SR. FERNANDA RIVA
CANOSSIAN DAUGHTER OF CHARITY
The Canossian Sisters all over the world and particularly in India, rejoice and are grateful to God, who through the instrumentality of His Vicar on Earth, Pope Benedict XVI, has declared the ‘Servant of God’ Sr. Fernanda Riva, “Venerable” on 28th June, 2012.
Sr. Fernanda was born in Monza, Italy on 17th April 1920. She joined the Canossian Missionary Novitiate in Vimercate, Milan,on 19th March 1939. A few months later she was sent to India and arrived in Mumbai, on 30th October 1939. She continued her First Formation at St. Joseph’s Convent, Belgaum, where she pronounced her First Vows, on 24th December 1941.
She completed her Education B.A., B. Ed at the Colleges in Belgaum from 1943 to 1947, and came to Mumbai for her Master’s Degree in Education.
From July 1950 to September 1953 Sr. Fernanda served at Canossa High School, Mahim first as a Teacher and then as Principal. She was fondly loved and respected by the students, Staff, Sisters and people around; many of them testified to the ‘heroicity’ of her virtues and remember her even today.
In September 1953, Sr. Fernanda was transferred to St. Joseph’s Convent, Alleppey, Kerala to start the St. Joseph’s College for Women there and take over as its first Principal. This took a good bit of her energy – to supervise the construction and equipment of the College. Within a year in 1954, she fell ill and was sent for a check-up to Mumbai. She was admitted to St. Elizabeth’s Nursing Home and was operated upon by the Late Dr. Arthur D’Sa in September 1954. She seemed to recoup and under the Doctor’s advice returned to Alleppey after a month, on 30th October 1954.
She went all out to be of service to the Staff and Students of the College in particular and the people of Alleppey, with such exquisite charity that those who came in contact with her went away happier for having met or been with her.
However on 6th January 1956, she had to be rushed back to Mumbai because of her illness, which turned out to be – Cancer. This time it struck her fatally. The Late Dr. Arthur D’Sa and the Late Valerian Cardinal Gracias visited her. They were touched by her serenity and faith. She had a kind word, a smile, a gesture of concern for those sisters and hospital Staff who attended on her and gratitude for all.
She breathed her last on 22nd January 1956. Crowds filed past her body which lay in the Chapel of Canossa Convent, Mahim. Whispers of “She is a Saint” could be heard among the crowd gathered at her funeral. She was buried in the Cemetery of St. Michael’s Church, Mahim. A few days after her death, this very diocesan bulletin “The Examiner” carried an article based on her illness and death.
Such was the Sanctity of her life, that His Lordship, Micheal Arattukulam, the then Bishop of Alleppey asked that her Cause for Canonisation be introduced. On 13th August 1994 under the direction of His Eminence Simon Cardinal Pimenta, the Cause was introduced, at St. Michael’s Church Mahim.
Today her bones are placed in a niche dedicated to her Memory amid the other deceased Canossian Sisters at St. Michael’s Church Cemetery. She remains with us to help us on our journey to the Lord. Our dear Venerable Sr. Fernanda, pray for us!