Four nuns killed in Indian car accident

The Church in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu is in shock after the road accident deaths of four Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary whose car collided with a truck on Friday.

UCA News reports that the sisters died near Tiruchirappalli, an ancient city in Tamil Nadu, 2,400 kilometres south of New Delhi.

Srs Alphonse Fathima, 54, Amali Shantha, 54, Chriysologa Mary, 65, and Fideline Mary, 67, were on their way to Tiruchirappalli in a taxi to attend the funeral of the father of a bank manager they knew.

According to police reports, the driver dozed off while driving in the early morning and lost control of the car, which collided with a truck coming from the opposite direction. The nuns and the driver died on the spot.

"We are deeply shocked," Sr Celine Mary, one of the provincial superiors of the congregation, told UCA News. She added that the congregation lost some senior leaders in the tragedy. Sr Shantha was the procurator general, and Sr Fathima was superior of the house that serves as the nuns' headquarters.

"We have accepted this loss as the will of God during the Lenten season," Sr Celine added.

Fr Vincent Chinnadurai, chairperson of the state's Minority Commission, described the accident as "shocking" and "a tragedy." He says the nuns could have avoided travelling at night.

Parish Foreign Mission Fr Louis Savinien Dupuis founded the congregation with three nuns in 1844 to combat illiteracy among women. Presently, the congregation has 1,044 members in 195 houses spread across Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal states.

Besides 125 educational institutions, the nuns manage health care, community development and faith propagation centres.

They also work in Papua New Guinea and Syria, as well as in North and South America, Africa and Europe.

Three bishops and more than 1,000 people attended their funeral the following day at Immaculate Conception Church in Pondicherry, a former French enclave on the southeastern Indian coast where the congregation is based.

Tamil Nadu Church Shocked As Car Accident Kills Four Nuns (UCA News, 19/3/07)

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20 Mar 2007

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