The missionary call of Sr Rani Maria was a fervent response to the Divine Call. We saw that from her childhood she kept a sense of missionary zeal in her soft corner. Her missionary spirit fully developed during her novitiate. She came to know more about the missionary zeal of St Francis during this time. Moreover, her novice mistress Sr Infant Mary was also the Provincial Councilor for the mission at that time. She used to tell her novices of the urgency of spreading the Good News among the millions of illiterate and ignorant people of North India. The missionary sisters, when they came on vacation, also described their mission experiences with great enthusiasm to the novices. This increased the fire of zeal burning within the heart of novice Mary. The spirit of the Francis of Assisi increased her zeal and she was wont to repeat, I too want to go to North India, to serve the poor and die for them.
Her missionary life became a joyful event radiating peace and joy to all - both within and outside community. Her cheerfulness was not in the absence of conflicts, trials and tribulations but in her ability to cope with adversity. Indeed she was a smiling missionary among the poor of Bijnor. Commenting on her attractive smile, Sr. Pavana said: “Sister was pleasant even when she had to face many difficulties and problems. There is no exaggeration in calling sister «the apostle of the smile»”.She was a self-accepted, content and cheerful giver.
“The characteristic of every authentic missionary life is the inner joy that comes from faith”. This is quite true in the life of Sr. Rani Maria whose missionary life vibrated with joy. She could radiate interior joy and happiness that came from her deep faith. She was a sower of joy in the midst of a people of sorrows. Ordinary villagers recognised the authenticity of her life and testified: “She had God’s power in her. She used to work joyfully, not with an unhappy attitude”. The famous quote of St. Irenaeus ‘the glory of God is man fully alive’ was quite true in the life of Rani Maria. She was dynamic and energetic in body, mind and spirit. Mr. Joshy Kurisinkal testified that she was a joyful giver: “It is to be noted that she was always happy”. She was full of life and gave life and joy to people. Her joyful nature was the mirror of her interior freedom.
Those who interacted closely with her understood that she was a well-balanced and unique person. “She possessed the maturity of a leader, prudence of the wise, zeal of the dedicated, skilfulness of a missionary and serenity of a virgin”. Various titles attributed to her during her life and after martyrdom - ‘Bijnor Rani’, ‘Indore Rani’, ‘Mother of the Poor’, an Apostle of the Smile, ‘Messiah of the poor’ etc., - reveal the distinctiveness of her personality.
Rani Maria had a joyful and attractive personality. Her Franciscan simplicity and cheerfulness captured the hearts and minds of many with whom she associated in different ways. Sr. Gladys, the postulant mistress remarked: “A smiling face and hearty laugh when jokes were cracked were the special characteristics of Marykunju”. Her co-sisters, the priest in-charge and the local people of three mission dioceses applauded her cheerful nature as something unique.
A Woman of Courage
All the witnesses without exception commend her strong and courageous personality. Though we have seen in detail her heroic exercise of the cardinal virtue of fortitude, we focus here on her personality adorned with courage.
She was a liberated woman allowing herself to be led by the Spirit of God (cf. Rom 8:14-15). She was not a slave to her own passions and desires for recognition or position. Nor was she enslaved by the criticism of others. She had the prophetic courage to be moved by the Holy Spirit and to give herself fully to God and others. She was sincere and straightforward without any vestige of false dualism. Trust in divine power strengthened her to overcome the human desire for safety and security, or the natural fear of persecution and death in the midst of troubles and turmoil. This is obvious from her own words, which she shared with her spiritual companion a few days before her death:
I am not depressed or discouraged by the words of others. There is a power within which moves me forward courageously in the midst of opposition, failure, troubles and difficulties. It is nothing else but the power of the Spirit of God. I have the strong conviction that I am chosen for the poor and oppressed. … I am happy to work for them because they are also God’s children, our brothers and sisters.
The missionary life of Rani Maria was a Christo-centric life - a life wedded to the Word of God, a love centred on the Eucharistic Lord. She followed Jesus in the Gospel and she witnessed Him in her life. She turned herself to the voice of the Holy Spirit. She lived a life accompanied with Mother Mary.