She loved much; spread joy; faced life
Sr Karuna Maniyattu SSpS

By Fr Joe Mannath SDB

Two men in the slum fought. The bitterness reached such a height, that one of them decided to kill the other. In front of others, in broad daylight, Santosh went at the other with a huge machete. People around shrank back, frightened. The enraged Santosh would have chopped up his enemy, had not a caring woman intervened.

She saw what was happening. She caught Santosh’s hand, telling him, “Don’t! You are not going to kill him. Stop!” The angry man could have turned on her and attacked her with the same knife. Instead, he listened to this caring woman. Then, others stepped in to help.

The next day, Santosh came to meet the woman who had prevented a murder, and fell at her feet. “Sister, I came to thank you. In my anger, I would have killed him. The rest of my life would have been in jail. What would have happened to my family, and to his family?”

The woman I am talking about is Sister Karuna SSpS, who died  on August 22. Recalling this incident, she told me, “Father, God gave me courage. I don’t know how I got the strength to step in and catch Santosh’s arm.”

Karuna: those who knew her felt the name suited her. She was truly a deeply compassionate human being. One of the most helpful people I have met, who reached out and helped, and did it so cheerfully. Her laughter lit up our CRI House in Delhi. I crack jokes a lot, and Karuna would have the heartiest laughter. Whenever I needed to get something, e.g., a SIM card, Karuna would come with me to the shop. All the shopkeepers knew her, and would greet her, smiling, “Sister!” She knew especially the
“little people” nearby—the small shopkeepers, the tailor on the street, the families with problems, the sick people in the neighbourhood.

I have heard how, on one of her transfers, people at the railway station wondered who this woman was, since hundreds of people, especially women from the slums, came to see her off, many of them in tears.

We were lucky to have a committed visionary to head the newly formed wing of our national CRI, called CRISEC (S-E-C standing for socio-economic concerns). Karuna was no arm-chair leader, but someone very close to the people who suffered. Thus, after the Kandhammal atrocities against Christians, she went there personally, living among the people, dressed like them.

It looks as if God prepared Karuna for her final journey. Her father, to whom she was very attached, passed away two months ago  (his funeral was exactly two months before hers). After returning to Delhi, she went to Patna for her annual retreat. She told me: “I want to spend time with God and with my father.” She came back to Delhi happy and relaxed, strengthened by her retreat experience. When she travelled to Mumbai on August 7th to take part in a meeting organized by Streevani, no one ever imagined that would be her last earthly journey. Except for a cold and slight cough, Karuna was her usual self—cheerful, full of life, enthusiastic.

Karuna is a fine example of how to combine a larger vision and ideal—justice, service of the poor, commitment to religious goals—with tender, cheerful attention to the individual human beings around her. It is so easy to talk of big things and forget to care for the concrete persons around us, or to get lost in activity and lose the vision and the love that energizes.

Karuna’s favourite Bible passage was Micah 6:8:  “This is what Jahweh asks of you—that your act justly, that you love tenderly, that you walk humbly with your God.”

A happy religious, a woman of faith, ready to forgive and start again, eager to be of service. We at CRI will miss her radiant presence, her sisterly concern for each of us, her common sense and humour , her heartfelt religious convictions, her prayerful spirit. Our neighbours and visitors will miss her loving touch and cheer. How much more she will be missed by her religious congregation and by those for whom and with whom she worked for a much longer time!

Thank you, God, for the gift of Karuna to us and to the world for fifty-one years!

Thank you, Karuna, for your loving, radiant witness. We need many more human beings like you. We need more religious of your caliber, conviction and joy. You stood up for justice, you loved tenderly, you walked humbly and joyfully with your God.



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