The Patroness of our Parish
and The First Woman Saint of India
Saint Alphonsa, known as the Passion Flower of India, was born on August 19, 1910 to Joseph and Mary Muttathupadathu in the pastoral village of Kudamaloor, tucked away in the central region of the lusciously beautiful state of Kerala in the southern part of India. Her baptismal name was Anna and her family affectionately called her Annakutty. Unfortunately, Annakutty’s mother passed away shortly after her birth. So, she was brought up by her maternal aunt under the spiritual guidance of her great uncle, Rev. Fr. Joseph Muttathupadathu. She seems to have been specially chosen by God for a life of holiness in a convent. From a very early age Annakutty heard the call of Jesus and did everything in her power to become a religious and dedicate her life to Jesus.
Annakutty persuaded her father and foster mother to let her go to the convent. She entered the convent of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation in Bharanamganam on Pentecost Sunday in 1927 and adopted the name Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception in honor of St. Alphonsus Ligouri. After completing her education and preliminary religious training, she was admitted to the novitiate on May 19, 1930. On August 11, 1931 Alphonsa took her first vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
Alphonsa’s entire life in the convent was one of diseases, pain and suffering. While in novitiate, she suffered from a crippling hemorrhage that she wasn’t able to participate in the daily routines of the novitiate. The superiors thought of sending her back home. She begged the mother superior to let her die in the convent. Many of her colleagues misunderstood her and misjudged her. Alphonsa suffered from malaria, pneumonia, tuberculosis, hemorrhage and persistent and violent bouts of vomiting. Through all these sufferings, she kept up a cheerful spirit. She prayed for her detractors. She realized that it was the way the Lord decided to make her a partner in His saving work. She would tell her friends: “The grains of wheat are ground. Then the white flour is obtained. This is baked and transformed into the host for the Holy Eucharist. Even so must we be ground and crushed and transformed by suffering.”
Sister Alphonsa passed away on July 28, 1946. Her funeral was attended by just a handful of people. But her spiritual director, Rev. Fr. Romulus CMI, was convinced of Sr. Alphonsa’s depth of holiness. At her funeral he declared, “This little village of Bharanamganam where her sacred remains will be buried, is fortunate. God willing, Bharanamganam will become the Lisieux of India.” Now Bharanamganam is a place of pilgrimage for Christians and non-Christians alike. On his visit to Kerala Pope John Paul II beatified Sr. Alphonsa on February 8, 1986. Pope Benedict XVI canonized her on October 12, 2008.