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SR. ANGEL MARY (1917-1992)

Sr. Angel Mary was the eldest daughter of a very distinguished Anglo-Indian family of Fort Cochin.  Her father was an officer in a British stevedore company and was much respected for his service and his integrity.  They were among the first to own a chauffeur-driven car in the town! Mother De Pazzi’s mother told us that they used to stand respectfully aside, as the family drove past in their limousine!  It seems the children had a ‘baby ayah’ and when she grew up, Sr. Angel Mary’s clothes which were given to her were custom-made from White ways, Bombay (A British tailoring concern)! She used to go to St. Teresa’s college, across the backwaters, in the Company boat.  So you see, our Angel Mary was from a very illustrious background indeed! For all her elitist up-bringing, Angie (that was her pet name in the convent) was a simple, spontaneous, fun loving person.  She never boasted of her family background, but on many occasions we saw her breeding, in her behavior.  She was a person of dignity, polite and considerate and a woman of integrity.  She remained that to the end.

Her admiration for Sr. Marie Therese and Sr. Antoinette led her to join the convent.  She was naturally an English professor like then sisters she admired.  She was the Headmistress in Christ the King Convent, Mysore.  When the first convent was opened in the North, in Giridih, she was appointed Headmistress.  She was later called back to go for post-graduate studies to the USA.  She went with Srs. Heliodara and Bertille, but once there, they went to different colleges.  She returned full of Seaton Hall, her college, and an American accent which was used on occasion for the edification of her hearers!  When we laughed at her accent, she swore that it was her British accent acquitted from St. Mary’s Fort Cochin.  Normally she relapsed into the common Cochin Anglo-Indian mode of speech.

She was hardly back from the States, then she was called back to teach in our convent school in Hazlet, New Jersey, along with Srs. Yvonne Marie, Rosarita and Assumpta. She was not able to adjust to teaching and living in the US, so she was recalled and joined the staff of St. Teresa’s Ernakulum.  She was a good teacher and the students loved her but when they wanted to have fun, they had only to ask her a question about her stay in the U.S. and she would wax eloquent till the bell rang! Here she was Sr. Marie Therese’s devout follower, but many were the snubs she got!

Then came our time together in the New Hostel(Now called Anugraha) Sr. Angel Mary was made the warden and Srs. Florence, Immaculate and I were her assistants.  That was wonderful time!  We would have fun and we would quarrel and make up and it was real community.  I particularly recall that Angel and I once had a prolonged misunderstanding.  One day, after lunch, we had a real dialogue over it .  Point by point, our several hurts were brought up and cleared. It took all of two and a half hours.  But from then, till she died, we were good friends.  That was my first experience of dialogue and thanks God and Angie for it.

Angie was stickler for the Rule and she was prayerful, but sleeping in chapel was not uncommon.  Once when she woke up, she found me dozing and I got a resounding whack on my arm, “Don’t sleep in chapel” How can you sleep in chapel after that! We had two Muslim girls in the hostel.  One of them lost her father.  Her name was Subaida Begum.  That evening at prayer, Angel prays for “the repose of the soul of Aisha Baby’s father” .Aisha Begum was the other Muslim girl! Incidents like this would send us into giggles and we would get admonished for “laughing in chapel’ When Florence came home with market gossip, she would sit disapprovingly at the dining table and say, “Hm, market gossip”! When she put on such a posture, we called her One a.m. When she disapproved of something she would pull her veil over her face in a body language of protest.  But with all that, she was an open book, simple, guileless and warmly loving.

She was transferred to Bangalore to take Sr. Antoinette’s place, as Principal of Mt. Carmel College.  That meant she would work under Sister’s guidance.  Didn’t she love that! That was the golden feather in her cap and many were the times she would remark about her stint as Principal, “When I was Principal….” She was elected to the General Chapter and was my partner on the commission for Government.  She was more a nuisance than a help, but that does not matter when we are sisters.

After her retirement, she returned to St. Teresa’s Convent Ernakulam.  She decided to write a biography of Sr. Antoinette, but nothing came of it.  As she grew older she developed paranoid traits, but not serious enough to disrupt the community.  She was prayerful and diligent in community practices and in between, she would walk up and down the corridors with her hands behind her back, doing nothing.  She was cheerful and active, only getting aggressive at election time.  At these times she expected to get elected and as each post got filled up, she got more and more frustrated.  She would grumble darkly that people were against her, otherwise she would have been elected! Once the whole assembly was over, she became normal again and was her old loving self.

Though she was affected with the usual ailments of old age, she kept declaring that she would not live long and sure enough one day as she was walking around, she feel down.  She had to be rushed to the hospital as she had a heart attack.  Within a few days she left us for Heaven.  Angel was indeed a simple, guileless, lovable person.  I feel honored to have known her and lived with her.

Thursday, October 4, 2018