Religion and Spirituality

First Female Saint Named In India
Pier Paolo Cito/AP

First Female Saint Named in India

October 13, 2008 03:31 PM
by Rachel Balik
The Vatican has canonized Sister Alphonsa, a nun who died in 1946, as India’s first female saint.

The Canonization of Sister Alphonsa

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In a live telecast from the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI canonized four new saints on Sunday, Oct. 12, 2008, one of whom was Sister Alphonsa, India’s first female saint. The excitement was so great that more than 5,000 Indian Christians came to Rome to see the ceremony, reports Zee News.

Only 2.3 percent of India’s large population is Christian, giving added significance to the event. Father Dominic Vechoor, chancellor of the diocese where Sister Alphonsa lived and worked, said, “It's a matter of immense pride for us since one of our believers is being bestowed with the sainthood. It will strengthen the church in the country.”

The canonization comes after a number of Hindu attacks on Christians.

Background: Path to sainthood

The Vatican has had plans to canonize Alphonsa since March of 2008. Although the Vatican had released a document enforcing more strict procedure for naming saints, she and three others passed the test. Beatified in 1986 for her first reported miracle, she was known as Sister Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception.

Key Player: Sister Alphonsa

Her Vatican biography says that young Alphonsa, born Annakutty, was inspired to lead her first prayer service for her family at the early age of five.  She knew early on that she wanted to devote her life to God, but her family was determined to see her married. When she was 13, she put her own foot in a pile of burning embers, hoping to make herself unattractive and thus avoid a marriage. At age 17, she finally entered a Franciscan school.

She was plagued by illness throughout her schooling, and her health seriously deteriorated after she finally became a nun in 1936. But she always viewed her illness as “the cross of Christ,” and it was one that she bore bravely until she died in 1946.

Reference: Canonization and beatification

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