Pope Francis declared Indian nun Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan a saint, during a ceremony at the Vatican on Oct. 13 that drew tens of thousands of pilgrims from around the world.
Huge banners of St. Mariam Thresia and four other newly canonized saints were hung at the front of St. Peter’s Basilica ahead of the open-air ceremony attended by government ministers, a member of the British royal family and throngs of faithful.
Born in 1876 into a wealthy family in southern India, St. Mariam Thresia insisted instead on living a life of piety from a young age, the Vatican News reported. She slept on a gravel floor rather than a bed and was committed to serving the poor and the sick in southern Kerala state.
“In imitation of Jesus, she helped the poor, nursed the sick, visited and comforted the lonely people of her parish,” Vatican News said of Thresia who founded the Congregation of the Holy Family, a religious order, in 1914.
“She was also blessed with the stigmata but kept it secret to avoid attention. Her entire existence was tormented by demons and she offered her sufferings for the remission of the sins of the world,” the news service said. Thresia died in 1926 aged 50.
Among the audience at Sunday’s ceremony in Rome was an Indian family and their son, whose life Thresia is credited with saving in 2009 during a miracle performed soon after his birth.
The boy, born prematurely, was suffering from respiratory illness and was prescribed a medicine that needed to be administered through a special ventilator. With no such equipment available for the boy, doctors feared the worst, Sister Udaya, superior general of the Congregation of the Holy Family said.
“On the third day, the child was gasping, and doctors explained it was going to be fatal. So, the parents and the grandparents, who very fond of Mariam Thresia, were praying very hard,” she told Vatican News.
The grandmother placed a religious relic on the baby as they prayed to St. Mariam Thresia, and there was a sudden and “drastic improvement” soon after, the baby recovered “and the doctors said it cannot be explained medically,” she said.
St. Mariam Thresia was declared blessed by Pope St. John Paul II in 1999, and Pope Francis later authorized a decree, recognizing the miracle through her intercession, clearing her way for sainthood.
Sister Udaya said sisters of the order have since been preparing for the canonization ceremony, including with special prayers and a religious retreat. But, in keeping with St. Mariam Thresia’s work, they have mostly focused on charitable acts, including housing projects and helping students, the sick and others.
The other four canonized by the pope are St. John Henry Newman, the British theologian, poet and cardinal (1801-1890); Brazilian St. Maria Rita Lopes Pontes (1914-1992); St. Marguerite Bays, a Swiss laywoman and mystic (1815 – 1879) and St. Josephine Vannini, the Italian co-founder of the Daughters of St. Camillus (1859 -1911), reported CNS.