Maria Palathingal, SCN, 80, died on July 15, 2023, at Nazareth Convent, Mokama, in the presence of many Sisters and caregivers. She was professed Sister of Charity of Nazareth for 55 years.
Sister Maria Palathingal was born in Kodunga, Thrissur District, Kerala, on May 26, 1943, to Mr. Ouseph and Annakutty Palathingal. Maria was the third of eight children, three boys and five girls. Being born in a middle-class devout family, Sister Maria grew up in a simple, hardworking and prayerful family atmosphere that helped her to learn many of the values, such as prayer, honesty, integrity, care of the poor, hard work, sharing, love for reading, etc.
After completing the 10th class, Sister Maria stayed one year at home waiting for her friend to finish her studies since both of them wanted to become missionaries. The Rev. Father Philip Poovattil, SJ, of Patna Jesuit Province, helped her to choose the SCN Congregation.
In May 1961, Sister Maria traveled with the Sisters along with Mary Thomas (Sister Lucia Thuluvanickel) to Bihar to become a missionary. The next year, Maria was assigned to study General Nursing at Nazareth Hospital, Mokama.
After the completion of her studies on Dec. 27, 1965, she began the pre-novitiate along with her companions Lucia, Rosemarie, Karuna, Joel and Teresa Xavier. She made her First Profession on July 19, 1968, and her Final Profession on July 2, 1972. Her first mission was at Nazareth Hospital, Mokama. She worked as the Clinical Instructor in the Nursing School from 1969-1972.
Maria served the Congregation in various capacities in different mission stations. From 1972-1974, she was at the Community Health Centre in Sokho. From 1975-1977 Maria was appointed as the Director of Candidates. She moved on to complete her Post B.Sc. Nursing at CMC, Vellore, in 1979. She excelled in her studies, and she was awarded a gold medal from Madras University.
Maria served for a year as the Assistant Director of the School of Nursing at Nazareth Hospital Mokama in 1980. She continued as the Director of the School of Nursing until her appointment to Sangsay mission in 1987.
Sangsay was one of her cherished missions, working with the simple people and extending the health services to the people living in the remote foothills of the Himalayas. From Sangsay, she moved on to Dharan in Nepal to expand the community health services from 1996-2003.
From 2004-2008 she served in the Nursing School of the Kurji Holy Family Hospital, Patna, as Tutor. She was missioned in Community Health Centre, Gumla, from 2009-2011. Due to health issues, she returned to Mokama in 2012 and took up the ministry as the Province Archivist.
During her time in Mokama, Maria wrote the history of Health Ministry from 1947-2010 in the Eastern Province. It was a sacred and enduring task. In August 2018, Maria joined the Shalom community, Mokama, spending her time in prayer until her death.
Sister Maria learned much from Father Daniel Thomas Rice, SJ, fondly known as Father Dan, on how to love and serve the poor in need. She was inspired by his missionary spirit. Though several deaths took place in Sokho during the outbreak of smallpox, Maria reached out to the people, fearlessly assisting them with the needed medical care. The hardship and challenges in the early days in Sokho made her more courageous and a dedicated missionary.
Teaching was one of her passions, and she enjoyed teaching subjects like Nursing Education, Geriatric Nursing and Sociology. Whenever possible, she spent extra time with her weak students. As a very intelligent person and an ardent reader, Maria had a passion for learning new things. She was up to date with current church, local and world events.
Sister Maria lived a simple life. Maria was person-oriented and she loved the poor. She gave special care for the needy wherever she worked. She was ever grateful to God for giving her an opportunity to live with our American pioneer Sisters. She imbibed from them the spirit of Catherine Spalding, our guiding light.
Maria said in her personal profile: “Weaving the loose threads of my life is a challenge now as I revitalize my commitment to God and community. I also feel that I can be an example the younger ones by being faithful to my prayer life, my ministry and life in community. Religious life has been a blessing for me. The little of me that I have given freely, God, in turn, has blessed me abundantly through my community”.
She is survived by her siblings, Antony Palathingal and Sosa Jacob, nieces and nephews and her religious community. We are grateful to the Palathingal family for giving Sister Maria to the SCN family.