On 13 May 1914 Rev. Dr. John Menachery, Bishop of Trichur, visited ‘Ekánthabhavan, the House of Solitude for Thresia. Mariam Thresia with her three companions had been living together now for about nine months. At the end of his canonical visit, he was convinced that ékánthabhavan was more like a convent or monastery.
He had long been cynical of Mariam Thresia’s visions and other extraordinary experiences. But her spirit of renunciation, absolute freedom from vanity and show, her virtues of humility and obedience, her service for the poor and the visible fruits of the family apostolate, all these made the Bishop realize the unique call for Thresia.
Inspired by the Spirit of God, he suggested to convert the prayer house into a convent and name it after the “Holy Family of Nazarath’. Commenting on this a biographer of St. Mariam Thresia writes “God was guiding both Thresia and the Ordinary of the diocese through the trials which had extended over a period of twelve years. The divine master who purified Thresia by melting her in the furnace of pain had guided the Bishop to watch and test her on all human standers before accepting her obligations”.
The parishioners of Puthenchira wanted Mariam Thresia, always as a mother to Puthenchira. Threfore they received the news with great joy: they were going to have a convent in their parish.
On 14 May 1914, in the presence of Father Joseph Vithayathil and many other priests and a vast assembly of Christian faithful gathered in the parish church of Puthenchira, he announced the establishment of the Congregation of the Holy Family. On that day Mariam Thresia received the habit of the new congregation, and pronounced the perpetual vows. The Bishop sanctioned her name Mariam Thresia, her three companions also received veil on the same day. The bishop appointed Sr. Mariam Thresia as the Mother superior of the Congregation and Fr. Joseph Vithayathil as its chaplain.
St. Mariam Thresia said that “ during her profession and religious vows,the Holy Family Jesus, Mary and Joseph appeared to her and carried on a spiritual conversation with her for the whole day.” The Bishop himself got the Constitutions of the Holy Family Sisters of Jafna, Ceylon ( present-day Sri Lanka). Mother Mariam Thresia and the three postulants followed the new Constitutions very faithfully as prescribed and approved by the Rev. Bishop.
As the community had no assets, the superior had to find ways and means of maintaining it, starting with food for all. She begged for alms from people to meet the various needs. When food was very scarce and no help came from the people, she would pray hard to God and God saw to the need. St. Joseph would bring and leave the needed money sometimes in her box, sometimes under the mat on which she slept, and sometimes in her hand.
On 1 August 1978, the Congregation of the Holy Family was raised to the status of an institute of Pontifical law. The Charism and the Vision of the Foundress, St. Mariam Thresia are the core and well-spring of the identity of the Congregation of the Holy Family. Its motto as “thy will be done” permeates all boarders to establish the divine will at all time.
Today (2020) there are over two thousand sisters working in four Continents. There are 9 provinces, 2 vice-provinces; in it the 234 houses are in India and 14 in abroad. The Holy Family Sisters are engaged in different family oriented services.
The infused Charism of ‘Compassionate love of God’ revealed through St. Mariam Thresia is passed down to its members as to accomplish the will of God from the time of its foundation; acting in harmony and reading the signs of time and space. God allowed St. Mariam Thresia to tread an untrodden path pioneering the unique mission in the Church as ‘Family Apostolate’ for families. Today wherever Chf (Congregation of the Holy Family) sisters are at work they continue to assist the families to inculcate Christ’s values and live in the Trinitarian Communion.
Sr. Udaya Kallukaran Chf