St.Alphonsa – The first women saint of India

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Bharananganam known as Lisieux of India after the birthplace of St. Theresa of Lisieux in France is located on the banks of Meenachil River, 5 km east of Pala in Kottayam district in the state of Kerala. The thousand year old St. Mary’s Church here is one of the famous pilgrim centers of the Christians in Kerala. Also known as Anakkallu Palli, it is the place holding the mortal remains of St.Alphonsa (1910-1946).The death anniversary of Saint Alphonsa, which falls on the 28th July is an important day for the devotees. Every year on this day, thousands of devotees visit this holy shrine and the Mortuary Chapel, next to the church where the mortal remains of the saint is preserved, to pray and seek her blessings.

Saint Alphonsa was born on 19th August 1910 at Kudamaloor, a rural village near Kottayam in Kerala state. Sister Alphonsa, was the fourth child of Joseph and Mary Muttathupadathu. Nicknamed as Annakutty, Alphonsa’s mother died when she was very young and she was raised by her maternal aunt, Annamma Muricken of the erstwhile Muricken family at Muttuchira and her great-uncle Rev. Fr. Joseph Muttathupadathu. As a child, little Alphonsa was inspired by St Theresa of Lisieux and she wanted to dedicate her life to Christ. At 13 of years of age, she burned her foot in an ash pit to escape from a marriage proposal. Against such determined resistance, her aunt who brought her up with strict discipline, allowed her to join a convent.

She then joined Franciscan Clarist convent at Bharananganam in 1927 taking the name Alphonsa, and received her postulant’s veil on 2nd August 1928. Sr. Alphonsa spent 20 years of her life there. She also taught one year at a School in Vakakkad. All through her life, Alphonsa suffered from health problems, and after years of illness and great suffering she died on 28th July 1946. She was buried at Bharananganam in Palai diocese.Saint Alphonsa lived a saintly life and was recognized as a saintly person during her lifetime. Even at a young age she showed a great zeal for suffering and she used to pray fervently and longed for sacrifice and fasting as and when possible. She believed that she must endure all things that tests her will and offer them to the Lord. It is said that in spite of her painful diseases, she was cheerful to the last.

It is indeed good to know about such a wonderful and beautiful saint who lead a life of righteousness and chastity…..and is also the first women saint of India….all praise be to god !!!!

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