Indian Catholic Rite in South Africa Celebrates Patron’s Feast
Kimberley’s St Alphonsa Syro-Malabar Catholic community celebrated the feast of its patron for the first time in South Africa.
St Alphonsa FCC (1910-46) was an Indian religious Sister and teacher belonging to the Second Order Franciscan Clarist congregation.
She was the first Indian woman to be canonised as a saint by the Catholic Church, and the first canonised saint of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, an Eastern Catholic Church based in India.
Sr Alphonsa was beatified, along with Fr Kuriakose Elias Chavara CMI, by St Pope John Paul II during his apostolic pilgrimage to India in 1986.
“From early in her life, Sr Alphonsa experienced great suffering,” Pope John Paul II said in his beatification homily.
“She experienced not only physical pain of great intensity, but also the spiritual suffering of being misjudged by others.
“But she accepted all her sufferings with serenity and trust in God. She learned to love the Cross through her love of the crucified Lord.”
The papal liturgy of beatification was for the first time in history conducted in the Syro-Malabar rite.
Canonised in 2008
In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI canonised Sr Alphonsa at a ceremony at St Peter’s Square in Rome.
The Kimberley congregation’s feast day celebrations began with the traditional hoisting of a flag with St Alphonsa’s image.
The Holy Qurbana (Mass) at St Mary’s cathedral was celebrated by Fr Albin Paul Nallakkuttu, the priest in charge of the Syro-Malabar community in South Africa.
This was followed by a procession, a cultural programme, and then dinner.
The feast day committee consisted of Jijo Joseph Kannikatte, Bobby Joseph Kunnath, and Godwin Jose Thekkel.
At the end of the cultural programme, feast day convener Godwin Paul thanked Bishop Abel Gabuza of Kimberley, cathedral parish priest Fr Bonnetswe Victor, and the parish council for supporting the community’s celebration of St Alphonsa.
There are about 8500 faithful belonging to the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in South Africa. They are mostly from the province of Kerala in southern India and trace their faith to St Thomas the Apostle.