She was born Anna Muttathupadathu, the fourth child of Cherian Ouseph and Mary Muttathupadathu, in Kudamalloor, near Kottayam in Kerala, on 19 August 1910. She was baptized on the following 26 August. Alphonsamma, as she was locally known, was born in Arpookara, a village in the princely state of Travancore, which was under the British Raj at the time. Today the place is called Kottayam District, within the state of Kerala, India.
Her parents nicknamed her Anna kutty. She had a poor, difficult childhood and experienced loss and suffering early on in life. Anna’s mother died when she was young, so her maternal aunt raised her. Anna was educated by her uncle, Father Joseph Muttathupadathu. When Anna was three years old, she contracted eczema and suffered for over a year.
In 1916 Anna started school in Arpookara. She received her First Communion on 27 November 1917. In 1918, she was transferred to a school in Muttuchira. In 1923, Anna’s feet were burnt when she fell into a pit of burning chaff; local hagiographies describe this as a self-inflicted injury in order to avoid her foster mother’s attempt to arrange a marriage for her, and thereby to fulfill her desire for becoming a Religious Sister instead. This accident left her permanently disabled.
When it became possible, Anna joined the Franciscan Clarist Congregation, a religious congregation of the Third Order of St. Francis, and through them, completed her schooling. On 19 May 1930, Anna entered the novitiate of the congregation at Bharananganam and received the religious habit, taking the religious name of Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception at that time. On 11 August 1931, she completed the novitiate and took her first vows. Sister Alphonsa took her permanent vows on 12 August 1936. Sister Alphonsa then taught high school at St. Alphonsa Girl’s High School, but was often sick and unable to teach. For most of her years as a Clarist Sister she endured serious illness.
In December 1936, it is claimed that she was cured from her ailments through the intervention of the Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara ,but on 14 June 1939 she was struck by a severe attack of pneumonia, which left her weakened. On 18 October 1940, a thief entered her room in the middle of the night. This traumatic event caused her to suffer amnesia and weakened her again.
Her health continued to deteriorate over a period of months. She received extreme unction on 29 September 1941. The next day it is believed that she regained her memory, though not complete health. Her health improved over the next few years, until in July 1945 she developed a stomach problem that caused vomiting. She died on 28 July 1946, aged 35. She is buried at Bharananganam, Travancore in the Diocese of Palai. She is also considered the first Indian saint. Her feast is celebrated on 28th July.
Avish Johnson, Student Representative, ACC