They reached the eternal shores

During the 21 years of life of our Province, eight of our sisters have run their course and reached their goal. The first among them was:

SR. MARIA ZONTA F.M.A Born on 23-12-1911. Professed on 6 -8- 1932 Died on 14-10-1994

An Italian by birth, Sr. Maria Zonta arrived in India as a missionary on 16 December 1936. From 1936-38, she was the Assistant of the poor little boys of Little Flower Orphanage Pallikonda a small village in North Arcot District, Tamil Nadu. From 1938-`47 Sr. Zonta worked in our centres at Guwahati, Tezpur, Mawlai, Jowai and Saharampur teaching the poor village girls needle work. In 1947 she returned to Pallikonda where she worked for 26 years taking care of the little boys of the orphanage. She also visited the villages around without minding the scorching sun of North Arcot, rendering medical services to the villagers. From 1966-`72 she was the animator of the community. In 1972 her health broke down and she was transferred to Sacred Heart Convent, Bangalore where she remained till her last day on 14 October 1994. Her presence was a source of inspiration to the novices who also belonged to the same community.

A generous heart for the poor, gentleness, concern and love for the community members and great precision and perfection in all her activities characterized her life as a missionary. No one ever heard an uncharitable or complaining word escape from her lips. Her gratitude knew no bounds even for a small help or favour done to her. She was easy to please and accepted willingly the suffering caused by age and ailments. A halo of simplicity and goodness of heart glowed around her. Thank you dear Sr. Zonta for your 56 years of valiant missionary life the fruits of which you will surely be enjoying in heaven now.

Sr. GINCCI THOMAS F.M.A 10.7.1969 – 21.10.2008

Like St. Alphonsa and St. Teresa of Lisieux, Sr. Gincci had a call within her call: to suffer. Suffer she did, with the courage of a lion for eleven long years facing nine surgeries, each followed by courses of chemotherapy and radiation.

Sr. Gincci was the fifth child after four boys born to Mr. Thomas Mathenkunnel and Mrs. Anna Thomas at Kalthotty in Idukki district. The parents treasured her as the apple of their eyes. They infused into her human and Christian values especially deep faith and trust in God. From the love and affection that enveloped her at home, she learnt to share it with all those who came in contact with her.

On 24 May 1997, Sr. Gincci made her first profession. She was a good religious, kind and compassionate to all. Just five months after her profession, she was diagnosed as having the killer disease. There she began her painful journey with her Crucified Lord. Sr. Gincci loved life, she wanted to do her utmost for God`s kingdom working for poor, abandoned children. But the mission the Lord wanted her to fulfill was to suffer. She drank to the very dregs the cup of suffering Jesus offered her, cheerfully, without any complaint. Even in the midst of her sufferings, she made herself available to the community and its mission with a generosity that edified every one. Once she confided to her Provincial: “I know that I will not live long. My time is running short and my only thought is: what more I can do for my sisters and these children. With urgency she learnt Kannada and began teaching the school children at Hassan. She taught them dances for the School Day celebration and took care of the boarders lovingly.

After edifying everyone who approached her by her ever ready smile, serenity and peace, Sr. Gincci bade us farewell promising that in heaven she would pray for every one since she could not do as much as she wanted while on earth.

SR. ROSAMMA THONIPPARA F.M.A 28.7.1945 – 17.11.2008

“An F.M.A who knew to love and to be loved” – thus may be summarized the life and mission of Sr. Rosamma Thonippara.

Born as the fifth child of Chandy and Mariam at Thiruvambady in Kozhikode district, Rosamma would have inherited from them the adventurous and enterprising spirit of the early settlers in Malabar. She had a very happy childhood and was very much loved by every one. Her parents instilled in her Gospel values especially the spirit of prayer and devotion to Our Lady. She was a brilliant student and maintained good academic record especially in Mathematics. She was a model to her siblings at home as well as to her classmates in the school.

She did not hesitate to respond to the call of God and was professed as F.M.A on 5 August 1968. She rendered service as Teacher, Assistant, Boarding Mistress and Headmistress in some of our schools in Tamil Nadu and Mumbai; as the Animator of the communities at Kottiyam, Kunnamangalam, Kattappana, Provincial house Bangalore and Angamaly. She was also the Provincial Councillor during 1993-1999 and again from 2005-2008. She was intelligent, responsible, dynamic, systematic, precise and very hard working.

Joy was her characteristic trait. As an educator she was loved by her students for her compassionate heart. As an animator, she won the heart of her sisters and guided them with love and affection. She was ready to help anyone in need, especially the poor and the needy. Sr. Rosamma made her own the Preventive System and endeared herself to all those who approached her through her winning ways.

Her unexpected and untimely demise plunged our province into a sea of sorrow. It was a heavy blow to the Province and an irreparable loss. She leaves behind a void in the hearts of all those who had lived with her. May she enjoy eternal reward for her indefatigable work on earth.

SR. ANNA ABRAHAM THEKKUMKATTIL 15.4.1924 – 15.09.2009

She came from the lush green valley of Arakulam, nestling in the lap of the high rising mountains of Idukki district. The winding Thodupuzha river and the distant water falls added to its beauty and splendour. The hard working, adventure loving settlers from Kottayam district converted it into coconut and rubber plantations. Courage, hard work, endurance, honesty, above all abiding faith and trust in God and sacrificing spirit characterized these brave men and women. Their children inherited these sterling qualities. Sr. Anna Abraham Thekkumkattil is a typical example of that generation.

Professed on 06.01.1949 as an F.M.A, she greened the land wherever she was sent. Katpadi, Kottiyam, Guntur, Nandigama, Khammam, Warangal, Vazhichal and Avalahalli Bangalore, bear witness to her indefatigable work and sacrifices. At Katpadi, besides turning the marshy, thorny land into fertile rice fields and coconut groves, she was in charge of catering for the community and for the resident students for many years. In the scorching sun she would stand for hours on end guiding the workers. When Bangalore province was born, Sr. Anna was ever ready to go to the new foundations and put up with the inconveniences of the pioneering work. Her enduring capacity was extraordinary.

Sr. Anna was loving and affectionate, caring and concerned about every sister in the community. She was very respectful and affectionate towards the Superiors and readily fulfilled their wishes. Spirit of faith and prayer which she had inherited from her deeply Christian family was nourished by her life of sacrifice and availability.

Gradually worn out by age and work she had to withdraw from hard work and devote herself more to prayer and rest. Kottiyam saw her twilight years, but Kunnamangalam was fortunate to receive her last breath. Her mortal remains rest in Bangalore near the missionaries who had lived with her in her youthful years.

SR. SHYBY TERESA CHIRAYATH 07.12.1969 – 22.05.2010

“Like a weaver you have rolled up my life; you cut me off from the loom”- said Sr. Shyby quoting Is.38, when the doctors told her that they could do nothing more for her. The expert oncologists of Lakeshore hospital, the Ayurvedic and Homeo doctors in Ernakulam and Kochi, stood helpless as the galloping carcinoma snatched away this young, intelligent, creative, enterprising sister. She was assigned to Nirmal Jyothi Technical Institute, Bangalore as its Principal, after securing the I rank in M.Sc. Electronic Media from Auxilium college, Vellore. She had big dreams for her students and for the Province. But “man proposes, God disposes”.

Sr. Shyby was born into a devout Christian family in Ernakulam District, Kerala on 07.12.1969. With a cheerful disposition she was a ray of sunshine amidst her siblings. But sorrow struck the family with the illness and death of her beloved father. Her mother too contracted the deadly disease and had to undergo frequent treatment.

Sr. Shyby was professed as F.M.A on 24 May 1993. Sociable and friendly, jovial and lively, Sr. Shyby was a person whose company every one enjoyed. After teaching at Kunnamangalam from …….to………. she was sent to Shillong to do her intensive juniorate. At our newly started centre at Vaduvanchal she set up a computer centre to offer employable qualification to the poor girls of the district. With great love for the Congregation she spotted and nurtured the call of God among her students. She braved the adventures that are part and parcel of a pioneering community in a remote area on the mountains. Though Sr. Shyby was privately preparing herself for higher qualification in computer science, she was asked to do her post graduate course in Electronic Media at Auxilium college, Vellore. Within a year of her joining the Nirmal Jyothi Technical Institute, she was diagnosed with cancer. No expert medical help and fervent prayers from everywhere could stop the inevitable: she succumbed to the disease on 22 May 2010. It was indeed very hard to accept this painful blow.

Sr. Shyby left us all too soon. But her sunny smile, loving ways and self sacrificing spirit hover over us as we remember her in our prayers for the repose of her soul.

SR. NANCY PEREIRA 14.8.1923 – 14 .7.2010

“An indefatigable entrepreneur in the cause of helping the poor”- St. Pope John Paul II defined her thus, during a private audience Sr. Nancy had with him on 13 May 1998 in the presence of our Superior General Mother Antonia Colombo.

“My vocation is to be with the poor and serve them”- Sr. Nancy used to say and stay she did in the slums of Vyasarpadi and Bangalore and many other places uplifting them from poverty, illiteracy and ill health.

To synthesise the life and mission of this ‘one in a thousand’ personality in a few lines would be an impossible task. To describe the achievements of ‘FIDES’ her brain child alone would take volumes.

An epitome of love for the poor, of sacrifice and prayerfulness, hard work and inventiveness; a person of innumerable talents, abilities and rare qualities; someone who could put her hand to anything successfully; a meticulous planner, an able builder, a talented artist, a good organizer, above all an exemplary religious- Sr. Nancy was all this and more.

Nancy was the fifth child of Mr. Marian Pereira a successful business man and a leader in his Parish, and Agnes a gentle and loving house wife and mother. Nancy inherited the best of qualities of both the parents. She was the first Keralite to join the FMA institute. It was Mother Cesira Gallina the fourth Provincial of the Salesian sisters in India who spotted her sterling qualities. She entrusted her with the heavy task of constructing the majestic Auxilium college arts block, the large hostel edifice and the present Sacred Heart Home. Later she was sent to construct various buildings at St. Mary`s convent Vellore, at Kodambakkam, Tiruppattur, Pallikonda and Polur. She was also appointed the Animator of Mazzarello Home Tiruppattur, of Little flower convent Pallikonda and of Beatitudes Vyasarpadi.

It was at Vyasarpadi that she plunged headlong into social work. She organized and trained 250 slum girls and with their help, conducted self-improvement and self-employment programmes for about 8000 women of the slum. The foreigners who visited Vyasarpadi were amazed at Sr. Nancy`s work in the slum. It was some of them who visited later her FIDES project at the M.V.Garden colony- the suburban slum in Bangalore and in the 11 villages around, who gave wide publicity to her work in Europe. FIDES -the Family Integral Development Education Scheme- Sr. Nancy`s brain child, aimed at the holistic growth of a human being from the womb to the tomb.

The decade 1995-2005 was the golden era of FIDES. Sr. Nancy and the FIDES shot into fame and publicity in Italy and other European countries with the telecast of her work for the poor on RAI TV, with her biography written by an Italian journalist and scores of articles published in various newspapers and journals. She was named the “New Mother Teresa of Calcutta”, the “Sister Banker”, the “Lady in Career”. Accolades were heaped on her; ‘The Golden Apple Award’ presented by the Marisa Bellisario Foundation for lady entrepreneurs involved in humanitarian work, and the ‘Mandir for Peace’ Award were the outstanding ones among the 12 international awards conferred on her. Thousands of poor children were sponsored for their education. Today they are well-placed in society earning a good income. Hundreds of women were helped to become self-supportive with her micro-credit scheme, income generating projects and self- employment methods. Families were liberated from debts; drunken husbands were redeemed from alcoholism through de-addiction processes. Some of them were enabled to construct their own houses; others enlarged or improved the existing ones. Now, the M.V Garden and the adopted villages have altogether a different look. Sr. Nancy`s capacity for planning and implementation was marvelous.

In spite of becoming a person of international repute, name and fame, Sr. Nancy remained the same simple, humble, prayerful nun who lived the common life with her community members, participating in all the community activities and spending a lot of night time in prayer. She was not a philanthropist, but a true disciple of Christ and of Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello whose spirit and charism she followed with scrupulous fidelity. She formed in her lay collaborators and in the beneficiaries values of God`s kingdom through daily morning prayer sessions, ‘good morning talks`, periodical seminars, workshops and retreat days.

Worn out by age and untiring work, she breathed her last on 14 July 2010. As her mortal remains were laid out, an unceasing flow of beneficiaries came to pay their homage; crowds attended the funeral and prayed for the repose of her soul. Sr. Nancy has become invisible…but she lives in the hearts and homes of thousands of poor people whom she had liberated from illiteracy, ignorance and poverty and lifted up to a life of dignity.

SR. MERCY ITTOOP MENACHERRY 23.07.1952 – 7 .10.2010

Born as the youngest of six children into the illustrious Menacherry family, Mercy had a happy childhood enjoying the tender loving care of her beloved parents, brothers and sisters. The family passed on to her their rich religious traditions and deep piety. Her eldest sister is a Franciscan Clarist nun. Mercy loved Our Blessed Mother very much and prayed many rosaries from her younger days. She responded to the call of God at a very early age and came to Fatima Matriculation School as a pre-aspirant in……. After completing her high school education, she went through the formation period and made her first profession on 05.08.1974. She had a year of practical experience at Mary Immaculate convent Tiruppattur. Then she was sent to Auxilium college to complete her studies. She passed B.Com degree with high grades and joined Loyola College, Chennai for M.Com degree. She came out in flying colours . She returned to her Alma Mater Auxilium College as lecturer in Commerce in June 1985.

Being very lively, cheerful and full of jokes and innocent pranks, she was a joyful note in the community and contributed to its good spirit. She was exceptionally respectful towards her teachers some of whom were now her colleagues, and to the sisters elder to her in the community. Gifted with practical and theoretical intelligence and always ready to make any sacrifice, it was a pleasure to work with her. One could entrust her with any responsibility which she would carry out with promptness and thoroughness. She was very much loved by her students and colleagues.

When the Province of Banaglore was formed, along with five other sisters from the college, she too took voluntary retirement and joined the new province. She was appointed the Animator of Kottiyam community, then of Vazhichal and Kattappana. Each of these houses that she passed through, saw growth, expansion and development. From 1999-2005 she was a member of the Provincial Council. She was made the Provincial Bursar in 2005. With great enthusiasm and dynamism she worked hard along with the Provincial for the growth of the province. The beautiful provincial house annexe and several buildings at various centres sprang into existence during her term of office. The project ‘Italia Solidale’ implemented in those years brought great benefit to many poor people. She travelled the length and breadth of the province guiding constructions and attended international meetings of Italia Solidale in Europe and Latin America.

In the midst of her hectic activity, in August 2010, like a bolt from the blue came the shocking news of her sickness: Pancreatic cancer! She underwent the surgery but the doctors had no good news to offer us…. Sr. Mercy loved life and hoped against hope for a cure. The whole province stormed heavens, and tried one treatment after another. On 7th October 2010, on the feast of the Holy Rosary, she bade goodbye to this world plunging all of us and her beloved family members into a sea of sorrow. Sr. Mercy was very much devoted to the rosary right from her childhood. So Our Blessed Mother came to take her on that day.

To this day the shock of her sudden sickness and death continues to grieve us…It was a sorrow too deep for words.

SR. RITA THOMAS. 12.10.1929 – 03.01.2013

Brisk in gait with a sunny smile, warm and affectionate, Sr. Rita Thomas was a much loved teacher in all the FMA schools where she worked in various capacities. Her compassionate love for the orphans in St. Mary`s Vellore and for the children at risk at Palluruthy is known to all. Her heart melted at seeing human misery and she did all that she could to alleviate it.

Sr. Rita Thomas was born on 12 October 1931 as the 6th child into an exceptionally large family of 17 children. Her mother passed away at the birth of the 10th child and her father had to marry again and was blessed with 7 more children. Sr. Rita writes: “Though we were many children (of two mothers), we grew up with much affection and understanding as if we were one mother`s children. My step mother was a very loving woman who loved us and sacrificed herself for us”.

The parents brought up the children in love of God and neighbor so that including Rita four daughters became nuns: three Carmelites and Sr. Rita an F.M.A. One of her brothers became a Jesuit priest. With so many religious in the family, Rita was confused about the choice of the Congregation. She was guided by a dream. Sr. Rita narrates:” I saw the statue of our Blessed Mother with a beautiful crown and Baby Jesus in her hand. I saw also a sister with uncovered neck. It struck me because earlier I had seen only sisters fully covered except their face”. When she came to St. Mary`s Vellore she recognized the statue of Mary Help of Christians she had seen in her dream and the sister who welcomed her- Sr. Consiglia Tarricone as the one she had seen in the dream.

During her novitiate she was gripped with a paralyzing fear of the possibility of not being admitted to profession. Again in a dream she saw Don Bosco who smiled at her, called out to her and gave her a blessing. From that moment, all her fears vanished.

Sr. Rita made her profession on 24 May 1953. From Sr. Consiglia Tarricone she acquired a deep and sincere love for the poor and the orphans and also the conviction of the importance of Salesian assistance at the cost of personal sacrifice. Sr. Rita rendered valuable service as Teacher in many of our schools, as Assistant to boarders , orphans and children at risk and as local Councilor and Animator of Kottiyam community for a term.

From 2007 her memory began to fail. In November 2010 she had a fall after which she was not able to walk as she was losing balance. In 2011, her health deteriorated further and in the last few months Sr. Rita underwent intense physical pain which she endured with much serenity and abandonment to God`s will. On 3 January 2013, at 9.25 p.m., she breathed her last while the community was praying around her.

A very loving nature full of affection, attention and concern for her community members, motherly love and care for orphaned children and great compassion for the poor were the outstanding characteristics of Sr. Rita.