Corona Mary, OSM Integrating Eastern and Western Traditions into her Life and Writings

As shared by Cecilia Fandel, OSM
Responding to God’s Call as a Servant of Mary

Born in the most southern state of Tamil Nadu in India, Corona Mary grew up in an industrial town. Being teachers, her parents saw to it that daughters as well as sons received a university education. Although Catholic, she studied in a Hindu school. She was very impressed with the lives of the Christian virgin martyrs and the ancient Hindu saintly women who refused marriage because of their deep love for God. However, at that time she didn’t know any Catholic sisters.

It was only when she attended the Servite Sisters University in another town that she decided to become a Servant of Mary sister. Corona Mary taught in her congregation’s high school for two years and then in their university for three years. When the seminaries opened their doors for sisters to attend classes, Corona Mary was offered the opportunity to study theology, and she accepted readily. It seemed to be a natural fit for her. After she received her licentiate she was invited to many theological schools in India as a visiting professor. She found herself giving many courses and retreats to religious men and women, as well as presenting major papers in theological and religious circles in India and once in Bangladesh.

Later, she was elected general councilor of her congregation for two six-year terms and superior general for six years. As she recalls, “I became superior general of our Congregaton in 1996. The most important thing that happened during that time is the special general chapter of the jubilee year 2000 in which we defined the spirituality of our Congregaton. Looking back on it, I feel that the whole of my religious life had been moving towards that event.”

Established an Ashram

Corona Mary had long ago trained herself properly in eastern practices adaptable to the Christian faith. She dreamt of the time when a Christian ashram could be established. An ashram is an Indian contribution to spirituality. Worshipping at the ashramIt is a place where spiritual seekers live under the guidance of a guru (spiritual master/mistress). An ashram is usually found in a natural environment, such as on a mountain or by a river or seashore. In 1980, the Indian Servant of Mary Sisters [do they have a web site that we could like to here] founded Jegamatha Ashram. Within the ashram, Corona Mary adapted Indian spiritual sadhanas and methods of prayer for Christian meditation and prayer.

Servite sisters in their formative years and various groups of religious persons came to be initiated to Indian-Christian spirituality, prayer, and meditation. They lived in small huts; kept to a vegetarian diet; and practiced simplicity, detachment, silence, and prayer. They practiced service-mindedness by adopting a small village, and thus were able to spread Christian and ashram values among the people. Sometimes they held interfaith dialogues with Hindus. The ashram closed when Corona Mary was elected major superior of her congregation.

Directed Retreat for Servites

In July, 1998, the Servite Coalition for Justice (Servants of Mary laity, sisters and friars in the U.S. striving for justice and peace) brought Mary, Mother of AllCorona Mary to the United States to direct a retreat. Her task was challenging: To help the sisters, friars and Secular Servites to break through the Western cultural images of God and Mary, and to experience God and Mary from Eastern spiritual and religious dimensions. Forty Servite women and men eagerly attended the conferences and practiced meditation, pranayama, and visualization.

Subsequently, they came to see that the Indian spiritual tradition had evolved very refined techniques that can dispose the Western person’s body, psyche, and mind for contemplation — while Christianity, with its revelation in Christ and great sensitivity for social concerns, can give fulfillment to the lives of people in the East.

At its conclusion, comments resounded such as, “The retreat is like a seed that keeps growing in me and will for years to come”, “My capacity to understand, appreciate and use different symbols and prayer aids has grown,” and “Beyond my expectations. Corona Mary’s explanations of Indian spirituality, Hindu symbols for God with their explanations, breathing exercise, music and liturgy were a broadening experience.”

Sophia as an Image of God

While studying at the seminary, one of her professors frequently told her that God had given her a rare theological sense and that she was wasting her life doing other things. Thus, when Corona Mary completed her years in leadership in her community, she asked to study for a doctorate in biblical theology [at what school??] in Rome. In 2005, she received the topmost grades for her dissertation on Sophia in the Book of Wisdom and was granted a Ph.D. Sophia book coverHer thesis presents three points:

  • The beauty and splendor of the biblical Sophia is an attractive feminine image of God
  • Biblical Christology is predominantly Sophia-Christology
  • Sophia-Christology has far reaching consequences for today’s world

Sister Corona Mary reflected, “Of all the images of God in the bible, I like Sophia the best. The book of Wisdom always fascinated me, especially what is said of Sophia. I thought here is a beautiful feminine image of God, so well developed as a personification that she is almost like a person in relational terms such as mother, sister, lover, and teacher. While in the ashram, I had composed a hymn in her honor and sang it in the morning before the conference. It is my love for Sophia that made me choose Wisdom as the topic.”

Corona Mary has formatted the content of her work on Sophia to book form. With a solid theological and biblical exegesis of Wisdom 8:1–6, she explores in depth “Sophia” — God’s Associate in His Works.

Sharing Spirituality through Her Books

One of the major ways that Corona Mary shares how Eastern and Western spiritual traditions complement each other is through her books. The Divine Dream book coverHer small, popular book, Towards God-consciousness, a book on Indian spirituality called Rajayoga, helps the Western reader to understand and incorporate Eastern principles. Yoga means union. Rajayoga looks at union in its threefold aspect:

 Union within oneself
 Union with the cosmos
Union with God

Her second is The Divine Dream, a book on understanding Mary and her role in salvation.

What else is there in the future for this Servite Sister who has a rare theological sense, and who can so aptly lead others to use Eastern and Western religious practices as complementary? She so desires that everyone, through meditating on the word of God, would come to love the God whose self-revelation is so fascinating. Presently she has a plan to write a series of books of biblical meditations. Her first one on Genesis is completed and will soon be published in both English and in Tamil.

Contact Sister Corona Mary, OSM for any of her books.

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