Sr. Raphaela was born of Mr. Thomas and Mrs. Mariamma Malieckal , at Palai, Kerala, on 3rd July 1937 as the 8th child among 9 siblings, a family rooted in Christian faith. From her young age Sr. Raphaela developed a missionary zeal to serve the poor and needy in an unknown land. She had untold struggles in convincing her family which at all cost wanted her to join only a local congregation. Fortunately, her cousin Priest intervened and convinced the family. On February 18, 1959, she joined a group of six other girls recruited by Rev. Fr. Joseph Maliparambil who accompanied them to St Anthony’s Convent, Paharganj. New Delhi.
After a long and tiresome journey they reached Delhi on February 22, 1959 and were received warmly by Mother Benigna Gastaldon and the sisters. After few days she was sent to Our Lady of Fathima Convent, Gurgram under the guidance of Sr. Concetta Tanzarelli. She spent her days learning English and Hindi and taking care of the little ones in the school and doing some house hold chores.
She entered the Novitiate at St. Mary’s Convent, Clement town in February 1960 under the care of Sr. Victoria Sale. During the Canonical Year, the most painful event of her life took place, i.e., the sudden death of her mother who could not fulfill the desire of seeing her daughter dressed in the religious garb. After the Novitiate year she was back to Gurugram and then for two years at the newly opened community of St. Anthony’s Convent, Hauzkhas, New Delhi. She was appointed as the Animator of Our Lady of Fatima community from 1974-1977, where she was closely involved in Pastoral and parish activities. Later she was transferred to Nirmala Convent, Bulandshahr, U.P., as its animator. After the school hours, the sisters used to regularly visit a nearby leper colony and the marginalized in the locality praying, singing devotional songs, sharing God’s Word, and partaking in their daily struggles. The District Magistrate – much pleased with their activities, sent them some blankets for the lepers.
Sister Raphaela was able to motivate the owner of the “Life Buoy” soap factory to send some bathing soaps for the lepers. Sister had a range of fulfilling mission experience not only at Bulandshahr, but also at the challenging tribal mission at Clara Kangthir, Dolomara in the North East, at the Old Age Home in Jhansi, and at the newly opened community of Yesu Bhawan at Bhaiya – a rural village in the heart of Jharkhand, with no literacy, or job opportunity other than the seasonal farming. It was indeed a tedious task going around the villages, asking people to send their children to school. Our educational and pastoral activities bore fruits for the Kingdom, even providing three vocations to our Congregation. As the animator of Yesu Bhawan, Sr Raphaela lent a helping hand to St .Mary’s School Getal Sud for two years at its initial stage. Next she was transferred to Pushpagiri Convent, Panamaram in Kerala, where she cared for poor children and travelled the length and breadth of Kerala for Vocation Promotion.
She was then relocated to Shanti Niwas, Jagdishpur in Bihar for eight years 2003-2011 as incharge of the Social Work Program teaching the women folk to earn their livelihood. She also extended her help to Maria Niketan, Durgawati opened in 2004. (name of the community)
Being in charge of Vocation promotion in Jharkhand, Bihar and Orissa, she attended vocation camps and recruited many girls. There were incidence of many a long and exhausting journey made to remote unknown villages at the request of some girls, sleeping in their families, only to hear the girls or their mothers in the morning say they did not have the intention to join!
Her short stay with the senior citizens at Maria Dham, Bhimtal gave her the unforgettable experience of cremating a Hindu inmate on 30.12. 2010. The local authorities asked our sisters to conduct the last rite of the deceased and Sr. Raphaela had to light the funeral pyre! A rare missionary experience indeed!!! From there she was sent to St. Anthony’s Convent Palwal where she joyfully celebrated her Golden Jubilee with her sisters and family members. Next, she spent some years at the Senior Citizen’s Home, Vadakkencherry in Kerala, serving and making the inmates happy in the sun set years of their life. In 2017, she was back at Yesu Bhawan, Bhaheya for two years, then to Francis Sadan, our Novitiate House for a year, and presently to St. Anthony’s Convent Hauz Khas.
In all, Sr. Raphaela had 15 transfers during her 59 years of religious life, which she spent in spreading God’s Kingdom in her humble, gentle, ever-smiling way, charming teenagers to embrace religious life, edifying the priests and instilling deeper faith in the parishioners.
Now at St. Anthony’s praying and helping in the household chores, Sr. Raphaela constantly renders thanks to God and her Superiors for all these years of life and service, especially those shared with the poor, the needy and the marginalized in the remotest areas of our land according to the heart of our Venerable Foundress Mother Seraphina.