March 2008: SISTER ROSILY MENACHERY
As God said to Abraham, “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you,” so too has Sister Rosily Menachery followed God throughout her life. Most significantly, last month she transferred her membership as a Hospital Sister of St. Francis into our American Province from the Indian Region.
A world away from America
Born on March 2, 1959 in Meladoor, (Kerala) India, she is the fifth of six children in her family. In some ways, growing up was much different from what we know in America. For example, instead of having a store-purchased toy to play with, she and her friends took coconut leaves, bound them together to make a ball, and had hours of fun.
The pathway to a life of service
From her earliest childhood memory, Sister Rosily knew that she wanted to be a Sister but had no idea what it meant. “When I finished 10th grade I was ready to join any Order and knew Sister Jane Frances, my neighbor, who was a member of the Salesian Sisters of Mary Immaculate and was working in north India. I talked with her and she told me to get more education after which I took typing and shorthand classes,” Sister Rosily explained.
In 1979 as Sister Rosily completed these classes, Sister Jane Frances said that she knew of a place if she was still interested in religious life. She knew Sister M. Vulmara Hannõver and Sister M. Gerburg Aufderheide, Hospital Sisters from Münster, Germany, who had been caring for the poor in the diocese of Raipur, India since 1973. A few weeks later, Sister Rosily received a letter from the Sisters inviting her to visit. Thrilled with the message, Sister Rosily shared the news with her parish priest who requested she meet with her bishop and get a letter of recommendation. Ironically, the bishop’s secretary wanted to know the Community’s name that she was considering, but Sister Rosily only knew the name of Sister Jane Frances’ Community. Therefore, the form was filed by the Diocese as if she was expressing an interest in the Salesian Sisters.
Because Sister Rosily’s parents would not let her travel alone, Sister Gerburg sent a priest, Father Francis M. Britto, from north India to south India to accompany Sister Rosily and Sister Lucy, another girl interested in Religious Life, to Anjali Nikethan, Pithora. “We traveled three days by train and when we arrived, Sister Gerburg was so happy to meet us at the train station. Fortunately, we had Father Francis to interpret because we didn’t speak German or English,” Sister Rosily explained. They then traveled three hours by car to and “When we arrived, I was shocked. I had expected to meet a group of Sisters but instead, we met nine orphans (age six months to five years). I then realized that Sister Gerburg did not have other Sisters with her since Sister M. Vulmara had to leave the country. She was working here by herself! My immediate reaction was that this was not for me,” Sister Rosily explained. However, she decided to trust in God. She didn’t turn back.
(Note: Though the general administration of the Hospital Sisters tried to send more Sisters to India they could not succeed, as the country would not give the entry visa. Off and on Sisters came on tourist visas to give shape to this new venture.)
Sister Rosily and Sister Lucy stayed and soon after other young Indian girls came because of their interest in Religious Life. Sister M. Hedwig, (Werburg) a Hospital Sister from Germany who came to Pithora in 1980, was given the responsibilities of the Formation Program for these young girls.
Service in the Indian Region of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis
Sister Rosily formally entered the Indian Region in 1979, and her ministry included one term as the Regional Superior from 1998-2001. In addition to her work in orphanage, she also served as the Community’s Secretary and Treasurer. “I always have prayed for guidance in my life and knew that God had a plan for me. Even during the difficult times, I had faith and hope. Sister Rosily yearned for more in her life, and because of India’s ruling that women over age 25 can not return to college, she seriously thought about what she might do.
Following God's calling to America
Sister Rosily came to the United States in 2001 to pursue formal education in addition to continuing her religious ministry and vocation. She earned an associate’s degree from Lincoln Land Community College, Springfield, and a bachelor’s degree in theology and philosophy from Quincy University, Quincy, IL.
Thousands of miles away from her home in India, she now is a member of the American Province and resides in Belleville, IL where she volunteers in the pastoral care department at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital.
Her message is something everyone can relate to: trust in God and have faith. “God is always working miracles so believe in Him. He will give you strength and courage. I am proof of that,” she concluded.