BLESSED SR. RANI MARIA
Sr.Rani Maria was born on 29 January 1954 as the second child of Paily and Eliswa of Vattalil, in an ordinary peasant family. Her Baptism was on 5 February 1954 at St.Thomas Church Pulluvazhy and she was given the name ‘Mariam’ after Mother Mary, the mother of Jesus. The godparents were her uncle Varkey and grandmother Mariamma. Her God fearing parents brought her up in Christian faith and charity along with their six other children – Stephen, Annie, Varghese, Thressiamma, Celine and Lusy. Celine would later followed her elder sister Rani Maria and joined the Franciscan Clarist Congregation, assuming the name Selmy Paul.
Marykunju (“Little Mary,” pet name) completed her Christian initiation by receiving the first Holy Communion and the Sacrament of Confirmation on 30 April 1966. From her infancy her parents and grandparents made her understand the importance of prayer. Even at the young age, she regularly attended the Holy Mass and took part in the popular devotions. She frequented catechism lessons and practiced what she learned in her day today life.
During the final year of her school, studies P. V. Mary felt the call of the Lord to embrace the consecrated life .She shared her inner promptings with her cousin Cicily (Sr.Soni Maria FCC) who too had the same desire. The frequent visit to the nearby convent and acquaintance with the FCC nuns enabled them to make a decision to enter the Franciscan Clarist Congregation. Mary had some anxiety about the reaction of her parents and relatives. One day she plucked up courage and openly expressed her desire to join the convent.
On 3rd July 1972 Mary and her cousin started their aspirancy in the Franciscan Clarist Convent, Kidangoor. After various phases of formation consisting of Aspirancy (3.7.1972 to 30.10.1972), Postulancy (1.11.1972 to 29.4.1973) and Novitiate (30.4.1973 to 30.4.1974) Mary, almost 20 years of age, made her first profession in Franciscan Clarist Congregation on 1st of May 1974 under the new name Rani Maria, the first word Rani having the meaning “Regina” or queen.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He has anointed me to preach the Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord (Lk.4: 18)”. This Gospel verse was the motto of Sr. Rani Maria, who wrote it down in her personal recordings. She was convinced about her missionary call. For greater efficiency in her work as a missionary she realized that she has to master the language of the place. Accordingly she bid farewell to the mission fields on 9th July 1975 and engaged in language study at the Provincial House of Sisters of Notre Dame, Patna.
As usual on 25th February 1995 Sr.Rani Maria rose early in the morning. She had to take the first bus to Indore and from there go to the Provincial House, Bhopal and then proceed down to Kerala. The late Sr. Liza Rose describes, “When I reached the Chapel for the morning prayers Sr. Rani Maria had already reached the Chapel before everybody else. After the morning prayers we assembled in the refectory while Sr. Rani was having her breakfast. As it was her custom, before leaving the house she picked up the bible to read word of God. She got the Word ‘Do not be afraid. I have carved your name on the palm of my hands’ (Is.49: 16).
Accompanied by two sisters Sr. Rani reached the bus stand only to be told that the bus trip was cancelled. While they were returning, they saw the bus by name ‘Kapil’ by which she was to travel. Sr. Liza Rose told the conductor to reserve one seat for Sr. Rani Maria. He replied, “The bus will leave at 8.15 a.m. You may board the bus in front of the convent.”
The bus arrived in front of the convent. Sisters bade her farewell. Sr. Liza helped her to get into the bus with her handbag. A young man dressed in white, kept her bag near the driver and asked her to sit in the back seat. This was something unusual in Udainagar. The sisters were always given the front seat in the bus. Among the fifty or so passengers there were three, seated in different parts of the bus, but united in one thing: the determination to murder Sr. Rani. Jeevan Singh, the leader of the group was seated in the back seat of the bus together with Dharmendra, his bodyguard. The third man was Samundar Singh, a youth of 28, who took his seat near Sr. Rani Maria. Jeevan Singh began to insult her saying: “Why have you come here from Kerala? Have you come to convert these poor tribal people to Christianity? We will not allow that.”
The bus reached a jungle about 20 kms from Udainagar. Samundar rose from his seat and asked the driver to stop the bus. He got down from the bus and broke a coconut against a rock on the road side: it was a pooja or sacred rite offered to their divinities. With pieces of the broken coconut in his hands he re-entered the bus and distributed them among the passengers. He offered a piece to Sr.Rani Maria but suddenly withdrew it as if to fool her. She asked him, “Why are you so overjoyed today?” Drawing out a knife he said, “Just for this,” and thrust it into her stomach. Repeatedly he stabbed her. Then the bus stopped. Deaf to her cries, he dragged her out of the bus and stabbed her to death. The post-mortem registered 40 major injuries besides 14 bruises. Unto the last she kept on saying “Jesus! Jesus!” None of the passengers dared to come to her rescue. Most of them ran away. One of them would later narrate the incident to Sr. Liza Rose.
The beatification process opened on 26 September 2003 after the title Servant of God was conferred upon her and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints granted the “nihil obstat” (‘nothing against’) to the cause. The subsequent diocesan process took place in Indore from 29 June 2005 to 28 June 2007 and received C.C.S. validation in Rome on 27 November 2009.
The C.C.S. received the Positio in 2014 and passed it onto consulting theologians, who on 11 February 2016 voiced their approval to the cause. The C.C.S. later approved this on 21 March 2017. Pope Francis approved the cause on 23 March 2017 and confirmed that sr.Rani Mariya would be beatified on 4 November 2017 in Indore.