Sr. Rani Maria
Sr. Rani Maria hails from Kerala, South West India. She was born January 29, 1954, the second of seven children. She joined Franciscan Clarist Congregation (FCC) in 1972 and made her final commitment on May 22, 1980. She began her mission in north India in Uttar Pradesh in 1975 and in 1983 she was transferred to Odagady in the diocese of Satna, Madhya Pradesh. She then went to Udayanagar in 1992 where she embraced martyrdom.
At Udayanagar, Rani Maria came to know the plight of poor people. She chose the ministry among the malnourished children, women facing domestic violence, and illiterate poor oppressed by landlords and moneylenders. She began with regular house visits to understand the realities of the people. She empowered the poor, landless agricultural laborers to fight for just wages and other rights. Amidst the ignorance of darkness, she lit the candle of knowledge and empowered the children, men, and women through various programs such as non-formal adult education and job oriented training programs in the villages.
She worked with different like-minded agencies and began different rural development schemes, empowering people through basic education and sustainable financials programs. That, in turn, helped them grow in the path of financial self-reliance. All these went against the vested interests of moneylenders and the landlords who kept the people as bonded laborers for many generations.
She received numerous threats to her life and was told to leave by those exploiters. Her missionary zeal and unshakable commitment to the poor was a manifestation of her love for Jesus who was poor. As she stood face-to-face against injustice and oppression, the landlords plotted against her. On February 25, 1995, while travelling on a bus, she was brutally stabbed to death.
It was Samandar Singh who killed Sr. Rani. Later, Sr. Rani’s family visited him in jail and forgave him for the heinous crime. Soon he was converted to Christianity, and today he is a different person. When the family forgave the killer, the Governor of the State commended: “Only you Christians can truly forgive.”
History has proved that violence and death will not silence the voice of the prophets. They live even after their death. Rani Maria, woman of substance and authentic existence will continue to inspire many to hear the cry of the poor and bear witness the Christ’s love.
Sr. Rani Maria FCC (Franciscan Clarist Congregation) was beatified on November 4, 2017