With prayers and cheering, thousands of Catholics gathered in a southern Indian village of a saintly nun as Pope Francis declared her a saint on Oct. 13.
An estimated 7,000 people gathered in the parish and tomb of St. Mariam Thresia in Kerala’s Thrissur district to witness the canonization ceremony in the Vatican.
At the ceremony, Pope Francis also canonized four others: British Cardinal Henry Newman, Swiss laywoman Marguerite Bays, Brazilian nun Dulce Lopes and Italian nun Giuseppina Vannini.
Crowds arrived early at the nun's parish church at Puthenciharia and at her tomb-shrine at Kuzhikkattussery, about 4km away.
“This is a proud moment for all of us, for the entire Christian community in India,” said Sister Udaya Kallukaran, a senior nun of the Holy Family Congregation, which St. Mariam Thresia founded in 1919.
Retired Vatican diplomat Archbishop George Panikulam, also a native of the saint’s parish, led a concelebrated solemn morning Mass at the shrine along with hundreds of priests.
“It is a blessed moment for Puthenchiara, the congregation she founded, and for the Indian Church,” said the 77-year-old archbishop, who served as a papal nuncio in Uruguay.
The ceremonies included crowning the statue of the saintly nun as a symbol of acceptance of her holiness, taking out the figure in a procession.
Queen of Apostles Sister Selma George, who works in Kerala, said the canonization could help the local Church immensely.
“The global acceptance of a poor nun who worked in an unknown village could also inspire more and more girls to choose religious life,” said Sister George.
Sacred Heart Sister Anju Sebastian, also working in Kerala, said the Catholic families in Kerala now have “a special person to intercede for them in heaven.”
The nun spent her life working to help reconcile relations within and between families in her village. She advocated prayer, forgiveness and love towards reconciliation, according to her biographers.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed happiness over the canonization of the nun. “It is a matter of pride for every Indian,” the prime minister said on Sept. 29 during his monthly radio talk ‘Mann Ki Baat’ (voice of heart).
A delegation of Indian officials representing governments in New Delhi and Kerala state attended the Vatican ceremonies. V Muraleedharan, a junior minister of external affairs and a Kerala native, led the delegation.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who leads the communist-led alliance government, congratulated Christians on the canonization through his official Twitter handle.
The saintly nun was born in Puthenchira village of Thrissur district on April 26, 1876. She wanted to become a nun working for families and founded her congregation, becoming its first member.
She died on June 8, 1926, aged 50, and was declared venerable on June 28, 1999. Pope John Paul II beatified her on April 9, 2000.
The saint had received stigmata, or the appearance of a bodily wound corresponding to crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ, but kept it as a secret, according to Vatican documents.
She becomes the seventh Indian to become a saint after St. Teresa of Kolkata and St. Joseph Vaz, the apostle of Sri Lanka. The other Indian saints are Alphonsa, Euphrasia and Chavara Kuriakose. Portuguese-Indian saint Gonsalo Garcia was martyred in Japan in the 16th century.
Seven other Indian Catholics are beatified as blessed, placing them in the last step of canonization. At least 11 other Indian Catholics are named venerable, awaiting beatification. The process of canonization is well underway for more than 40 Indians who are listed as Servants of God.