Who is Mother Marie Alphonsine?
On November 22, Sister Marie Alphonsine will be solemnly beatified in the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. This is an opportunity to reflect on the life of this girl from Jerusalem to whom the Holy Virgin inspired the founding of the Congregation of the Rosary Sisters , the only indigenous religious community in the Holy Land.
Sultanah Maria Ghattas was born in Jerusalem on the 4th of October, 1843, and baptized on the 19th of November the same year. On 18th July, 1852, she received the Sacrament of Confirmation from the hands of His Beatitude Giuseppe Valerga, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.
At the age of 14, she joined the Congregation of St. Joseph of the Apparition as a Postulant. On the 30th of June, 1860, she received the Holy Habit of the Religious of St. Joseph of the Apparition. Two years later, in 1862, she pronounced her three vows. In Bethlehem where she was assigned, she was entrusted with the teaching of Catechism. Besides, she founded Confraternities and Associations and promoted the devotion to Our Lady through the prayer of the Rosary.
She was favored with several apparitions of Our Lady who revealed to Mother Marie Alphonsine Her desire to begin the Congregation of the Rosary. The Virgin Mary appointed Fr. Joseph Tannous as her Director to administer the Congregation of the Rosary.
Father Tannous rented for the first five postulants – included Sr. Marie Alphonsine – a modest house in Jerusalem in which they entered on the 24th of July, 1880. H.B. Vincent Bracco, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, vested them with the Holy Habit on the 15th December, 1881. Mother Marie Alphonsine went through hard times before she obtained on the 12th of October, 1880, the dispensation from her vow of obedience to the Superiors of St. Joseph and the permission to enter the new Congregation of the Holy Rosary. Father Tannous was always there to help her during those critical times. On the 6th of October, 1883, she received the Habit of the Rosary Congregation from the hands of Msgr Pascal Appodia, Patriarchal Vicar. On the 7th of March, 1885, together with the first eight sisters, Mother Marie Alphonsine was admitted to profession and pronounced her three vows in a ceremony presided over by H.B. Vincent Bracco, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.
On the 25th of July, 1885, Mother Marie Alphonsine was assigned, together with another sister, to Jaffa in Galilee. There, one day, a miracle happened: Nathira I’d, a young girl, fell into a deep cistern filled with water. The only thing that Mother Marie Alphonsine could do was to throw her large rosary of 15 decades in the well, to invoke Our Lady to help them and to go into the church with other girls to pray the Rosary. Nathira came out safe and sound, saying that she saw a great light and a ladder shaped like a Rosary to help going her way out.
In October 1886, she was sent to a new foundation in Beit Sahour (the Shepherds’ village) where, it was expected, she would open a school. In 1887, together with three sisters, she left Beit Sahour for Salt, the first mission in Trans-Jordan. Two years later she was sent to Nablus but soon taken to the Mother House in Jerusalem for health reasons. Once healed, she was sent to Zababdeh. In 1892, we find her in Nazareth to assist Fr. Tannous on his death bed.
In 1893, Mother Marie Alphonsine established in Bethlehem a workshop to give work to poor girls. She remained 15 years in Bethlehem; at the end of those years full of zeal and enthusiasm, in 1909, she was recalled to the Mother House in Jerusalem where she remained till 1917, when she was charged with the foundation of an orphanage in the town of Ain-Karem. There she could return to her life of prayer to fulfill Our Lady’s wish that the Rosary may be recited perpetually.
On the 25th of March, 1927, Mother Marie Alphonsine breathed her last while praying the rosary with her Sister Hanneh Danil Ghattas on March 25, 1927.
Thus, Mother Marie Alphonsine was distinguished by her total abandonment to the Divine Providence. She is the apostle of hope and trust in God and Our Lady, and the apostle of the Rosary. She firmly believed in our Lady’s words: “The Rosary is your treasure!”
His Holiness Pope John Paul II announced the acknowledgement of the heroic virtues of Mother Marie Alphonsine on October 15, 1994, and in 1995 she was proclaimed “Venerable”.
On November 22, 2009, she will be beatified in Nazareth. Blessed Mother Marie Alphonsine, pray for us and for the Holy Land!
Sister Marie Alphonsine’s life in images