Feb 12 (AsiaNews) Gonawila– Catholics in Gonawila marked the 150th anniversary of the stigmata Helena of Gonawila as well as the 89th anniversary of her death with celebrations that included a procession, a Mass and the dedication of the village to her.
Sister Helena, as she is affectionately called, was the first consecrated lay woman to be declared Servant of God in 2016.
The Diocese of Chilaw, where she hailed, has begun her beatification process and is collecting evidence of the two miracles necessary to declare her saintly.
The celebrations were held last Sunday, anniversary of the lay woman's death, in the parish of St Joseph, to which she belonged.
Helena devoted her entire life to prayer, meditation and service to the local Church. She is widely revered across the country, along with Saint Joseph Vaz, the island nation’s first saint.
Born on 18 March 1849 in Gonawila, North Western province, she died on 8 February 1931 at the age of 88. For almost her entire life, she endured the pain of the stigmata, which she received on 12 October 1870 at the age of 22.
She had asked the Lord to be blessed with the wounds, so that her pain could lead to the redemption and conversion of her father and brother, both Buddhists dedicated to satanic activities.
The celebrations followed the dedication of the village of Gonawila as the ‘City of Helena’ and the unveiling of a plaque at the entrance of the village as well as the blessing of a bust of Christ placed on the ground of the house where Helena lived.
Bishop Valance Mendis of Chilaw later led the Mass with the participation of hundreds of people, including children learning the catechism, teachers and priests.
"For Christians, there is no life without a cross, or without ties to the cross,” said Fr Vimal Thirimamne during the homily.
Speaking about Saint Joseph Vaz, the Apostle of Sri Lanka, and other saints who received the stigmata, including Saint Francis of Assisi and Padre Pio, he noted that “Our simple Helena received the sacred wounds 150 years ago” in what “is a great gift not only for our village, but for the whole country.”
Citing Pope Francis, he said that the "Catholic Church needs lay saints, lay examples, lay role models".
Meanwhile, the local Church is gathering all the necessary documentary evidence for the cause of beatification. Two miracles have been ascribed to Helena.
One refers to the healing of the son of Luvina De Silva's cousin from cancer; he was completely healed after praying at Helena’s tomb.
The other is the healing of a mute Buddhist child who began to speak again after participating in some prayer meetings. The first word he uttered was "Ammo" (mother) and is now a faithful devotee of the Servant of God.