(What is written in ‘inverted comas/quotation marks’ was written by Pauline in 2009. In italics are additions made by checking with family members, friends and others who knew Pauline closely.)
Anna P.M. (Paraplackal Mathew), fondly called Chinnamma, was the sixth of ten children of Mathew Paraplackal and Aleyamma Mattathil. In the order of birth her siblings are Francis (expired in 1964), Aleykutty, Mariamma (expired on February 19, 2019), Pappachan (died on July 14, 2014), Mathew (expired on December 18, 1998), Chinnamma, Ousephachan (Joseph), Sebastian, Kuriachan and John. Chinnamma was born on February 26, 1946, at Kurumannu parish of Palai diocese, Konipadu post, Kizhakanmattam in Kottayam district in Kerala. She was baptized at St. John’s Baptist Church on March 3, 1946. “My parents were traditional, devout Catholics. They were very loving and caring, generous, kind and compassionate to the poor and needy. My mother was good to the beggars, especially to the blind ones. I acquired my faithfulness to religious practices and also imbibed the values of generosity, honesty, discipline and hard work from my family. I remember what my father used to say to us, “If you give, you will get even Kollam (a big city).” What he meant was that if we give generously, we will not be in need of anything in life even in a strange place. When we were children some people who misunderstood my father’s generosity would not return the money they borrowed from him. Now, I do not feel bad about it for God has blessed my brothers and Sisters abundantly.” Her father was a farmer, and all her siblings attended to the house chores and helped with the farm while studying. They were a happy family. As the children grew up and married, they settled in separate homes. Their Pappan (uncle), Reverend Father Kuriakose Paraplackal, was a priest of Palai diocese who expired in 1985.
From class one to seven, Chinnamma studied at St. John’s Lower & Upper Primary School in Kurumannu. She went to Melukavumattum C.M.S. Secondary School for high school in Erumapramttam. She was good in studies and was obedient, industrious, responsible, courteous, co-operative and self-reliant.
“I have an interesting story about my vocation to the SCN Congregation. When I was in the school, I wanted to become a missionary. I was a member of the ‘Little Missionary’ and used to get a small magazine called, ‘Little Missionary’. One day, I saw a picture of a Sister teaching a few children under a tree. That picture influenced me greatly. Then, I got a few addresses of congregations from the same magazine. Though I had no idea about any congregation, I chose two addresses, Sisters of Charity of Nazareth (SCN) and Medical Mission Sisters (MMS), both in Patna. I decided to write to both of these places on the same day and join the one I heard from first. The response to my letter to the MMS had gone first to my cousin’s home which I received on the following Sunday. In the meantime, the reply from Sister Lawrencetta Veeneman arrived in my house informing me that two SCNs, Anne Elizabeth Elampalathottiyil and Ancilla Kozhipat would be reaching Pravithanam; she asked me to meet them. My father and I met them, and the date was set for my travel to Mokama. I was very happy and, on the way, my father told me to think once more about my decision. After returning home, the whole family tried to change my mind. They told me, “If you go that far, remember, you will never see us again.” That thought haunted me throughout the night and the question, “Should I go?” kept coming up in my mind. One thing that consoled me was that a missionary priest from my parish had come home after fourteen years. I, too, might be able to do the same. It was very, very difficult to say goodbye to everyone. But I am happy that I am an SCN today.”
After passing the SSLC (Secondary School Leaving Certificate), Chinnamma travelled to Mokama along with Thankamma (Teresa Xavier Ponnazhath), Mary K.S. (Stella Kaiprampatt) and Thresiamma in July 1965. Sister Mary Celeste (Gail Collins) was their candidate director. After a year of language studies, Chinnamma became a postulant on September 8, 1966 along with her five companions. Sister Teresa Rose Nabholz was their postulant director. On February 2, 1969, they became novices and she took the name, Pauline. Her companions were Agnes Thadam, Bridget Vadakeattam, Stella Kaiprampatt, Sunita Vayalipara and Vandana Vellaringatt. Sister Patricia Mary Kelley (Pat Kelley), a great teacher and musician, was their novice director. She not only guided them but also provided them with every opportunity for their all-round development and growth. Pauline made her first vows on February 2, 1969.
After a few months of Juniorate program in Mokama, Pauline went to Nirmala College in Ranchi for the two-year intermediate studies in the arts. She completed her Bachelor of Arts from the same college in 1973. In June, she was appointed to Mokama parish for pastoral ministry along with Sister Mercy Thundathil for a year. Pauline lost her father on June 16, 1974. Sadly, she could not be present for his funeral in Kerala. After making her final vows on June 21, 1974, she was assigned as secretary to the provincial in Mokama. From January 1977 to July 1978, she worked as the assistant to the novice director in Kerwateri Ashram, Sokho.
Her first assignment as a full-time teacher was to Nazareth Vidya Niketan, Chatra, in July 1978. After a year, she went to The Maharaja Sanajirao University of Baroda in Gujarat for her Bachelor of Education and went back to Chatra School. From April 1982 to December 1983, she taught at the Jesuit-owned De Britto School in Gomoh. Most of the students in the school were children of leprosy patients.
In January 1984, Pauline was appointed as the headmistress of Krist Jyoti Vidyalaya in Hilsa. In April 1987 she moved to Nazareth Dehra, Mandair, and taught in the parish-owned village school. From August 1990 to December 1993, she was the headmistress of Pushpa Vidyalaya in Sokho. She was assigned as the administrator of the Provincial house in Patna for a year and a half. Her next assignment was to teach English to the candidates in Ranchi. From 1996 to 2002, Pauline was the headmistress of Maria Vidyalaya in Khorimahua. Pauline lost her dear mother on August 25, 2000, and went home for her funeral. She had the privilege of going back to teach in De Britto School in Gomoh in 2002. In 2004, she went to Shapur mission to teach in the village school. She was in community service in Kakkavayal for a year and in Asha Niwas, Gurgaon for two years.
“During the forty years of my religious life, I had many challenges, difficulties, trials and suffering. I always wanted to serve the very poor and opted for my ministry in the interior villages. Living with and for the poor gave me much joy and contentment. As I matured in my vowed way of life, I trusted more and more in the Providence of God and experienced God’s intervention in my life. I felt God’s faithfulness and love very tangibly. I had many successes and failures in life and was able to face them with courage because I believed that nothing would happen to me without God’s knowledge.
When I was a young Sister, I remember that one of my former students who had joined an engineering institute wrote a letter telling me that he practiced the different values I taught them when he was in Sokho. This was one of my happiest moments in my life.
Many of our Sisters inspired me to become what I am. Among them were my candidate director, Sister Mary Celeste, whom I still hold dear for all she taught me, and Sisters Patricia Mary, Lawrencetta, Teresita Theruvankunnel, Teresa Rose, Ann Bernadette Ormond, Mercy Thundathil, and many others.
Of the many faith experiences I have had, I would like to describe one of them. When I was in Khorimahua, a four-and-a-half-year-old boy named David had joined the boys’ hostel. He was a sarna, a non-Christian Santhal Tribal. He used to scream and yell at night saying that he saw a bhoot (ghost) in different places. He disturbed everyone’s sleep including that of the hostel warden and the parish priest. One day when I was the substitute teacher in David’s Moral Science class, I asked them how many had seen a ghost. Almost all of them said that they had seen one, and there was an excited discussion on ghosts. At the end of it, I asked them, “Who is stronger, Jesus or the ghost?” In unison all said, “Jesus”. Then I told them, “It is true, Jesus is stronger than any ghost as Jesus is always at our side. When Jesus is at our side, no evil can come to us.” I could not believe the change that took place in David. The following day I asked him if he saw the ghost again. He responded that the ghost could not come to him with Jesus at his side. From then on, he stopped screaming so everyone enjoyed a good sleep. This incident increased my own faith in Jesus and His presence. Later, I learnt that his grandmother had cooked up the ghost story to frighten him so that he would behave well.
When I look back at the past forty years of my life, I feel proud to be an SCN. Because of our simplicity and approach-ability, people feel at home with us. I believe that our charism handed down by Mother Catherine Spalding and our early pioneers continues to inspire us to live a simple life and to make sacrifices for the sake of the poor. I have learned to live a happy and contented life and I believe that we need only a few necessary things. My dream for the SCNs is that people may see us as God-centred women by the way we live as self-sacrificing, dedicated disciples of Jesus who was one with the poor.”
In 2009, Pauline moved to Dharuhera as one of the pioneers. There she loved taking care of the grounds by planting trees and preparing the place as the house was under construction. Later, she began to work with the children of commercial sex workers. She was with them till she was extremely sick and taken to the hospital on March 21, 2012. Pauline breathed her last at 2.30 a.m. on March 22, 2012, at Artemis Health Institute in Gurgaon.
Pauline’s companion and close friend, Sister Stella Kaiprampatt, shared that Pauline was all alone in the house taking care of many things when she fell seriously sick. No one knew that Pauline was suffering so much from diabetic complications. Both her companions, Sisters Beena Chirackal and Selvam Vedamuthu, (discontinued SCN membership in 2017) were away from the community for different work when Pauline was dying. Sisters from Delhi and Gurgaon attended to her in the hospital where she was admitted for a few hours before her death. She was unable to talk when I visited her. Sister Ann Moyalan and I were sitting at the reception hall that night as the lady at the gate did not allow us to visit Pauline in the intensive care unit (ICU). Only after Pauline’s death, were we allowed to see her body in the ICU.
Excerpts from the letter sent to the community by Sister Sangeeta Ayithamattam, provincial, after the death of Pauline: Pauline was highly diabetic and suffered from migraine headache and constant sinus infections. She was not well from March 20 and though she felt exhausted, she attended Mass and took care of several things in the house. She was the only Sister present in the house. By evening she became very sick. The next day, the parish priest and one of the staff brought her to Artemis Hospital in Gurgaon. On the way to the hospital, she was restless, sweating and became disoriented. After the ECG, the doctor confirmed that Pauline had suffered a heart attack. When Sisters Ann Moylan and Stella Kaiprampatt reached the hospital around 1:00 p.m. Pauline showed some signs of improvement and recognized them. Pauline’s sugar level and blood pressure both were high and she suffered from multiple other complications. By 5:00 p.m. she was put on the ventilator. At 1:00 a.m. Pauline suffered another cardiac arrest and her condition kept deteriorating. At 2:30 a.m., she was declared dead. Sisters Ann and Stella were at the hospital when she breathed her last. Pauline’s funeral Mass was at Kanai Church in Gurgaon and her remains were taken to Dharuhera and laid to rest at SCN/MSFS (Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales) compound.
Sister Reena Theruvankunnel, SCN, then vice-provincial, in her introduction said: It is a difficult day for us to bid farewell to Sister Pauline who passed away suddenly on March 22. She was a faith filled woman who loved and lived fully till she breathed her last. She had been a religious for forty-three years, thirty-seven of which were spent with the poor in our rural missions in Bihar and Jharkhand. Three of Pauline’s brothers, Kuriachan, Ousepachan, John, and one of her sisters-in-law from Kerala and Karnataka, a few relatives from Delhi, some of her old students, thirteen priests, a large number of CRI (Conference of Religious India) members from Dharuhera, MSFS Family members, the parishioners of Kanai Church and Dharuhera, the residents of Asha Kiran and Asha Niwas and around forty SCNs from India and Nepal were present for the Mass and the funeral rites on March 24, 2012.
Sister Joel shared her memory of Pauline: It is not easy to talk about a person endowed with very many qualities in following the call of Jesus. Pauline was a very jovial person and had a hearty laughter which was contagious. She was a simple and unassuming person and was extremely hospitable. She loved to cook her favorite dishes for community members and guests. When she was in the parish ministry, Pauline went with Sister Mercy and me to the remote villages in Mokama to help the sick or teach catechism and would stay with families in the villages. Once she came to Damak, Nepal, where I was working. Even though she did not know the language, her gentle and pleasant personality won the hearts of the people. Sister Pauline was an educator, nurse, administrator, all in one! She did not mince words when it came to injustices to the poor. She suffered from many physical ailments and would easily get irritated. But she would make peace before the sun went down. The fact that most of her missions were in the remote villages among the under-privileged shows her unconditional love for the poor and the neglected.
From the Communication Office, Patna, Malini Manjoly, SCN wrote the following: Pauline was a selfless and other-centered SCN who responded to the needs of the mission and community whenever and wherever she was called upon to do so. Being a woman of God, she trusted her God at every step she took in her life. She worked hard and lived a simple life of faith which was reflected in her daily life. Pauline’s trust in God, simplicity and commitment to mission was an inspiration for others. She loved being an SCN and a mediator for the poor. Like St. Paul, she considered everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of gaining and being found in Christ Jesus.
Sister Mercy Thundathil shared: Pauline loved and lived our SCN charism fully. As a people oriented person, she adjusted easily with everyone. She loved her God and served everyone wholeheartedly.
Most Reverend William D’Souza, SJ, the Archbishop of Patna, in expressing his condolence at the death of Sister Pauline, wrote: Let me express my gratitude for the dedicated services Sister Pauline has rendered to the children in our Archdiocese. I am sure Jesus will have a special place for her in His Kingdom as He, Himself, gave priority to the little ones in His ministry.
Sister Beena Chirackal, one of the community members of Pauline shared that Pauline was very simple in her lifestyle and attitude. She was hard working and very committed. The life in Dharuhera was very tough in the early days and Pauline lived there without any complaints. The summers were extremely hot, and electricity was irregular. She loved the poor and the weak. She was a good listener, very approachable, and people naturally came to her to share their pains and struggles. She didn’t have many demands. She was an integrated person, very sincere and transparent. She had a quick temper but would bounce back and reconcile with the persons very fast. Pauline’s temper kept the children away from her at times. But those who understood her became close to her. She suffered much from diabetes and could not accept it. She had the desire to get well from it by all means. Pauline had a close-knit family and, at times, she worried about their problems. Our neighbours in Dharuhera still remember her and talk about her. I, myself, fondly remember Pauline and I feel bad that I missed her sudden death and funeral.
Kushboo Kumari (19), now a second year Bachelor of Pharmacy student who lived with Sister Pauline at Asha Kiran, Dharuhera shared: Sister Pauline always accompanied us whether it be at study, play or helping in the garden or kitchen. The most important thing that we know of her is that she was instrumental in getting the Asha Kiran ready before we found our home there. I feel bad that she did all that without even looking after her own health till the end.
Suman Kumari (14), a class IX student who still lives in Asha Kiran shared: Sister Pauline was like a mother to us, loving, caring, helping us with our studies and teaching us the true path to lead a good life. She taught us to cooperate with one another and live like one family wherever we are. Sister Pauline loved us like her own children and I can never forget her kindness and love.
Reverend Father Stephen Panamkanayil of Bhagalpur diocese who worked closely with Pauline in Khorimahua (March 1966 till June 2002) said that she had a sympathetic heart towards the poor and she was very much a pastoral-oriented person. Whenever there was a village Mass after the school hours, she was very happy to be part of it. She had a lot of respect for all priests. She took our Khorimahua teachers for a picnic to Kerala which they enjoyed very much, and I, too, went with them. I have visited her home; she has a loving family. I enjoyed working with her for she was a very hard-working and ready to do anything for the church.
Father Joseph Mulloor, who was the parish priest of Sokho mission, shared that Pauline was always co-operative to do anything for the sake of the poor, ever-willing to go out of her way to help anyone, pleasant and a God-oriented person.
Pauline was very hard working, genuine, honest to the core, out spoken, devoted and committed to her mission and ministry. She was very spontaneous, humorous, and forgiving. She suffered from sinusitis and severe headaches, which at times irritated her. Pauline will always be remembered for her faithfulness and love for God in serving the poor wholeheartedly, and for her love and commitment to the mission of the community.
Compiled by Malini Manjoly, SCN
Edited by Sister Anne Marie Thayilchirayil and Malini Manjoly
July 23, 2019