- EUPHRASIA: HER SAINTHOOD JOURNEY
Right from the beginning till today the Church upholds her holiness in the world through the holy life of her children. ‘Golden jubilee bell’ has already rung for the Council of Second Vatican’s astonishing contribution: “In the Church all are called to holiness” (cf. LG, 42). The council fathers did not hesitate to add in the very next chapter of the Constitution Lumen Gentium that to preserve the holiness of the Church is the prime duty of religious men and women. They are placed at the forefront in the pilgrim journey of the Church aiming heavenly Jerusalem to show forth the way. Last more than two thousand years of her life, how many saints were born to this Mother, the Church both canonized and non canonized! Into her list of canonized saints 6 more numbers are to be added on 23rd of November 2014. The Indian sub continent is very happy since two among them hail from her soil: Bl. Kuriakose Elias Chavara, the founder of two Indigenous religious Congregations (CMI & CMC) and Bl. Euphrasia Elavuthingal, the member of CMC. Before analyzing the process of Euphrasia’s journey to sainthood, a glance on CMC is apt here.
Life Sketch of CMC
The Congregation of Mother of Carmel (CMC) owes her origin to the Triune God, Father, Son and the Spirit through the instrumentality of St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara, the founder and first member of the Third Order of Discalced Carmelites for Men (TOCD) and Rev. Leopold Beccaro OCD an Italian Carmelite Missionary. Under the name Third Order of Discalced Carmelites for Women, they founded this Congregation at Koonammavu, in the then Vicariate of Verapoly on 13th February 1866. Servant of God Vakayil Eliswa, Vyppissery Thresia, Vakayil Anna and Puthenangady Eliswa were the first 4 members among whom first three were from the Latin Rite and the last hailed from the Syro Malabar Rite. The Charism of the Congregation is the personal sanctity and redemptive uplift of the people of God, especially women and children, through the right blending of contemplation and action.
Two separate Vicariates were formed for the Syrians in 1887. Followed by that in 1890, the convent at Koonammavu was entrusted to the Vicariate of Thrissure and the Latin sisters were transferred to Verapoly. Thus the first indigenous religious congregation (Women TOCD) was separated into two Congregations CMC and CTC as they are known today.
After the division, the growth of CMC was under the leadership of Apostolic Vicars of each diocese. They took the initiative for the spiritual and material growth of the sisters as well as the apostolic activities. Thus, the Congregation lived as separate entities in each eparchy. The unification of these separate units was taken place under the able leadership of Msgr. Hippolitus Kunnunkal. Then onwards the Congregation is known under the new name, CMC. In 1967 CMC was elevated to the pontifical status. She attained a tremendous growth in spiritual, material and mission fields, then onwards.
At present CMC is having 6300 sisters in 20 provinces and 6 regions. They serve the world through the Church in Continents of Asia, Africa, America and Europe. CMC has opened widely her eyes to read the signs of the time and to venture new ways and means not only in the fields of apostolate but also in the material and psycho -spiritual well being of her members.
Today CMC rejoices along with all people of good will as her founder Father Kuriakose Elias Chavara and one of her members Euphrasia Elavuthingal are elevated to Sainthood for the greater glory of God.
The saintly life of Sr. Euphrasia Eluvathingal
Sr. Euphrasia was born on 17 October 1877 in a small interior village called Katoor, which is in the Thrissur district, Kerala, India. She was baptized in the church of Edathiruthy on 25 October. Her God-fearing parents brought her up in deep Christian faith. She had her primary education in her village and at the age of ten she joined the boarding house at Koonammavu which was established by Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Fr. Leopold Beccaro OCD in 1868. From her childhood onwards, her life witnessed to many divine interventions. The heavenly Mother appeared to her at the age of nine and taught her how to pray with the nine choirs of angels. Once while she was in the boarding house at Koonammavu she was at the point of death and she received the apparition of the Holy Family and she received a miraculous healing. She made her religious profession in CMC on 24 May 1900 at the newly built convent, Ollur. The sisters who lived with her and many people who approached her have experienced the power of her intercessory prayers and she was known as ‘Praying mother’. A stream of love sprang from her heart toward the sick, especially those who are affected by contagious deceases such as cholera, T.B. etc. She had a special charisma to nurse the dying and prepare them for happy death. There are many testimonies of people who received her nursing care and prayerful support while they were sick. Among them some are still alive. She died on 28 August 1952 at the age of seventy seven and buried in the tomb of the Ollur convent.
Process to Sainthood of Elavuthingal Euphrasia
The process of canonization was started on 27 September 1986 and Fr. Lucas Vithuvatikal, CMI was appointed as the postulator on 13 August 1987. He made the oath as postulator in the presence of Mar Joseph Kundukulam, the Bishop of Thrissur, on 29 August 1987 and Sr. Euphrasia Eluvathingal was declared as Servant of God on that day.
Sr. Perigrin was appointed as Vice-postulator on 9 September 1987. The next year the diocesan tribunal was established in the forane church of Ollur. It was on 30 January 1990 the tomb of Servant of God Sr. Euphrasia was opened and the mortal remains were transferred to the newly built tomb inside the chapel of Ollur convent. During a liturgical celebration which was officiated by Mar Joseph Kundukulam at the Cathedral church the diocesan tribunal was officially closed on 19 June 1991. The Positio on her heroic virtues was submitted to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Rome on 20 April 1994. The miraculous healing of Mr. Thomas Tharakan who was suffering from bone cancer was ascribed to the intercessory power of the Servant of God Sr. Euphrasia. The Tribunal for the ‘apostolic miracle’ was established on 8 January 1999. She was declared Venerable on 5 July 2002 by Pope John Paul II. It was Pope Benedict XVI who declared her as Blessed on 3 December 2006. St. Peter’s Square at Vatican is being prepared for the canonization of Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Blessed Euphrasia Eluvathingal along with four other Blesseds from Italy which will take place on 23 November 2014.