Mother Nirmala Narikunnel, OSB
Abbess of Shanti Nilayam
Mother Teresita D’Silva
Founder and former Abbess of Shanti Nilayam (India)
‘I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is reserved for me for me the crown of righteousness, which the righteous judge will give me on that day’, and that day came for Mother Teresita on 12th November 2019. I am sure the Lord has invited her to himself with the words, ‘Come you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world’.
Audrey D’Silva was born to Dr Oswald D’Silva and Mrs Blanche D’Silva on 7th November 1933 and was baptized in the Church of Our Lady of Salvation, Dadar, Bombay and received the name Florence Louisa but was always called Audrey. She was born into a big family of ten children, seven girls and three boys.
Audrey underwent her matriculation in 1951 and got good results. Soon afterwards she started teaching in Dadar Convent; she attended Sophia College, in 1952 received her teacher’s diploma in 1953, and received her religious teacher’s diploma in 1963, both at St. Xavier’s college under the Jesuits.
She was president of the Bombay Junior Curia. In 1960, Fr.Benedict Alapatt, a Benedictine monk, had gone to their meeting to speak about Benedictines and the beauty of the singing of the Divine Office. Fr.Benedict suggested that she go to Sri Lanka to St. Helen’s monastery at Wennappua. She went there during her holidays and there first read the Holy Rule. Then Father introduced Stanbrook Abbey and they forwarded the letter to St.Cecilia’s Abbey. Thus started correspondence with Mother Abbess Bernadette Symers. She resigned her teaching post and left India on 13th October 1963, spent a few days in Rome, and had a public audience with Pope Paul VI, then flew to England to St.Cecilia’s Abbey. On October 21, 1963 she started postulancy, and made 1st profession on July 2nd 1965. During her Clothing she received her name- Sr.Teresita. She left Ryde in 1968 with Mother Abbess Bernadette Symers for the Asian Monastic Congress at Bangkok and returned to India with Mother Abbess and arrived in Bangalore at Shanti Nilayam on 16th December 1968.
The blessing of monastery and chapel and solemn profession took place on 26th July 1969, by the then Archbishop Lourduswamy. The pioneers, Mother Clare and Sr.Mary Joseph, left for Ryde on 27th July 1969. Mother Teresita D’Silva was appointed superior by Mother Abbess Bernedette Symers and from then on she took the responsibility of Shanti Nilayam till she resigned in 2013 due to ill health.
Mother Teresita was a person deeply rooted in prayer, a lover of silence. She had great love for monastic life, a life of prayer and work. Deeply rooted in faith, she was a Spirit–filled person. She preferred nothing to the Work of God (the Divine Office), and she instilled the same love and desire in her sisters. She spoke little, prayed much and was the best teacher and very good guide. She was Novice Mistress for some time. From 1970 till she got very sick she took classes for juniors, guiding sisters and retreatants.
In 1982 Shanti Nilayam was raised to the status of a Priory and Mother Teresita was elected as Prioress. In 1993, Shanti Nilayam was raised to the status of an Abbey and she was unanimously elected as the 1st Abbess. She was President of the Indo-Sri Lankan Benedictine Federation; and travelled many times to Rome and other countries. She had great zeal to spread monastic life in various parts of India. She travelled to give talks in vocation camps to bring new vocations. During her time we have made four other foundations, in Gujarat, Shillong, Dindugal, Myanmar and the fifth one at Jamshedpur is still in process. Even though she was ill, she continued to carry out the duty of Divine Service, in the school of the Lord’s service faithfully. When in the house she always was there at the Divine Office; till five months ago when she was confined to bed. She was treated at St. John’s Hospital and was under the care of Baptist hospital doctors for the last two months. God’s call came to our beloved Mother on 12th November 2019 at 3pm. May God give her reward of eternal rest! And may her soul rest in peace. Amen.
Thanks to all who were present for the funeral and all who prayed though unable to be present. We are very grateful to Mother Abbess Ninian and all the sisters of St.Cecilia’s Abbey, Ryde, for their support and prayers. Special thanks to dear Fr.Jerome, President of Indo Sri-Lankan Benedictine Federation, Mother Metilda, Prioress of Grace and Compassion, and Mother Vandhana, Prioress of Lioba Sisters, for their presence, and other major superiors from India for sending their representatives for the funeral. Thus all the Benedictine families in India were represented. We are also very grateful to AIM for the messages and condolences and all the other monasteries who sent their condolences and prayers.