Sr. Mary Litty, foundress of the Little Servants of the Divine Providence (LSDP), who dedicated her life for the uplift of the poor and the underprivileged in the society in Kerala, India, breathed her last on Saturday 5 November at the Divine Providence Convent, Kunnanthanam. She was 81 years old.
Sr. Dr. Mary Litty of Oliapuram family, Kothamangalam was born on 2 August 1935. She had her education at St. Augustine’s GHS, Kothamangalam and thereafter at the Assumption College, Changanassery. In 1955 she joined the Medical Sisters of St. Joseph (MSJ). After her Religious Profession she was sent to Rome from where she obtained a medical degree. During her studies in Rome, Sr. Mary Litty happened to visit the ‘Little House of the Divine Providence’ in Turin founded by St. Joseph Cottolengo. Depending solely on the Divine Providence thousands of destitutes and terminally ill were affectionately looked after there. This House in Turin was the inspiration for a similar Home back in India.
After taking her MD from Rome, Diploma in Tropical medicine from England and another one in Paediatrics from Ireland, Dr. Litty returned home and started serving in different hospitals of her Congregation (MSJ). The long cherished desire to dedicate herself to the poor became stronger and she informed it to her superiors. After mature consideration, the superiors permitted her exclaustration and she reached St. Joseph’s Convent, Mukkoor. There she spent four years in prayer and in service of the orphans. In response to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, she thought of starting a Home for the mentally challenged. She disclosed her long cherished desire to the then Archbishop of Changanassery, Antony Padiyara. His response was positive and he permitted Sr. Litty to open up a Home for the mentally challenged at Kunnamthanam. Relying completely on God’s Providence, Sr. Litty started a Home in a small rented thatched hut, on 17 January 1978 with one patient who could neither walk nor speak. That woman was incapable of performing even her primary needs, on her own.
It was quite providential that the ‘Little Home’ at Kunnamthanam was started on the very same day of the 150th anniversary of the ‘Little House of the Divine Providence’ in Turin. Though the ‘Little Home’ was started with practically no food, utensils or even a lamp, God Almighty through His timely intervention and through generous people, provided everything for the Home. A girl named Alphonsa joined Sr. Litty on the very same day extending her help. When the number of the inmates and the girls to assist them increased the Home was shifted to a rather bigger rented house at Mylamannu, near Kunnamthanam.
The Lord revealed to Sr. Litty the need of dedicated girls to look after the mentally challenged inmates whose number was on the increase. Eventually she felt the need of starting a religious community. Sr. Litty approached the Archbishop and brought the matter to his kind notice. The Archbishop graciously gave her permission to found ‘The Little Servants of the Divine Providence’ as a ‘Pious Union’ on December 8, 1978. LSDP later went on to become one of the main congregations of nuns in the country. Sr. Litty reached out to destitute people as well as abandoned children and orphans with disabilities and provided a healing touch and care to them. Currently, LSDP has 16 centres under it where 162 Professed Sisters take care of nearly 2,000 sick inmates.
One of the greatest ambitions of Mother Litty was to serve the underprivileged in Africa which came into effect with a mission in Zambia. The Sisters serving in Zambia bring hope, empowerment and transformation into the lives of people with special needs who are often stigmatized in society through provision of a long-term residential home care; non-residential day care and education training to severely disabled persons including HIV infected and affected persons.
Mother Mary Litty set out in search of the ones who had lost their human dignity. She bade farewell to the custom of such unfortunate ones without human dignity seeking after the privileged, and enjoying what received. Instead, she went in search of them and extended a helping hand to them, held their hands onto her bosom in whatever status they were, and convinced them of their greatness. God has never willed of a person created as a son or daughter of God should ever live in an inhuman condition. God wants to live through us and spread light to the underprivileged. It is the love which tells, ‘I am here for you, with you’ to those who feel that they are orphaned.
“Proceed only on the path guided by God, without being institutionalized.” Mother Litty used to remind her Sisters always to be different from those who are involved in organized service sector, and to blindly believe in and rely on the Providence of God. The Providential care is to be really experienced in this total reliance on God. Man’s greatness lies not in what he has but in what he does not have. Mother could render great service because of this realization and everything she did was through him who strengthened her.
It is a source of great hope to all of us and in particular to her daughters that this Mother who could provide shelter and the richness of life to so many little ones of God who were rejected in the society, enters the threshold of heaven in this Jubilee Year of Mercy.