By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published September 7, 2017
SNELLVILLE—Mother Teresa Maria Kulangara is the newly elected superior of the Visitation Monastery, home to five cloistered nuns of the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary. The monastery also has three women in formation.
Elected on June 13 by the sisters, Mother Teresa Maria, 49, is a native of Kerala, India, and a former pharmacist.
Sister M. Jane Frances Williams, former superior, had already been elected to the two consecutive, three-year terms permitted by the order’s rule. At 86, she continues to serve as novice mistress, teaching the formation classes.
Mother Teresa Maria remains the order’s cook. She took a break from making turkey potpies to discuss her new leadership role.
“I never had a thought in my mind I would be a superior one day,” she said in reference to her religious name, Mother Teresa.
Then superior, Sister Jane Frances, chose the name after much prayer. The name honors Sister Teresa Maria, one of seven Visitation nuns martyred in Spain in 1936, who have been beatified.
Mother Teresa Maria enjoys preparing meals and sees the deeper, nurturing meaning of the task.
“It’s good to have that mother’s role in your life,” she said.
The contemplative sisters spend much of their day in prayer.
“We all rise about 5:30 a.m. We are supposed to be at the chapel at 6,” said Mother Teresa Maria.
They come together for Mass and pray in community five times daily. They also have a half hour to pray alone. The sisters pray the rosary at 4:30 p.m. and a litany to Our Lady.
Lunch is their main meal, with breakfast and supper being lighter meals. They have daily chores and maintain a small garden. Night prayer concludes the day.
Their lives of prayer and service are offered as a spiritual gift “to assist the Church,” said Mother Teresa Maria.
The Visitation sisters pray for the salvation of souls and special intentions, such as the poor souls in purgatory. They are praying for all priests, and newly elected bishops.
“Right now, we’re praying for all the flood victims in Texas,” she said.
Pharmacy career until 2005
The new superior had a great aunt who was a Visitation sister, but it wasn’t on her mind as a career.
“I never thought of having a religious vocation,” said Mother Teresa Maria, who came to the United States at the age of 18.
After her arrival in America, she studied and pursued a career as a pharmacist. She was licensed to practice in New York, Georgia and Florida.
“It’s very helpful when it comes to the sisters’ medications and doctors appointments,” she said.
Working for both Eckerd and CVS pharmacies in Georgia, life was hectic and busy for Mother Teresa Maria. She eventually started working at a permanent location instead of rotating between stores because she wanted to get to know customers better.
“We are looking for that permanent place,” she said.
Spending time reading and reflecting led her to a deeper prayer life.
“I was attracted to prayer life,” she said. “We’re all longing for that quiet reflection and prayer.”
She made a retreat at the Visitation Monastery and “felt at home” in the community.
In 2000, Mother Teresa Maria spent 11 months in discernment at the monastery but left to return to pharmacy work.
“I was not sure I was called to this life,” she said.
In 2005, she began a more serious discernment guided by Father John Fallon and returned to the monastery.
She made her solemn profession of vows with the order in August 2011 at the age of 43.
“Trust in God and do good”
The superior suggested those discerning religious vocations receive the proper help and guidance, the sacraments of the church and listen to the Holy Spirit.
“The Holy Spirit is always guiding you,” said Mother Teresa Maria. Sometimes the Holy Spirit guides people through other people or events that happen during the day, she added.
Asking for Mary’s intercession is also important, she said.
“She’s the mother of us all,” reminded Mother Teresa Maria.
Many saints are important examples for the new mother superior, including the co-founder of the order, St. Jane Frances de Chantal, who was widowed at a young age with six children to raise.
“She knew the grief, suffering and couldn’t see her future. That’s when St. Francis de Sales stepped into her life,” said the mother superior.
Together, the two future saints founded the order in Annecy, France, in 1610.
The monastery takes prayer requests from outside their community, and the nuns welcome those in discernment for a retreat.
“Trust in God and do good,” is the way the sisters try to live, said Mother Teresa Maria. “It’s his monastery and we are his instruments.”