Eliswa was born as the first of eight children of Thomman and Thanda, in the noble family of Vyppissery Capithan in the Cruz Milagres parish of Ochanthuruth in the Vicariate of Verapoly, Kerala, India on 15 October 1831. From her childhood itself, Eliswa showed a keen interest in prayer and sacrifices. Her devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin Mary was astounding. Little Eliswa was exceptionally compassionate to the poor and the underprivileged.
According to her parents’ wishes, Eliswa married Vatharu Vakayil in 1847. A girl child was born to them on April 21, 1850, and she was named Anna. After one and a half years since Anna’s birth, Vatharu suddenly fell ill and died. Even though Eliswa was suggested for a second marriage, she opted for a life of silent prayer and services. Her frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament at her parish church in Koonammavu nourished her soul and she surrendered herself wholly to the works of the Holy Spirit.
One forenoon in 1862, Eliswa entered her parish church, St. Philomina’s, Koonammavu when it was virtually deserted. She knelt before the Blessed Sacrament and in silence poured out all her grievances to Our Lord in the Eucharist. Afterwards, with courage of conviction, Eliswa conveyed her desire to consecrate her life to God to Rev. Fr. Leopold Beccaro O.C.D. Advising the aspirant, Rev. Fr.Leopold sent her back but remained observant, waiting patiently for confirmation of her inspiration. The period of trial and tests for study lasted four years and in the mean time her sister Thresia and daughter Anna, influenced so much by her God-centered life-style, also joined Eliswa.
Fr. Leopold raised the matter of the three penitents eagerly longing to embrace religious life in a discussion he had with the Vicar Apostolic of Verapoly, Archbishop Bernardine Baccinelli, O.C.D . The bishop, quite pleased with the information and quite happy to accept them, asked the Rev. Father to construct a small bamboo-mat hut with three rooms – prayer room, kitchen and refectory on Eliswa’s property. His Excellency provided constitutional guidelines for their training which he himself acquired from the Carmelite Sisters in Genova and re-drafted to suit the needs of the time.
Early February in 1866, the three women were officially received into the Carmelite Order by the Bishop, and on Tuesday, February 13, 1866, Fr. Leopold was delegated to vest them with the Carmelite Scapular of the Religious. These three Latin-Rite women moved from their home to the newly built bamboo convent on their property. This was the foundation of the present Community of Teresian Carmelites (C.T.C.) laid on the day under the Congregational name the Third Order of the Carmelite Discalced (T.O.C.D.).It was the first convent in Kerala and the history of the TOCD is unique in the history of the Catholic Church. Later, members of the Syro-Malabar Rite were also admitted to this Congregation by Mother Eliswa.
Since the bamboo-mat hut of a convent was quite insufficient to accommodate the growing Community, a spacious two-storied convent building was constructed later at Thalachuva Parambu, Koonammavu as per the Bishop´s direction. On 27 March 1867, the sisters moved from the bamboo convent to St Teresa’s Convent at Koonammavu which had just been built on the property owned by Mother Eliswa and her daughter Anna and started the canonical novitiate.
In 1887 the Syrian Catholic Church in Kerala was separated from the Latin hierarchy through the Decree of ‘Quod iam pridem’ by Pope Leo XIII. When in 1877 Pope Leo XIII effected the division of Rites in Malabar, St. Teresa’s Convent in Koonammavu was separated from the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Verapoly and was placed from April 18, 1890 under the Bishop of Trichur, the newly formed Vicariate for Syrians. However, it was specially instructed that no change should be made in the internal affairs of the convent or admission of candidates. But on Tuesday, 16th September 1890, Syrian Bishop Adolphin Medillikot came to the convent and removed all the Sisters of Latin Rite including the foundress, Mother Eliswa from their authority, substituting Sisters of Syrian Rite in their places. This happened during the late evening silent prayer time of the sisters. Mother Eliswa and all the Latin rite sisters left the convent the next day morning without uttering a single word submitting everything to the Will of Almighty God.
The Archbishop of Verapoly made arrangements for their temporary stay for nearly two months in a small house in the convent campus of the newly started St. Teresa’s Congregation (C.S.S.T.) in Ernakulam where they were warmly received and sheltered by Rev. Mother Teresa, their foundress. A new convent building in Varapuzha was blessed on Tuesday, 11th November, 1890 and Mother Eliswa and her Community had their permanent residence in their second Mother House, St. Joseph’s Convent, Varapuzha.
Today the two branches of this TOCD Congregation form two independent religious congregations: The Congregation of Teresian Carmelites (CTC), the Latin rite, and the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel (CMC), the Syrian rite.
Mother Eliswa received the eternal reward on and was buried in a special place in front of the . Her mortal remains were later transferred to the tomb chapel called Smruthi Mandhiram at St. Joseph’s Convent of CTC at Varappuzha. Many pilgrims and the faithful visit her tomb to seek her intercession and obtain favours.
Mother Eliswa was declared a Servant of God on 30 May 2008, by Archbishop of Verapoly archdiocese.
Mother Eliswa was declared as Venerable on November 08, 2023. During the Audience granted to His Eminence Marcello Cardinal Semeraro, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints on November 8, 2023 His Holiness Pope Francis authorized the same Dicastery to promulgate the Decrees regarding: the heroic virtues of the Servant of God Eliswa of the Blessed Virgin Mary (born: Eliswa Vakayil), Founder of the Congregation of the Third Order of Discalced Carmelite Nuns, now Congregation of Teresian Carmelite Sisters; born on 15 October 1831 in Ochanthuruth (Verapoly Archdiocese India) and died on 18 July 1913 in Varapuzha (India) as Venerable.