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St. Rani Maria Vattalil

St. Rani Maria Vattalil by Julie Lonneman

Artwork Narrative:

Rani Maria Vattalil was an Indian Syro Malabar professed religious and a social worker in the Franciscan Clarist Congregation who worked among the poor within the Diocese of Indore. Saint Vattalil dedicated herself to the catechetical formation and educational instruction during her time as a religious as she moved place to place teaching in different areas; she was vocal in matters of social justice and in social activism which led to her death at the hands of those who were opposed to her efforts in aiding the poor and downtrodden. 

Her feast day is February 25.

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On the morning of 25th February 1995, Sister Rani Maria Vattalil, a religious sister of the “Franciscan Clarist Congregation”, was killed by an assassin while traveling by bus from Udainagar to Indore, being stabbed fifty-four times. She died repeating the Name of Jesus a number of times. Her martyrdom was sought by those who hated her charitable and evangelical actions towards the poor.

Sister Rani Maria was born in Kerala (India) into a Catholic family of the Syro-Malabar church. In 1972 she entered into the “Franciscan Clarist Congregation”. She worked as a missionary in Northern India in various dioceses in the most isolated villages. She had a preference for the oppressed and the marginalized. Her aim was to alleviate suffering, console broken hearts, bring peace, form consciences, promote justice and defend the truth. Her Franciscan spirituality, profoundly Christ-centered, was expressed in the motto “Jesus for all, and all for Jesus.”

In 1992 she was sent to Udainagar, in the diocese of Indore. Here Sister Rani Maria promoted the creation of a savings co-operative, for the loan of money without interest. This obtained for her the detestation of the money lenders who couldn’t then oppress the poor. The threats to which she was subjected did not intimidate her but made her more generous in the giving of herself: “I have the strong conviction that I was chosen to be here for the poor and oppressed. I am happy to work for them, because they too are children of God, our brothers and sisters.”

The hostility towards Sister Rani and her actions for the Kingdom of God, heightened when she managed to obtain the release of several Catholics from prison who had fallen victim to a trap. Her enemies decided to get rid of her and decreed her death. Thousands of persons, even non-Catholics went to pay their respects at her coffin during the celebration of her funeral which was held on 27th February 1995. The martyrdom of Sister Rani had an evangelical epilogue in the forgiveness of the killer by her family and by the Congregation of the Francis and Clares, extending the good works operated by the Servant of God during her life.