Born to Abraham Chirackapurayidom and Eli (Alanickal) Abraham on February 1, 1936 at Pazhivithanam village and parish in Kottayam district, Kerala, I, Annakutty, am the fourth child of seven children. I had five brothers. In chronological order, they are Kochettan (Thomas), Kunjep (Joseph), Kunjukutty (Devasia), Kunjukunju (Chacko) and Appachan. I had only one sister, Rosamma. My parents were devout Catholics who were very prayerful and taught us to pray from a young age. We had daily morning and evening family prayer. My father was an ayurvedic vaidyan (herbal doctor) and my mother was a housewife. He prepared ayurvedic medicines and he saw his patients at home. He had two helpers to assist him. We had our own herbal garden to cultivate the needed herbs. All the children attended Mass from Friday to Sunday and we also attended Sunday catechism classes in the parish church.

I studied at Pazhivithanam parish school from class I to X, taught by lay teachers. I was an average but a hard-working student and passed SSLC (Secondary School Leaving Certificate) in 1955. My other siblings also studied in the same school.

As I reflect on my life, my most sacred memory is my call to come to the missions in Bihar on July 11, 1955. My vocation to religious life is something very precious. One day I happened to read the weekly Malayalam magazine named ‘Satya Deepam’ in which I read that, “If you are interested to become a religious, contact Rev. Joseph Maliparambil who will arrange for your travel and destination”. Without any delay I prepared myself to meet Father Joseph in Ernakulum. My father and brother-in-law went with me to meet him. I shared with Father Joseph my heart’s desire to become a missionary Sister to serve the poor. Nineteen girls from Kerala travelled together with Father Joseph to North India among them five of us were to join Mokama Sisters.

Soon after reaching Mokama, Marykutty V.M. (Sister Elizabeth Emmanuel Vattakunnel) and I were asked to do the two-year pharmacy course conducted by Sister Crescentia Wise at Nazareth Hospital. The other three candidates, Ithamma Kappalumakal (Sister Bridget), Kochuthresiamma (Sister Teresa Velloothara), and Marykutty Sebastian (Sister Rose Sebastian) began their studies in nursing. We began our studies first because the Congregation was waiting for permission from Rome to open the novitiate in India. As candidates we could not communicate well with the Sisters because we knew very little English. We liked the Sisters very much, especially Sister Crescentia, who was very kind, caring and extremely generous in giving whatever we needed.

Anne Elizabeth in nursery

All five of us were chosen to become postulants when the novitiate was officially opened on February 2, 1957 (Sister Lawrencetta Veeneman’s birthday). We became novices after ten months of postulancy. As a novice I took the name, Sister Anne Elizabeth Elampalathottiyil. Our novice mistress, Sister Lawrencetta, taught us SCN history, its origin and growth and the Constitutions. We had Scripture classes from Reverend Louis DeGenova, SJ, the parish priest of Mokama. I enjoyed my novitiate days with my companions as we had many activities like volley ball games and singing practice. My initial days and years in formation were challenging. I had lots of fears and anxieties within me. With timely spiritual direction from superiors I began to adjust to religious life and its demands.

One of my unforgettable events was my First Vows on December 8, 1959 at the shrine of ‘Our Lady of Divine Grace’ along with my companions. I experienced the inner joy of becoming an SCN Sister.

In the year 1960, there was a meeting held for all missionaries of Kerala origin. Rose Sebastian and I participated in this meeting. It was a golden opportunity to come back to my native place where I grew up. I was given permission to visit my parents for a day for the first time after I left home. My parents’ joy was doubled to see me once again. While sharing with them the joyful memories of my life, my father holding me close to him said, “You wanted to become a missionary, I know. Now I want you to become a saint!” With these precious words of my father, I left the house to spend the night in the nearby convent because we were not allowed to stay overnight at home in those days.

In 1961, the three of us Rose Sebastian, Bridget Kappalumakal and I did our PUC, (pre-university course) from Patna Women’s College. The following year, we were asked to go to Nazareth College, KY for higher studies while staying in the juniorate. While waiting at the airport, we wanted to drink water and we went to the tap, but did not know how to operate it. Then I saw a button attached to the tap and pressed it. Lo and behold, there came cold, refreshing water.

After two and a half years of life and study in the US, we traveled back to India by ship. During the forty-five days on the ship we enjoyed playing cards with the Medical Mission Sisters who were our fellow travelers.

On my return, I worked in the hospital pharmacy until my Final Vows on December 8, 1964. I was overjoyed by the fact that now I was a full-fledged SCN missionary.

The following year, along with Ancilla Kozhipat, SCN, I was asked to go to St. John’s Medical College, Bangalore to study medicine. While I was a medical student, my father passed away on September 11, 1970. It was a sad day for me as I could not be present for his funeral.

After completing my studies I returned to Nazareth Hospital in 1971, my only mission in my entire SCN life. I did my practice as an intern in Obstetrics and Gynaecology under the guidance of the late Dr. B.K. Setty who was extremely good to me. After three years of fruitful service at Nazareth hospital, I was asked to go to England to specialize in Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 1974. I found the studies very difficult and it was hard for me to adjust to the way of life in England. It was my love for God to whom I said ‘yes’ which kept me going at that time. After my return from England, I continued to work at Nazareth Hospital. Our hospital was well known for safe deliveries and for treating infertile couples. I have helped many women to conceive after long years of marriage to lead a happy family life. It was one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. I felt extremely joyful to see God’s mystery unfolding in human life. I must have conducted close to 50,000 deliveries over the 41 years of service at the hospital.

In 1978, I had a spiritual renewal for three months along with a few Sister companions in Bangalore.

Renewal in Bangalore in 1978

My silver jubilee celebration was in 1984 in Mokama, a remarkable experience for me. There was a grand and meaningful liturgy followed by a fantastic dance drama by our Sisters on salvation history at Martinsek Hall in Jyoti Bhavan, Mokama.

My golden jubilee celebration in 2009 was a time of renewal, thanksgiving, and total self-giving once again to my God who has been very faithful to me.

My mother passed away on August 19, 1988. Following her in death were my brothers, Thomas on June 2, 1983, Joseph, on Feb. 19, 2009, Kunjukunju, on June 9, 2011, Devasia on Nov. 22, 2011, and my sister, Rosamma on July 27, 2014. My youngest brother, Appachan and I are the only ones living now.

I felt very sad when the hospital was closed down for in-patients for a short while because of the difficulty in retaining good doctors resulting in low census and problems with the striking employees for better salaries. The hospital administration terminated the services of most of the employees and I was asked to resign as a resident doctor in June 2012. The Obstetrics and Gynae, Operation, Surgical and Paediatric departments were already closed down.  I kept attending to the out-patients till 2014. At present the hospital functions as an out-patient clinic with plenty of patients and a few medical in-patients with our two SCN doctors and a couple of doctors with Ayurveda specialization. I feel bad that many patients now have to go far away for essential treatment.

After a fall in December 2014 and subsequent weakness, I stopped seeing the patients at the out-patient department. In February 2015, I moved to Nazareth Convent as a resident at Shalom, our retirement facility. Now I am in prayer ministry. I attend daily Mass, community prayers and participate in the daily activities of the community. I make sure that I attend all province meetings held in Mokama.

Anne Elizabeth with Cecilia Simick

The most motivating factor that kept me going as a young Sister was my faithfulness and commitment to God who called me to take up Jesus’ healing ministry as my profession. My best contribution to the community was my life itself. I feel that I have been a role model to the young members of the community. I have generously shared my skills, gifts and blessings with all. My only hope and dream for the province is that many more young women may volunteer to commit their life to God in serving the people, especially the poor and the marginalized.

My theme song in life has been, “Yahweh’s love will last forever, God’s faithfulness until the end of time, Yahweh is a faithful God…” The scripture passages which keep me nourished and sustained are:

‘I am the vine; you are the branches … for apart from me you can do nothing’. Jn. 15: 5
‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love’, Jn. 15: 9
‘I have loved you with an everlasting love.’ Jr. 31: 3
‘I have called you by name, you are mine.’ Is. 43:1

My heart overflows with joy as I give thanks to God for all the blessings in my life.

Completed on Oct 26, 2017. Permission received to publish the story on the website.