Sister Ann Celine Alapattukunnel took over management of Assisi Farm in India’s Kerala state three years ago. She first gained agricultural experience in a garden that she helped cultivate for her community more than 40 years ago.
“I joined the School Sisters of St. Francis when I was 16,” she recalled. “My older sister went to a vocation camp and I accompanied her for support. I told my parents I wanted to join. They said okay, but all my family expected me to come back home. They are still surprised that I stayed!
“I knew in my heart the call was from God,” Sister Ann Celine said. “It’s fitting that I am a Franciscan sister serving God’s creation here.”
The sisters who live at St. Joseph Convent rise before dawn to begin their daily prayers, finishing by 7:30 for breakfast. Sister Ann Celine arrives on the farm by 8:00.
The other sisters serve in ministries that are different but just as urgently needed. Sister Alphonsa Kavalath serves as a family counselor, and Sisters Flower Thekkekara and Merina Chalissery are educators. The sisters come together daily for prayers and meals. Local families regularly join them for Mass and to pray the rosary and Divine Mercy prayer.
Bloom Where You are Planted
Life in this impoverished region of southern India is challenging for all its inhabitants. The electricity goes out regularly and access to clean water will always be a concern. Still, Sister Ann Celine says, beauty and wisdom abound. She offers some examples:
“Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience,” she says. “I appreciate how they bend in the wind with no damage done. Their flexibility is a good lesson for me.
“Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence and perseverance.
“Knowing the animals, domestic and wild, I see trust. Even if they are struggling to survive, they are still clearly God’s friends, surrendering gracefully. I have seen it many times: In the last moment they know to let go and move into the next experience even though they do not know what that is. The love the animals show is amazing. They have a deep love for me, and I for them. They help me grow.
“Our responsibility is to protect and preserve the land and the creatures,” Sister said. “Nature gives us strength—physically, spiritually, and emotionally. For all it gives us, we must give back.
“My simple principle is bloom where you are planted. I have a firm faith and strongly believe that nothing is impossible with God, and nothing will happen without God’s knowledge.”
Editor’s note: Sister Ann Celine’s work on Assisi Farm is detailed in the article “Where Water is Gold and Lessons Abundant: Assisi Farm” in the Fall 2020 issue of Alive magazine. You can read that article, and the complete issue, online on our website’s “Publications” page: https://www.sssf.org/SSSF/Media-Room/Publications.htm
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