Church Launches Cause For Local Nun´s Canonization

2008-06-03 12:43:05
The Catholic Church in Kerala state has begun the process it hopes will lead to sainthood for the founder of India´s first Religious congregation for women. ia_kochi.gifArchbishop Daniel Acharuparambil of Verapoly declared Mother Eliswa Vakayil a "servant of God" on May 30 at St. Francis Assisi Cathedral in Kochi, 2,595 kilometers south of New Delhi. The Vatican´s granting of that title is the prelude to the three-stage process by which a candidate may be declared "venerable," then proclaimed "blessed" and, lastly, canonized a saint. Carmelite nuns and hundreds of others attended the Mass at which Archbishop Acharuparambil read out Pope Benedict XVI´s consent for the declaration honoring the founder of the Congregation of Teresian Carmelites. Archbishop Acharuparambil also appointed a 12-member commission headed by Father Antony Pinheiro as postulator to pursue the canonization process. Mother Eliswa was born on Oct. 15, 1831, in a village served by Verapoly archdiocese, then a vicariate. She married at the age of 16 and had a daughter. Her husband died when their child was 18 months old, but she refused to remarry and led a prayerful life with her daughter in her house, according to Carmelite Sister Francina, vice postulator for the canonization cause. The pious widow eventually started a Religious community, accepting her younger sister and daughter, then a teenager, as the first members besides herself. The three women led a life of prayer, silence and solitude 1852-1862. During that time, Carmelite Monsignor Father Bernadine, apostolic vicar of Verapoly, planned to bring Discalced Carmelite nuns from Italy, but the plan did not materialize. Learning about the three women, he had a bamboo dwelling built for them as a convent in Koonamavu, a village near Kochi, and delegated Carmelite Father Leopold Baccaro to train them in Religious life. In 1866, the congregation became officially affiliated with the Discalced Carmelites. Today, it has five provinces and one region with nuns working in 48 dioceses across India. Archbishop Acharuparambil described Mother Eliswa as a person of "deep prayer and openness" to the Holy Spirit. "She was an epitome of simple, humble, obedient and selfless service," he told UCA News on June 1. According to the prelate, people revere Mother Eliswa as "a powerful helper" of childless couples and those suffering from family problems. Sister Francina told UCA News Mother Eliswa found consolation for her widowhood in the Lord. "After doing the essential household duties, she used to retire to a quiet room and spend hours in prayer and meditation," she said. The fourth member to join the group was another widow, Achamma, who belonged to the Syro-Malabar Church, an Oriental Catholic rite. In 1887, when the Vatican created the Syro-Malabar dioceses of Trichur and Kottayam, the Koonamavu convent was given to Trichur, Sister Francina said. In 1890, Mother Eliswa and all the other Latin-rite nuns had to leave Koonamavu and start their own convent. The Catholic Church in India comprises the Latin, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara rites. The Latin rite follows the Roman liturgy introduced by European missioners in the 15th century, while the two Oriental rites, both based in Kerala, follow Syrian Church traditions and trace their origins to Saint Thomas the Apostle. END
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