Cloistered nun awarded doctorate in aerospace engineering

Sister Benedicta collected her degree dressed in the habit of her religious order

Pune: A cloistered nun, who researched on scramjet engines, was among 23 people who were recently conferred PhD degrees in aerospace engineering.

Dressed in the habit of her religious order, Sister Benedicta of the Holy Face, received the degree at the 8th convocation of the Defence Institute of Advance Technology (DIAT) in Pune on May 31.

She had obtained special permission from her superiors to attend the convocation ceremony as outside contact is forbidden in her order, The Indian Express reported on May 3.

“I had joined the religious order post my final viva last year and this was the first time I came out after that. The rules of our order forbid us from going out of the convent and I was given special permission to attend the convocation, “she said.
Born Roschelle R M in Kuwait just before the Gulf war, Sr Benedicta had finished her graduation from the St Xavier’s College in Mumbai and acquired her Master’s degree in space science from Pune University.

In the field of aerospace, her doctoral work was on scramjet engines. These engines are used mostly for hyper-sonic vehicles and for space vehicles also. Theoretically, such vehicles can drastically reduce the air travel time anywhere on Earth to just 90 minutes.

Benedicta had decided to join the religious order post the completion of her PhD. By her own admission she always had a propensity for such a life, but she got her “call” post attending a special retreat in Pune.

“My family had an inkling that I might join the religious order, but when I took the decision to join a contemplative order they were shocked,” she added.

Members of a cloistered order are barred from outside contact and are expected to remain in their orders leading a life of prayer and meditation.
The pontifical congregation of the Benedictine Sisters of the Reparation of the Holy Face focuses on doing acts of reparation to Jesus Christ.

It was started in 1950 as organization named “Prayerful Sodality” by Venerable Abbot Hildebrand Gregory. It became a pontifical congregation in 1977 as the Benedictine Sisters of the Reparation of the Holy Face.

The devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus dates back to Sister Marie of St Peter, a Carmelite nun in Tours, France. She had in 1843 visions of Jesus and Mary who urged her to spread the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus, in reparation for the many insults Jesus suffered in his Passion.

Venerable Leo Dupont, who is known as the apostle of the Holy Face, spread the devotion to other countries. He prayed for the establishment of the devotion for 30 years, burning a lamp before a painted image of Jesus. Pope Leo XIII approved of the devotion in 1885.

On the first Friday in Lent 1936, Sister Maria Pierina de Micheli, a nun born near Milan in Italy, reported a vision in which Jesus told her:

“I will that My Face, which reflects the intimate pains of My Spirit, the suffering and the love of My Heart, be more honored. He who meditates upon Me, consoles Me.”

In his letter of September 27, 2000, to Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the formation of the order, Pope John Paul II described the goal of the Benedictine Sisters of the Reparation of the Holy Face as: “The unceasing effort to stand beside the endless crosses on which the Son of God continues to be crucified.”

In 1997 Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini formed the International Institute for Research on the Face of Christ in Rome in association with the Sisters of the Reparation of the Holy Face.

The congregation now has houses on several continents.

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