Sr. Mary Immaculate Tresham
Constance, lovingly called Connie was born in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India, on 3rd November, 1934. Allahabad or Prayagraj (old name) has been a well-known city in the ancient Hindu scriptures from historical times. Allahabad is situated on the banks of the “Three river confluence’ Ganga, Yamuna and Sarasvati rivers. The city has tremendous religious significance. The old city is rich in mythological heritage of the Hindu Vedas and The Gupta Kingdom. It also has a strong Islamic presence from the time of Mughal Emperor Akbar and a Buddhist connect with the Magadha and Mauryan Empire. The British came and set up colonies, several educational institutions, courts, schools, colleges and convents. Foreign missionaries came to Allahabad and neighbouring areas to work with refugees and people impacted by the war. Allahabad came to be known as the Seat of Education and City of Temples along with the famous Ashoka Pillar.
Connie’s mother, Mary Blossom was Irish by origin and her father, Richard Tresham was of English descent. She was the firstborn and had two younger sisters, Cynthia and Sheila. Cony’s mother expired at the birth of Sheila. The girls were placed under the care of a Nanny. Losing one’s mother at any age can be a traumatic experience. It feels like losing a part of oneself. It is one of the hardest losses in the world. A mother’s love is selfless, unconditional, and never-ending. A Nanny can never substitute a mother’s love. Cony, being older than the others was deeply impacted by the loss of her mother. Innocent Cony, with a heart full of pain, totally lost, naturally turned to Mamma Mary, the Mother of Jesus for her consolation, solace, and guidance.
Isaiah 55:8 says, “God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are his ways our ways.” Connie’s father was looking for ways to help his girls to grow in faith and morals with good education. He found the way through Rev. Fr. Alfonso Ferrero SSP whom the Nanny happened to know via the Church. She introduced the family to the priest. With the kind assistance of Rev. Fr. Alfonso, the girls were placed under the care of the Canossian Sisters of Allahabad. Here, at the boarding school, the Pauline Priests used to go to celebrate Holy Mass (The Most Holy Eucharist). Rev. Fr. Alfonso sensing the thirst Constance experienced for the Eucharistic Lord, introduced her to the PDDM who had arrived in India, in 1954. With joy and determination, Constance joined the PDDM at Allahabad on 24th January, 1955 along with Bernice Bouche, a Burmese refugee girl who also grew up with the Canossian Sisters. These two Anglo-Irish and Burmese girls were the first who joined the Sister Disciples of the Indian province.
Constance was sent to Rome for the Novitiate and made her First Profession on 25th March, 1958. She received the new name of ‘Sr. Mary Immaculate’ which means ‘Pure in Heart’. After her first Profession, she remained for some time in Rome and then attended a six months course in learning ceramics at Bologna.
On her return from Rome to Mumbai from 1960 to 1971, she was involved in sacred art of creating exquisite ceramic statues of Jesus, Mary, and the Angels whom she adored and contemplated upon. Her handiworks were well appreciated by all those who purchased them. She was also the Regional Councilor and Superior of the PDDM Community at Mumbai SSP from 1971-1973. With obedience to her Provincial, Rev. Sr. Immaculata was called again to Europe in 1974 to co-ordinate a new community at SSP Ballykeeran, Ireland. In 1975, she was sent to Rome for a very special service for Cardinal James Robert Knox at The Vatican. She continued her selfless service until his death in 1983. Cardinal Knox was a well-known Church figure appointed by Pope Paul VI. He was a man of deep faith and prayer, devoted to the Eucharist and the Virgin Mary, and noted for his fidelity to the Pope. He was the Prefect of two congregations namely Discipline of the Sacraments and Divine Worship and President of the newly established Pontifical Council for the Family.
For the last 20 years of her life, Rev Sr. Mary Immaculata spent most of her time in the Pauline houses of England and Ireland (Maynooth) in prayer and service. From the end of December 2003, Rev. Sr. Immaculate was at the community in Athlone, Ireland. She was a reserved person of few words; she carried the marks of sufferings from her childhood, which also led her through the ways of self-donation and complete availability. In one of her letters to the Mother General, she said: “I accept obedience willingly; for me to be in this house or that is the same. I hope to be able to do all that the Lord is asking of me”. Rev. Sr. Mary Immaculate was pure in her heart and intentions. Till her very end, she served everyone with care and compassion. When we connect with the Divine Master, we connect with the aspect of our own selves that is unconditionally loving, nurturing, compassionate, and understanding.
One of her last joys was the possibility to participate in the beatification of The Pauline Ministry Founder Blessed James Alberione on 27 April 2003 in Rome.
Rev. Sr. Immaculate was already suffering from serious health issues due to lung cancer. She deteriorated during her visit to her family in England. Being fully conscious of her situation, she requested to be buried in Ireland. The Divine Master called His Disciple to himself exactly on the vigil of the Feast of St. Patrick, 16 March, 2004, particularly significant for the Irish people with whom she shared the last days of her life.
“Who can know the mind of the Lord? Who can understand his thoughts?” (Rom 11: 34). God, according to his loving plan chose this gentle Anglo-Irish sister to germinate in India and bear fruit all over the world.