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Two more Indian native Saints to invigorate Faith of the local Catholic Church

June 12, 2014

The Church in India, and especially Syro-Malabar Catholic community in Kerala have reasons to rejoice with a sure sign of further invigorating its ever strong and vibrant Faith. Two more native Indians, Bld Euphrasia Eluvathingal and Bld Kuriakose Elias Chavara are to be canonized at the Vatican, on November 23, 2014, the feast of Christ the King.

With the forthcoming canonization, India will have four saints of the Indian origin, the first being St. Gonsalo Garcia (1556-1597) a Roman Catholic Franciscan friar from India, who died as a martyr in Japan and the first Indian to attain sainthood. He was born in the western coastal town of Vasai to his Portuguese Father and a native Indian mother. He was canonized in 1862 by Pope Pius IX. The second was the more recent and the first woman saint and first saint of the Church in Kerala, St. Alphonsa Muttathupadathu, who lived as an unknown simple Clarist nun within the four walls of the Franciscan Clarist convent. She was canonized on 12 October 2008 by Pope Benedict XVI.

During the mid Morning Prayer on Thursday in the Consistory Hall of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis gathered with the College of Cardinals to vote on the Canonisations of six Blesseds who will become Saints of the Church.

Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara was born on 10th Feb. 1805 of God fearing parents Iko (Kuriakose) Chavara and Mariam Thoppil of the Syro-Malabar Church, at Kainakary, near Allappuzha, Kerala. According to the local custom the infant was baptized on the 8th day in Chennankari Parish Church, Alappuzha.

From the age 5 to 10, he attended the village school (Kalari) to study languages, different dialects, and elementary sciences under the guidance of a Hindu teacher (Asan). Inspired by the desire to become a priest, he began the studies under the parish priest of the church of St. Joseph. At the age of 13 in 1818 he entered the seminary at Pallipuram where Malpan Thomas Palackal was the Rector. He was ordained priest on 29th November, 1829 at Arthunkal and celebrated his First Holy Mass at Chennankari Church. After the ordination he was engaged for some time in pastoral ministry; however he soon returned to the seminary to teach and also to officiate for the Malpan Thomas Palackal during his absence. Thus he joined Malpan Thomas Porukara and Malpan Thomas Palackal when they were planning to found a congregation.

In 1830 he went to Mannanam to direct the construction of the first house of the congregation of which the foundation stone was laid on 11th May, 1831. After the death of both the Malpans, Blessed Chavara took up leadership. On 8th December, 1855 he made the religious profession along with other 10 companions, under the name "Kuriakose Elias of Holy Family".

He was the Prior General of all the monasteries of the congregation from 1856 till his death in 1871. When, in 1861, a schism threatened the Church of Kerala with the arrival of Mar Thomas Rokos without proper credentials from the Pope, Blessed Chavara was appointed the Vicar-General of the Syro-Malabar Church by the Arch-Bishop of Verapolly. Blessed Chavara is gratefully remembered and acknowledged by the later leaders of the Church and by the Catholic community in general for his strenuous fight, strong stance, and effective leadership in thwarting `Thomas Rochos' intrusion and saving the church of Kerala from schism.

In 1871, on January 3rd, Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara, with a painful illness, died at Koonammavu monastery in Kochi, preserving his baptismal innocence. His mortal remains were later transferred from Koonammavu to Mannanam in 1889 and are piously kept in the St. Joseph's Monastery church.

The diocesan process for his beatification began in 1958. On April 7, 1984 Pope St. John Paul II elevated him to the status of Venerable and the same Pope declared him blessed at Kottayam, Kerala on February 8, 1986. 

Euphrasia Eluvathingal (Rosa) was born on October 17, 1877, in the village of Kattur, in Syro-Malabar Catholic Archdiocese of Thrissur in Thrissur district. Rosa was the eldest child of Eluvathingal Cherpukaran Antony and Kunjethy. On the 8th day, she was baptised in the Edathuruthy church. At the age of 12th, she joined boarding attached to the first indigenous Carmelite community founded by Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Rev. Leopold Beccaro 1866 at Koonammavu in Thrissur district.

In 1897, Mar John Menachery, the first native Bishop of Thrissur, established a Carmelite Convent in Ambazakad (now belonging to the Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Irinjalakuda ). Then he brought from Koonammavu all who belonged to his Diocese including Rosa on May 9th. On the next day Rosa received her headdress and the name “Euphrasia of the Sacred Heart of Jesus”, and in 1898 the Religious Habit of Carmel. Euphrasia took her perpetual vows on 24 May 1900 during the blessing of the newly founded convent at Ollur.

After she took her perpetual vows, she was appointed assistant to the Novice Mistress. Though frail in health, Euphrasia exhibited rare moral courage, spiritual power and a very high sense of responsibility and so she was soon appointed Novice Mistress of the Congregation in which position she worked for nine years. After this she was made Mother Superior of St. Mary’s Convent, Ollur. Prayer was her life breath wherever she was. Hence people called her the ‘Praying Mother’ and ‘the mobile tabernacle.’ Mother Euphrasia died on August 29, 1952 at the Ollur Convent. Her tomb at the convent has become a pilgrimage site as miracles have been reported by some of the faithful.

Mar Joseph Kundukulam, the Archbishop of Thrissur instituted the Diocesan Tribunal for the Cause of Mother Euphrasia in 1987 by declaring her 'Servant of God'. On July 5, 2002, Pope John Paul II, recognized her heroic virtue of Euphrasia, declaring her 'Venerable'. A miracle attributed to her intercession and approved by the Vatican in June 2006 concerned the apparent healing of a carpenter from bone cancer. On December 3, 2006, she was beatified in St. Anthony's Forane Church, Ollur, Thrissur, with the declaration of the Major Archbishop, Varkey Vithayathil on behalf of the Pope Benedict XVI. On 3 April 2014, Pope Francis authorised the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate the decrees concerning the miracle attributed to Evuprasiamma' intercession. This confirmed Pope's approval of Evuprasiamma' canonisation.

A long fulfilled dream of the Church in Kerala and India having been fulfilled all await the day of the Canonization with great hope that the new saints will usher in a fresh surge in the faith life of the local Church.   

Source: Vatican Radio

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