Murdered nun's "martyrdom" inspires "paradigm shift"
The life of an Indian nun who was stabbed to death by a contract killer for her work with landless labourers inspired a "paradigm shift" in her Franciscan Clarist congregation as well as a surge of vocations.
UCA News reports that the killer stabbed Sr Rani Maria to death aboard a bus on 25 February 1995.
Sr Rani Maria, who was then 41, worked among landless labourers in Udainagar village, Madhya Pradesh state and incurred the wrath of some landlords by organising the poor to work for their rights.
The diocese in Indore, 810km south of New Delhi, which serves the area, has initiated a process to have the Franciscan Clarist nun declared a saint.
Sr Starly, who heads the Franciscan Clarist's Amala (Immaculate) province, to which Sr Maria belonged, told UCA News that her congregation went through "a paradigm shift" in its work among the poor after the nun's "martyrdom."
The largest women's congregation in India began in 1888 in Kerala, southern India. Today its 6,750 members are spread over 20 provinces and three regions.
Sr Starly, who became the provincial for a second term in December 2006, calls Sr Maria her "heavenly counsellor." The murdered nun was a province consultor during Sr Starly's first term.
The provincial says Sr Maria's "intercession" has helped her province start several projects among the poor in interior villages. The congregation as a whole, she added, also has begun to look beyond cities to spread the Christian message of love in far-flung rural places.
Sr Maria's death has inspired local young women to join the congregation. The provincial said four local women have already become nuns, while 10 others are in various stages of training to do so. All of them joined after Sister Maria's death.
According to Sr Starly, the congregation began working in central India in the 1960s but could not attract local vocations until now.
Sr Shanti, who works at the provincial headquarters, also credits Sr Maria's death for bringing changes within the congregation.
Young nuns now volunteer to work in remote villages, the nun told UCA News, describing this as a "real transformation" in the congregation.
One of the local nuns who have joined since the murder, Sr Jasmin, explained that Sr Maria's "daring life" brought her to the Franciscan Clarists. "Though I wanted to become a nun, I did not know where to join," she recalled.
It was then she heard about Sr Maria, and found inspiration in the story of a Religious who lived and died for the poor. "Living for the poor adds more meaning to the life," Sr Jasmin remarked.
Sr Starly also spoke of a spiritual renewal within the congregation. It observed 2000 as a year of reconciliation to inspire the nuns to forgive Sr Maria's murderer. The congregation appealed to the government to reduce the convicted assassin's sentence of life imprisonment.
Murdered Nun's Legacy Brings Vocations, Energizes Mission To The Poor (UCA News, 27/6/07)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Franciscan Clarist Congregation
Record number of Indian Catholics in bible quiz (CathNews, 18/10/06)
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28 Jun 2007