Sr. Rania Maria to Blessed Rani Maria
One of the rich heritages of our Church is God’s gift of the Saints, men and women, young and old, religious, priests, bishops , popes, and laity. This week I want to share with you about the story of an Indian Sister now on her way to being declared a saint. On November 4th I had the honor of attending the liturgy celebrating the beatification of Sister Rani Maria, who was killed by a hired assassin in central India 27 years ago.
Cardinal Angelo Amato, who serves as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints lead the ceremony with the Bishop of Indore, Chacko Thottumarickal and Bishop Leo Cornelio, Archbishop of Bhopal.
Several bishops from India and abroad and family members of Sr Rani Maria, participated in the mass.
Nuns of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation took part along with representatives of various congregations.
Sr Rani Maria joined the Franciscan Clarist Convent at Kidangoor near Palai in Kerala in 1972 and made her first profession on May 1, 1974 choosing the name Rani (queen) Maria. She began her mission in northern India in Bijmore in 1975 and then came to Udainagar in 1992, where she worked among poor landless agricultural laborers to fight for just wages and their basic human rights. This upset a group of landlords, who hired an assassin to kill her. Sister Rani Maria has already accomplished a miracle. Samandar Singh the hired assassin who killed Sister Rani in 1995, has repented and today he is a different man. He converted to Christianity and has become a member of her family. “In my own small way,” he said, “I try to follow her example, helping those who are less fortunate than me, like Tribal Christians and all those who are marginalized.”
After his arrest in connection with Sister Rani’s murder, Samandar was tried and sentenced to prison, where he spent 11 years. During that time, his wife divorced him and his first son died. Behind prison walls, he began plotting how he could take revenge against the man who pushed him to kill the nun. But he also received a visit from another nun, Sister Selmi Paul, who happened to be the murdered nun’s own sister. She hugged him and called him brother. He was profoundly touched by it, so much so that from this embrace his journey of repentance began. He gave up plans for revenge and accepted the sorrow caused by the murder stating; “I accept full responsibility for my heinous murder of Sr Rani Maria. I cannot say that I was instigated, because my own hands stabbed her repeatedly and for this I will regret my actions till the day I die” .
Eventually, Samandar war released because of a petition signed by Sister Rani’s family, the provincial of the Clarist congregation and the bishop of Indore. When his release was slow in coming, a delegation went to see the local governor to plead his case. “Only you Christians can truly forgive,” the latter said. “You are a great example. Go, I shall do all I can to get him released.” Once he was free again, Samandar began to treat Sister Rani’s family as his own. “I regularly visit her tomb,” he said. “For me, it is like a sanctuary of peace and strength.”