The news that Blessed Alphonsa will be canonized by his Holiness Pope Benedict XVI in Rome on 12th October 2008 has been received by the Catholics of India with boundless joy. She is the first Indian to be raised to the honours of the altar.
Preparations are being made by the Catholics of Kanyakumari District to celebrate the great event in a fitting manner with a series of programmes which will conclude at Blessed Alphonsa Church on A.R.P. Camp Road, Nagercoil on 8th November 2008.
On that occasion Blessed Alphonsa Church will be declared a pilgrim centre by his Grace Mar Joseph Perunthottam, Archbishop of Changanacherry in the presence of a massive gathering of the faithful of the three catholic dioceses of Kottar,
Marthandam and Thuckalay. Several other archbishops, bishops and dignitaries are expected to participate in the celebrations.
Sr. Alphonsa was born on 19th August 1910 as the fourth child of Joseph and Mary, Muttathupadathu, Kudamaloor, a village near Kottayam. Her mother passed away three months after her birth. Her baptismal name was Anna and was affectionately called Annakutty.
She had her schooling at first at Arpookara and later at Muttuchira under the supervision of her maternal aunt Annamma Murickan, who brought her up affectionately but with strict discipline. Her aim was to mould her ward into a respectable bride for a worthy bridegroom.
But Annakutty believed that a Carmelite nun had appeared to her and advised her to become a nun. She read the biography of St. Threse of Lisieux which instilled in her a strong desire to become a saint.
Therefore she resisted all compulsions to yield to marriage proposals. When she was compelled to attend her betrothal ceremony, she sought to escape from it by voluntarily stepping into a pit of burning husk.
Her feet were badly burnt and had to be confined to bed for several weeks. Her aunt finally relented to her desire and permitted her to join a convent.
Annakutty joined the Clarist Convent at Bharananganam and received the veil of the postulants on 2nd August 1928 with the name Alphonsa in honour of St. Alphonse Ligouri, whose feast day it was. Her vestition was held on 19th May 1930.
She was sent to Changanacherry for her higher studies after which she taught in a school at Vakakkad for a period of one year.
In 1984 the Pope officially declared that Sr.Alphonsa had heroically practiced Christian virtues. A miracle wrought through her intercession was also formally approved by the Holy See on 16th July 1985. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 8th February 1986 at Kottayam. The final process of her sainthood-canonization - will take place in Rome on 12th October 2008. All Indians are proud to have St. Alphonsa, the first Catholic saint in India, born of Indian parents, lived and sanctified her life in India.
As Rt. Rev. Thomas Pothacamury, former Bishop of Bangalore suggested, “it may be that Divine Providence has chosen her to show that the richness and fullness of ascetic life is within the reach of all”.