SR. CELESTINE (1905-1996)
Dorothy Agnes Todman was the eldest of eight children. Due to the early death of her mother, she had to be mother to her brothers and sisters from very young. After her high school, she did her teacher-training in Trichy and then became a teacher in Bellary. When her older brothers and sisters’ were settled, she brought her two youngest sisters to Ernakulum, where they were put in the boarding and she became a nun. Hence she was a late vocation. She was given the name Sr. Celestine of the will of God and she made it a point to live up to that name.
For much of her early years she taught in Villupuram. Later she was made superior in Mysore, Villupuram, and Bangalore. When the first convent was opened in North India, at Giridih, she was chosen as the superior. Finally at Ernakulum while she was serving as superior she got a sudden stroke of paralysis and lost the use of her legs. She painfully recovered, but was never back to full normality. Her valiant struggle to go though the physiotherapy and process of recovery was a journey in faith and courage which those who were close to her can vouch for. She never lost her spirit of adventure. Her cheerfulness and her ability to reach out to others in love and service were remarkable.
After her recovery she took charge of the nursery school attached to the Home Science department of the College. She supervised the classes. Herself taught English and was indefatigable in bringing up annual concerts. Parent meetings and other activities. The parents valued her presence, her supervision and care for the children and wanted all their children to study in her nursery school. She taught there from 1965 to 1988.
In the convent, she never wasted a moment. Being an expert needle woman, she helped in making altar linen, and turned out little baby dresses, cushion covers and other articles. In addition she mended clothes for the sisters and could make them good as new. She kept herself up-to –date on the news and was always alert and aware of day-to-day politics and social happenings.
Her spirituality centered on doing the will of God. That was her mission. When she was ill she never complained or got dejected. She made me promise not to hide from her whatever the doctors might diagnose about her condition. I kept my word and told her. She would be silent and then would cheerfully accept whatever was decided. “If God will this for me, I accept it whole-heartedly”’ she would say and with that she would be cheerful and co-operative. When she was ill and in the hospital, the doctors called her , “punialthi Mother” and the nurses called her as “Malaga mother” because of her patience and willingness to co-operate. After her cataract operation she lost her eye due to a dust infection. All she would say is “My eye is waiting for me in Heaven.”
Sr. Celestine was refined to her fingertips, a lady, a committed woman, the spouse of a crucified Christ. A woman of faith. Her last illness was devastating. Due to an operation error she was paralyzed and had to be totally dependent on others. The doctor told me that she could understand everything, but could not respond. How hard must have been those last months? Only God was there for her. She finally slipped away to be with the God whose will she never obeyed with love and cheerfulness.