|BL. MARTYR RANI MARIA VATTALIL|
Bl. Rani Maria was born on 29th January 1954 as the second child of Mr Paily and Mrs Eliswa in Vattalil family, at Pulluvazhy, a small village of Kerala in Ernakulam District. There were seven children in Vattalil family; Mariam and Celine, responding to the call of Jesus, joined the Franciscan Clarist Congregation and Mariam received the name Rani Maria at her first profession on 01st May 1974.
The seed of missionary vocation was sowed in the heart of novice Mariam while hearing the adventurous experiences of missionaries. Consequently she too decided to go to North India to serve the poor and to die for them. “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 life motto of Sr Rani Maria. She was convinced about her missionary call.
After the language studies in Patna, Sr Rani Maria arrived at St Mary’s Convent in the Eparchy of Bijnor on 24th December1975. Due to the lack of qualified local teachers, Sr Rani Maria was appointed a teacher in St Mary’s School, Bijnor for two years, in spite of her preference to serve the poor in the villages. Later she dedicated her life fully to social service till 1983.
In 1983 Sr Rani Maria was transferred to Odgady in the Eparchy of Satna and was appointed coordinator of the social activities. She worked hard to uplift the poor and downtrodden. She was firmly convinced that no sacrifice would be too much in order to secure the total liberation proclaimed by Christ. She organized educational programmes for the children, the young, and the aged. She conscientized the poor about their exploitation and enabled them to realize their rights and duties as citizens of India. As a result, she became the object of the displeasure of their oppressors, who looked upon her work to uplift the poor as attempts to convert them to Christianity. Her life was at times under threat. But the threats only made her more enthusiastic and zealous. From 1989 to 1992 Sr Rani Maria served her religious community as local superior. Meantime she took Master’s degree in Sociology from Rewa University. Through her dedicated service in Odgady for nine years, Sr Rani Maria could change, to a certain extent, the face of Odgady by means of various developmental activities carried out with the cooperation of the people of the locality. Bishop Mar Abraham Mattam recollects:
“Sr Rani Maria was convinced that an evangelizer should be interested in the life of the poor to give them Christ, his love and his redeeming message, thereby helping them to attain special growth and material welfare”.
In 1992, Sr Rani Maria was transferred to Sneha Sadan, Udainagar in the diocese of Indore. As an experienced social worker she made a thorough study of the tribals of the villages and realized that they had unconsciously fallen into the debt trap laid very cleverly by the Baniyas (tradesman) of Udainagar. Through various conscientization programmes Sr Rani Maria made them aware of their rights and injustice perpetrated on them. Thus, the poor of Udainagar became active citizens and started to free themselves from the bondage of their heartless moneylenders. In 1994, Sr Rani Maria was elected Provincial Councillor of the Social Service department, in which she had to coordinate the social service activities of the Province. Her life was set apart for the poor. It was her nature not to run away from challenges and oppositions. Since the developmental programmes for the poor tribals went counter to the vested interests of the unscrupulous moneylenders and social exploiters, she became the object of their hatred, which grew steadily with the progress of the poor. As a result on 25th February 1995, they found an opportune time to get rid of her as she boarded the bus to Indore in order to go to Kerala for holidays. As the bus reached a jungle about 20 kms from Udainagar, a person named Samundar Singh rose from his seat and repeatedly stabbed her. 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.
On 27th morning seven bishops and nearly a hundred priests concelebrated the Holy Mass in Indore and then her body was taken in procession from Indore to Udainagar, a distance of 102 kms and buried there. At her death the Bishop of Indore, Rt Rev. Dr George Anathil wrote:
“Sr Rani Maria died as a martyr shedding her blood for the emancipation of women and for the uplift of the poor and oppressed and exploited people. She will remain immortal in the hearts of thousands of poor people of the area. Her tomb in Udainagar will be a sign and symbol of love, dedicated service and sacrifice.”
These prophetic words of the Bishop came true on 04th November 2017 when Sr Rani Maria was declared blessed Martyr Rani Maria at a function in Indore. Samundhar Singh, the assassin of Rani Maria, a totally converted person after experiencing real forgiveness from God and from her family members attended the ceremony of beatification of Bl. Rani Maria. “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60). This prayer of the Proto martyr St Stephen has been inscribed on the monument built at the spot where she was murdered. It really expresses her forgiving love. People come in ever growing numbers to her tomb, seeking her intercession. May Bl. Martyr Rani Maria intercede for us.
Fr John Thoppil