Small but Special!

Epochs are often born in a simple manner, emerging from the lives of ordinary people. These men and women are primal energies, sanctified even before birth. These history-makers are frequently individuals without significant historical backgrounds, lacking any notable roots to boast of. Yet, they are truly the saints of the Universe. The wonder that these men and women inspire in our hearts transcends imagination, deeper than the seas and higher than the mountains. “This indeed is the work of God, a delight for our eyes...” (Psalm 118:23).

Mother ThatipathriGnanamma, a maker of history!

ThatipathriGnanamma, a young widow, founded the Congregation of Sisters of St. Anne - Madras (SSAM) intending to empower women. Gnanamma was born to devout parents in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, South India, in 1822.

In 1837, young Gnanamma was married to Innaiah, the catechist of Phirangipuram. This devout couple was blessed with five sons. Innaiah frequently accompanied the parish priest on his pastoral visits. Sadly, shortly after the birth of their last son, he traveled with his parish priest to Madras, where he fell victim to a cholera attack on the way.

Left alone with five boys to raise, Gnanamma, a 37-year-old widow, placed her complete trust in Divine Providence and nurtured her children with a strong foundation in the Christian faith. Four of her sons pursued religious life, while Peter, the second son, settled into family life.

Freed from all family commitments, Gnanamma initially moved to a village called Eraiyur, which was 40 km from Madras, as she had some relatives there. However, after six months, she decided to settle in Kilacheri, despite not having any relatives there, to avoid traveling 25 km every Sunday to attend Holy Mass.

During her era, education for young girls was an unimaginable dream. Despite her lack of formal education, she recognized the importance of education, particularly for women. Rev.Fr.Arokianathar, the parish priest of Kilacheri, assisted her in thoughtful reflection and encouraged her to proceed with establishing a girls' school in Kilacheri. Gnanamma returned to her native place, Phirangipuram, and liquidated all her assets, investing the proceeds into her school.

On May 3rd, 1863, a girls’ school in Kilacheri became a reality.

Gnanamma’s dedication to the cause of women inspired Arulamma and Agathamma to become hostellers at the school. Both of them resolved to fully devote themselves to the work initiated by Gnanamma. In 1871, they approached Gnanamma, expressing their desire to assist her in her noble endeavors permanently and to do so as nuns. Gnanamma, eager to ensure the continuation of her work, accepted their request.

At that time, Rev.Fr.Arokianathar, who was a great support to Gnanamma, was transferred from Kilacheri to Bellary as a parish priest. He extended an invitation to Gnanamma to send these two young women to be trained at St.Anne’s Novitiate of the Good Shepherd Congregation in Bellary. Following their initial formation, Arulamma and Agathamma assumed the names Sr.Angela and Sr.Philomena, respectively, on October 4, 1874.

Gnanamma’s tireless dedication, chronic asthma, extensive travels, and numerous sacrifices eventually took a toll on her health. She passed away on December 21st, 1874, having received the last sacrament.

Her parting message to her beloved followers

“My beloved Children! Be obedient to those who are responsible for you! Listen to your spiritual guides! Along with academic and religious education for girls, be the protection and solace of women! Learn to live as women for others in your effort to translate the love of God into the love of fellow human beings! Do not be dependent on the Government or others financially! May your hard work be your protection and strength!”