Blessed Mariam Vattalil
Mariam was born on January 29, 1954 in Kerala India as the second of seven children. A year later, on the 5th of February
her baptism was celebrated at the Saint Thomas Church in Kerala, one of seven founded by Saint Thomas' missionary travels in India. She would take her first communion and confirmation in 1966, with a love of catechism lessons. Her cousin Cicily would share in her adoration and love for God, with both entering the Franciscan Clarist Congregation at Kindangoor in 1971 as noviates (She would assume the Christian name Rani Maria, with her cousin choosing Soni Maria).
After several transfers, she received a degree in sociology from Rewa university and settled to Udayanagar. Mariam dedicated herself to the poor and social justice reforms. She would especially help the landless poor who were often treated more as slaves than servants. In town, she organized women into self-help groups and aided the poor in financial planning to help save them from vicious local money lenders.
On February 25, 1995, she woke up early, attended mass and left for the bus stop to catch the train to Kerala India . Although nuns were typically sat in the front as a form of respect, this bus driver asked her to sit in the rear of the bus. She sat contently in the back, next to the three men that would soon kill her. Jeevan Singh and his two body guards had been hired by the very landlords and moneylenders she had been saving the poor from to kill her. One of the men, Samundar Singh asked the bus driver to pull over, and after opening a coconut on the roadside returned to the bus and began to mock Mariam. A few seconds letter, he drew and knife and began to stab her. As he continued to stab, the 41 year old nun continued repeating one word: "Jesus". In total, she would suffer 40 stab wounds and 14 bruises.
Samundar Singh was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. In an act worthy only of God's total grace, Mariam's nun-sister visited him in prison and expressed total forgiveness to him. In the prison, she reached over and tied a rakhi on his arm (originally a Hindu practice, it has been taken in modern times by many religions including Christianity - it symbolizes the obligation of the man to honor and protect the woman with the characteristics of a brother-sister bond). Samundar immediately burst into tears and began expressing his repentance for the murder. In an interview with Asianews in 2010 he would say:
“I was overcome with grief and remorse for killing an innocent nun, who only selflessly worked to uplift the poor people and make our nation progress,"
“I accept full responsibility for my heinous murder of Sister 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,”
“In my own small way, I try to follow her example, helping those who are less fortunate than me, like Tribal Christians and all those who are marginalized,”
At the request of her family and Catholic leaders, Singh was released from prison in 2006 and has continued to be an advocate of inter religious peace in India. Her family has fully pardoned him and treats him as their own son and brother. When he learned of her beatification in 2-17, he was again brought to tears.
Pope Francis officially beatified her on November 4, 2017 in Indore India.