First Woman Saint of India

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History of Franciscan Clarist Congregation

Introduction

The Franciscan Clarist Congregation is an indigenous congregation of religious sisters following the spirit of St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi. The congregation was founded by eight pious women from Pala and neighbouring places, who were members of the Secular Franciscan (Third) Order, a unit of which was functioning in the parish of Pala since 1875. Source of inspiration of the Founding Mothers was Thommachan Louis Puthenparambil (Kerala Assisi and the Founder of Franciscan Third Order Secular in Kerala). Highly imbibed with a zealous love for God, these eight pious women-

  1. Sr. Mariam Paranjatt, Punnathura
  2. Sr. Anna, Plathottathil, Pala
  3. Sr. Agnes, Plathottathil, Bharananganam
  4. Sr. Margareetha, Thykkottathil, Pala
  5. Sr. Mariam Thresia, Nadackavayalil, Poovarani
  6. Sr. Mariam Clara, Panthathalapulickal, Pala
  7. Sr. Collette, Pazhekottarathil, Pala
  8. Sr. Mariam Magdelene, Munduvayalil, Kothanalloor -

led a community life at Kannadiyurumpu. When Rt. Rev. Dr. Charles Lavigne, the Apostolic Vicar of Kottayam visited Pala in the year 1888, these women expressed their long cherished dream to lead a genuine and full Franciscan way of life. Overcoming a series of obstacles, Dr. Charles Lavigne helped them to found a new branch of the Franciscan Family in Kerala. Thus the Franciscan Clarist Congregation was founded on 14th December 1888 at Changanacherry by the eight women who came from Pala. The outstanding characteristics of this congregation are the spirit of prayer, life of hard work, care of the destitutes and service to the poor. Eventually the teaching of religion and the imparting of education were also included in their apostolate.

The Congregation flourished under the paternal solicitude of Rt. Rev. Dr. Charles Lavigne and his successors and developed as independent units as diocesan religious communities in the various dioceses of Kerala. Responding to the call of the Second Vatican Council, the Congregation moved along the path of renewal and adaptation and finally reached the path of unification. On the 1st of March, 1973 the Congregation was raised to the Pontifical Rite and the first Superior General was Rev. Mother Maurus. The Generalate of the Congregation is situated at 'Asokapuram' near Aluva in Ernakulam District, under the name 'Portiuncula'. The present Superior General is V. Rev. Mother Sinclare.

At present the Congregation has about 7000 members under 20 provinces and 4 Regions within and outside Kerala in the various states of India. Among the 20 provinces 7 are in the mission areas outside Kerala. The congregation started missionary work outside Kerala in 1960 and this is the golden jubilee year of the foundation of the first convent in the mission area namely, Agra in North India.

The members of the congregation are working in Europe, America, Africa and other countries as well in the educational and medical field.

Saint Alphonsa

Saint Alphonsa is the precious gift bestowed by the Heavenly Father to the Franciscan Clarist Congregation. This saintly nun, who is rightly called 'the Passion Flower' lived in the convent at Bharananganam in the diocese of Pala. She offered her life as a holocaust on the altar of suffering and was called to her eternal reward on 28th July, 1946, at the age of 36. On 8th February, 1986 His Holiness Pope John Paul II beatified her at Kottayam, Kerala during his first visit to India. She was canonized on 12th October, 2008 at Rome, by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. She is the first Indian woman raised to the status of Sainthood for universal veneration. Now she stands as a model and a mediator for the entire world in general and to the FCC in particular.

Sr. Rani Maria.

Sr. Rani Maria of our Congregation who had been rendering services to the poor, illiterate and the downtrodden villagers of Udainagar in Indore diocese, Madhya Pradesh, was martyred for truth and justice on 25th February, 1995. This heroic sister of ours is the first martyr of our Congregation. The cause for her beatification is on the progress. We do hopefully look for the day of her beatification as a blessed martyr. She is a shining example and inspiration for all missionaries in India and abroad.

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