Foundress of the Holy Family Sisters (1867-1926)
+ Thresia was born in Puthenchira in the Indian State of Kerala. The family was had become poor because of the high cost of providing dowries for their elder daughters.
+ Following her mother’s death—and perhaps to escape the realities of her father’s worsening alcoholism—Thresia dreamed of leaving home to live a life of prayer and penance as a hermit. However, being more practical, she began to practice works of charity with two friends, visiting the sick, caring for the poor, and serving in the parish church.
+ She and her companions broke with local custom by traveling the roads without the company of a man and they suffered criticism for their “brazen” behavior. Thresia never doubted her safety because, as she said, she trusted in the protection of the Holy Family.
+ Thresia was a gifted mystic and experienced numerous visions. The physical manifestations of her mysticism—including the stigmata—led her bishop to order that she undergo the Rite of Exorcism several times between 1902 and 1905. The priest order to perform the ritual saw her experiences as a sign of holiness and he served as her spiritual director for the rest of her life.
+ In time, Thresia added “Mariam” to her name and was given permission by her bishop to build a house of prayer where she and her companions moved in 1913. The following year, the bishop recognized that the women had formed a new religious community and he gave it the name “Congregation of the Holy Family,” giving the sisters the rule of the Holy Family Sisters of Bordeaux (who were then serving in Sri Lanka). Within twelve years there were three convents, two schools, two hostels, and an orphanage run by the siters.
+ Sister Mariam Thresia died of complications of diabetes on June 8, 1926. Her spiritual director continued to oversee the community until his death in 1964. She was beatified in 2000.
“Convinced that ‘God will give eternal life to those who convert sinners and bring them to the right path’ (Letter 4 to her Spiritual Father), Sr Mariam devoted herself to this task by her visits and advice, as well as by her prayers and penitential practice.”—Pope Saint John Paul II
O God, by whose gift blessed Mariam Thresia persevered in imitating Christ, poor and lowly, grant us through his (her) intercession that, faithfully walking in our own vocation, we may reach the perfection you have set before us in your Son. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal: Common of Holy Men and Women—For a Religious)
Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.