a special message. This will be followed by a solemn proclamation of Sister Alphonsa’s canonisation,” said Thellekat.

“The main event is happening in Vatican, but since it is a Sunday, Catholic churches will remember Sister Alphonsa during the morning mass. The actual event would be watched at some churches on wide screens,” he added.

The main celebration at Bharananganam will be held Nov 9, which is expected to draw around 100,000 people. The event will be presided over by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, head of the Congregation of Oriental Churches in the Vatican, and former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

Alphonsa was born in Kudamaloor, a village near Kottayam, to Joseph and Mary on Aug 19, 1910.

Having lost her mother at a very young age, she was brought up by her maternal aunt and educated by an uncle who was a priest. She faced several health problems, which eventually claimed her life on July 28, 1946.

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’. On July 9, 1985, she received the title Venerable Sister Alphonsa.

She was beatified on Feb 8, 1986, by Pope John II at the Nehru Stadium in Kottayam.

Sister Alphonsa will become the first native Indian to be canonised. Thellekat said that though Gonsalo Garcia of Bombay was martyred by crucifixion on Feb 5, 1597, at Nagasaki in Japan and canonised by Pope Pius IX on June 8, 1862, he is often referred to as a Portuguese saint because his father was Portuguese.

Thellekat added that once she is pronounced a saint, new churches can be consecrated in her honour, people can pray in her name and children can be named after her.

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