SR. PHILOMENA (1897-1975)
If awareness is the key to spirituality, Sr. Philomena had certainly open its doors and entered in very early in life. Her whole life radiated the image that our congregation is an apostolic institute founded on our readiness to listen to God, to discern His will and to fulfill it in our personal lives and in our ministry. She strove to remain in the Presence of God in faith, being sure that no matter where we are, and what we are doing, we and the people around us need mutual support and affirmation.
The four pillars on which Sr. Philomena built the edifice of her spiritual and community life were prayer, simplicity of life style, readiness to obey the will of God manifested through any lawful instrument, and joy. She believed strongly that she could not be a true disciple of Christ, unless she was like Him at least in these four areas. Therefore she possessed nothing that was not really necessary for her, surrendered in peace to the demands of obedience, did her best to share the joy brimming over in her soul with those who touched her and those she touched. Over all these she put on the warm robe of communion with God in constant prayer. Like St. Teresa, she understood that genuine spiritual growth takes place hand in hand with growth in the knowledge of self and in loving forbearance.
She was a talented teacher and was very much interested in demonstrating to inexperienced teachers the techniques of creating interest in the children and the practical details of teacher – pupil relationship. Besides being a full – time teacher, she was also in charge of disbursing salaries to the staff and of all correspondence with the education department and with the government. During a period of severe disagreement between the government and the management of private schools, when the former withheld all financial help to schools, she would always pay, from the money available, the lay teachers first, saying, “They are family people. They need the money more urgently than we do.” Though this policy landed her in trouble, she would not give it up or compromise her philosophy.
My own experience of her was when I was studying in Delhi. She had come to Ernakulam in March when I had just returned for my vacation. After chatting with me about my experiences in Delhi, she asked me when I would be returning. I told her, ”On the 17th July” After that I did not meet her nor did I write or have any contact, but when my train chugged into the Trichur station, there was Sr. Philomena with a younger companion, with a jug of tea and Tiffin for me ! When I asked her,”Sister, how did you know?” she replied most calmly, “You told me that day.” Even now my eyes fill with tears at the memory.
She died on the 14th June, 1975. Surely she has found favour with God and she will be enjoying His eternal Peace .May we older sisters learn these virtues from those who have gone before us. They have left us a precious legacy.