St. Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan

St. Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan (1876-1926)

St. Mariam was born on 26 April 1876 to Thoma and Thanda Chiramel Mankidiyan in Puthenchira, Kerala, India.

Though her family was once wealthy, it became impoverished as Thresia's grandfather married off seven daughters and sold property to pay costly dowries. To forget their poverty, her father and brother took to drinking. Such was her family background. The third of five children, she grew up in piety and holiness under the loving guidance of her saintly mother Thanda. From early childhood Thresia was moved by an intense desire to love God. For this purpose she fasted four times a week and prayed the Rosary several times a day. She also consecrated her virginity to Christ when she was about 10 years old.

When Thresia was 12, her mother died. She now began a long search to discern her own vocation. She longed for a hidden life of prayer and left home to lead an eremitical life of prayer and penance. But this plan proved naive. She continued to frequent the church with three of her companions, clean it and decorate the altar. She also helped the poor, nursed the sick and visited the lonely. She even nursed victims of leprosy and small pox, and cared for their orphaned children.

Thresia placed her trust in the help of the Holy Family. She saw them frequently in visions and received guidance in her apostolate. She prayed for sinners, fasted for their conversion and exhorted them to repentance. Receiving the mystical gifts of prophecy, healing, aura of light and sweet odour, she also had frequent ecstasies and levitations. On Fridays people used to see her lifted high and hanging in the form of a cross on the wall of her room. She bore the stigmata, carefully hiding it from public view. Perhaps to help keep her humble amid such mystical favours, the Lord let her be tormented by diabolical attacks throughout much of her life. She also had to fight temptations against faith and chastity, and passed through the dark night of the soul.

In 1903 Mariam Thresia requested her Bishop's permission to build a prayer house of solitude, but Mar John Menachery first wanted to test her vocation. He suggested that she consider joining the Franciscan Clarists or the Carmelite nuns at Ollur, but she did not feel it was her calling. Finally, in 1913 Mar Menachery permitted her to build a prayer house and sent his secretary to bless it. Thresia moved in, and her three companions soon joined her. They led a life of prayer and austere penance like hermits, but continued to visit the sick and to help the poor regardless of religion or caste. The Bishop discerned that here was a new religious congregation for the service of the family. On 14 May 1914 he erected it canonically and named it the Congregation of the Holy Family, while receiving the perpetual profession of Mariam Thresia, who was appointed its first superior.

During and after the difficult years of the First World War, she built, in less than 12 years, three new convents, two schools, two hostels, a study house and an orphanage. At the time of her death there were 55 sisters in the congregation. Today the Congregation of the Holy Family has 1,584 professed sisters serving in Kerala, northern India, Germany, Italy and Ghana.

Sustaining a leg injury that would not heal because of her diabetes, Mother Mariam Thresia died on 8 June 1926.

She was beatified on April 9, 2000 by Pope St. John Paul II.