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Biography of Our Foundress

Grace D'Lima, the future Foundress of the Institute of Carmelite Sisters of St. Teresa was born on January 29, 1858 to Peter and Mary D'Lima, devout Catholics, at George Town, Chennai. She was christened Mary Grace. When quite young, Mary Grace had the misfortune of losing her Mother, but in her father she found the love of both father and mother. Wanting to give her the best of life, Peter D'Lima sent his daughter to the Presentation Sisters at MacLean Street, George Town, where she had her early education. Grace was fortunate to receive her fine education and excellent training that would prepare her for the future mission the Lord had destined for her. On completing her studies she joined the staff of St. Xavier's free school, where her father was the headmaster.
While she was teaching there a request to Fr. Murphy, Parish Priest for a qualified teacher to be in charge of the newly started St. Joseph's English school for Girls at Alleppey came from Fr. Alphonsus, the noted Carmelite missionary from Alleppey. On the advice of Fr. Murphy, Grace with her father's consent left the warmth of her family environment and arrived at Alleppey, Kerala. She was then 21 years of age. That turned out to be a milestone in her life. The young Head Mistress soon won the hearts of her students and their parents alike by her affability, efficiency and charming personality. Under her the school began to make rapid progress.
Working under the guidance of the Carmelite missionaries, young Grace felt the inner call to be a religious and joined the Carmelite order. Fr. Candidus OCD received her as a Postulant in May 1882. In the year 1883, on April 29th, Grace was clothed in the Habit of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, taking the name, Sr. Teresa of St. Rose of Lima. Sr. Teresa received religious formation under the zealous Carmelite missionaries of the reform. Hence she was rooted in the spirit of contemplative union with God and virtues like self sacrifice, zeal for the glory of God and true charity. After two years of noviceship she made her religious profession as a Carmelite Tertiary on 25th May 1885. After her Profession she dedicated herself to her mission with greater ardour.
In 1886 the new developments in the Church in India saw Verapoly raised to an Archdiocese, and Cochin which was then under Verapoly was revived and reconstituted as a Diocese with Alleppey as part of it. As per the new developments, St. Joseph's School for girls of which Sr. Teresa was the Headmistress was to be handed over to the Canossians from Italy.
Discerning God's hand in the developments, Dr. Leonard Mellano, Archbishop of Verapoly asked Sr. Teresa to come over to Ernakulam and start an English school for girls and also found a convent for religious sisters. Charged with the double mission, Sr. Teresa left Alleppey, its well-developed school and congenial and secure atmosphere and readily came to the new field assigned to her. She was then 29 years of age and had just completed two years of Religious Profession.
The Congregation was thus founded at Ernakulam on April 24, 1887. Soon other young ladies beginning with one of her step sisters joined her, and a regular religious community was formed with Mother Teresa of St. Rose of Lima as Superior. This was the beginning not only of a convent but of a religious Congregation, now known as the Institute of Carmelite Sisters of St. Teresa.
Sr. Teresa responded in a prophetic way to the demands of the Gospel and the Church in a period of great socio-political and religious ferment in India. She worked steadily to integrate humanity by humanizing those sections of society, marginalized by casteism and economic poverty. Impelled by the strength of her prayer life and deep God experience she took risks to build the kingdom through education and social apostolate, keeping alive a deep faith vision.
In Ernakulam she devoted her excellent qualities of head and heart to fulfilling the mission she was entrusted with. Not satisfied with just accomplishing the task entrusted to her, in just fifteen years time she not only founded a community of fervent Carmelite Religious, but fighting against heavy odds, started three schools - English medium, Malayalam medium and an Anglo - vernacular school and an industrial school. She also cared for destitute and abandoned children in the orphanage. In the case of her orphans, she took care of them herself especially in time of illness. She sheltered fallen women and initiated a well planned programme to rehabilitate them, thus enabling them to start life anew with respectability. Many aged and invalid - men and women of diverse castes and creeds found a cure for their most miserable malady, viz. the horrible sense of being unwanted, in the shelter of her Home for the Elderly. To secure medical care for those poor destitutes she started a dispensary, securing the services of a qualified doctor. During the 1897 famine in the State, notwithstanding their already crowded daily programme, Mother Teresa with her small community of sisters, wholeheartedly collaborated with the Government in its famine relief programme by undertaking the work of feeding the poor of Ernakulam. Even the criminals in prison were not excluded from her love. Eagerly, she seized the opportunity to bring them the joy and blessing of God by securing the necessary sanction and getting Holy Mass said in the sub jail. She got people of the town involved in her work for the poor. Thus did she fulfil her duty to her fellow humans, actively sharing in the joys and sorrows, fears and anxieties of those in whose midst God's saving love placed her.
Trust in the providence of God is the hallmark of Mother Teresa's spirituality. Her unwavering faith in a God who cares helped her to venture into the unknown seeking new horizons. She was cradled in faith; her experience in life taught her to trust God implicitly, like a child. "I am enveloped in black clouds," she wrote, "but above all, I see the silver lining of God's Providence." (Letter, September 6, 1897) It is this deep trust that opened her to the magic of the unknown, that domain of power and possibilities. She proved to all of us that the paths of those who walk in faith are strewn with miracles, miracles of daily life.
She worked relentlessly and perseveringly for the spread of the kingdom. "Pray dear father," she writes, that I may persevere to the end, that no amount of persecution may turn me away from my heaven inspired purpose" (Letter, September 28,1900). Her resilience in life was remarkable. She would easily bounce back to normal life after every crushing experience. In her letter of February 22 , 1898 she writes, "when someone suspects my motives ... it crushes me, but with God's holy and fatherly care, I am up again and ready for battle." She had many a nightmare, but she over came these with her daring dreams for the people of God.
For one who lives in surrender, life is a celebration. Mother Teresa's life was one of constant surrender. "We are here only to do the will of God," (Lr. 4/3/1896) "I submit unconditionally to God's holy will," (Letter March, 12, 1898) "May God's holy will be done, through prayer and patience we will gain all," (Letter March 4, 1896) were some of her favourite expressions.
Teresa broke down many of the human barriers of the time. Irrespective of caste or religion all were welcomed to St. Teresa's convent. Her educational apostolate and welfare services were indicative of this. Her contribution to the field of education was legendry. "Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire", said W. B. Yeats. Mother Teresa's services aimed at lighting this fire in the students. She gave them a reason to live, to learn, to discover, and to be free. She was able to honour and unlock the potentials she found in herself and others.
Within her short span of life she had generously spread the vast sheet of her life and activities to accommodate and empower as many children, women and men as possible. She had to roll it up at the age of 44 when her master beckoned her to return home. By then she had accomplished a great deal.
Her end came unexpectedly. On September 12, 1902 when she and her younger sister were travelling to Madras, a sudden and violent storm burst. The train was going at a normal speed. About 3 a.m. it arrived at the bridge of Mangapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. This bridge had been washed away by the rushing waters. All of a sudden, all the carriages except the last one fell pell -mell in to the swirling waters. All the passengers of the wrecked carriages perished. The body of Mother Teresa was found 5 miles away from the bridge and that of her Sr. Josephine under the wagon. They must have struggled with all their might in the water but unable to help themselves they must have just helplessly gone down into the watery grave.
Scene of the accident at Mangapattanam (03:00 a.m. September 12, 1902) Posted by Someone
Accident at Mangapattanam
Imagine the scene at the convent on receiving this dreadful news! It was unspeakable disaster. Sisters, orphans, boarders plunged in grief with no one to console them. How could they carry on without the Foundress? She was the heart and soul of their Institute. Broken hearted they clung to one another for comfort and strength, but Mother Teresa had taught them by word and example to accept the Will of God, however painful.
The first community of sisters, though grieved by the sudden death of Mother Teresa in 1902, continued their life of prayer and apostolic work. Thus the mission and ministry of the Carmelite Sisters goes on...

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