The Congregation of Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI), the first indigenous religious congregation of India, had its beginning in the first half of the 19th century. It grew out of the intense God-experience in Christ of the founding fathers - Thomas Palackal (+ 1841), Thomas Porukara (+1846) and Saint Kuirakose Elias Chavara(+1871; beatified on February 8, 1986 and declared as Saint on 23.11.2014) - who were priests of the then Vicariate Apostolic of Verapoly, Kerala, of the Apostolic Church of St. Thomas Chrisians in India. Under the paternal direction and guidance of the Vicar Apostolic, Bishop Maurilius Stabilini, these men of God started a spiritual movement at Mannanam on May 11, 1831. Jacob Kanianthara, a pious layman, shared the inspiration of the founding fathers and assisted them in the foundation and growth of the congregation (Constitutions and Directory, The Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, 1993, Article 1, p.1). In the course of time more and more priests and seminarians joined the Founding Fathers. On December 8, 1855, on the day of the feast of Immaculate Conception, the first eleven Fathers made their profession of religious vows. Thus the Congregation was canonically erected, and Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara was appointed the first Prior.
The Founding Fathers of the Congregation committed their life to intense prayer and deep recollection and the building up and renewal of the Church. The religious life organized by the Fathers was a life of communion with God, making the Word their food and drink and as a consequence they became powerful heralds of the Word, evangelising the non- Christians, catechizing the new Christians, working for the reunion of dissident Christians and loabouring for the all - round development of the Church.
In 1861 the community was affiliated to the Order of the Carmelites with the title TOCD (Third Order of the Carmelites Discalced). Brother Jacob Kanianthara, who assisted the founding fathers, made his religious profession in 1865. In 1885, the Congregation got its Pontifical status and for the first time, the constitution was approved by the Holy See, ad experimentum. In 1906 the constitution got final approbation.
On March 2, 1953 the congregation was divided into three Provinces - Devamatha Province, for the northern region of Travancore-Kochi; Sacred Heart Province, for the central region of Travancore - Kochi; and St. Joseph’s Province for the southern region with Malabar area as its mission territory, called Calicut Region. In 1958 the constitution was revised and got approved by the Holy See. In the same year the name Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI) was given to the Congregation. Pontifical exemption status was granted to the Congregation in 1967. After several years of experimentation and study in the light of Vatican II, the new constitution of the Congregation had finalised and it got the final approval of the Holy See in 1984.
The Congregation from its beginning engaged itself in such activities as the Church in Kerala was in need of at the particular times. It started with preaching retreats, conducting seminaries and training of priests; met the challenge of educating the youth and disseminating Christian literature; laboured for the conversion of Non-Christians and for the reunion of separated brethren; undertook works of mercy and started charitable institutions.
The CMI mission work gathered a new dimension and momentum as local churches were entrusted to it beyond the boundaries of Kerala. In 1962 Chanda took shape as the first missionary Ordinate of the Syro-Malabar church and was entrusted to the congregation. At present six dioceses outside Kerala are entrusted to the congregation. Since 1962 we see a spectacular growth and expansion of the Congregation both inside and outside India. The CMI mission has out grown the boundaries of India and the congregation has its missionaries all over the globe. At present the Congregation has more than 2000 members spread all over India, Europe, USA, Latin America, Africa, Australia and Philippines. The Congregation has thirteen Provinces, one vice province, one region and two sub-regions in India and two sub-regions, one each in Kenya and in Peru. The CMI are actively involved in pastoral, education and social apostolates in 23 countries around the world. Through various apostolates and socio-pastoral activities in different fields of life, the Congregation continues to keep the torch bequeathed to it by its Founding Fathers.
The Prior General with his team of four General Councillors and a General Auditor serves the Congregation in its level of general administration. The CMI Generalate is in Chavara Hills, Kakkanad, Kochi. At the provincial level the Congregation is administered by the respective provincials and their team - consisted of four councillors and an Auditor.
The Province of St. Joseph established on March 2, 1953 was formally inaugurated on April 23, 1953. The Provincial Curia which functioned temporarily at Mannanam was shifted to Kottayam in 1956 when the new building for the Curia was built. In 1968, due to some practical difficulties, the curia was shifted to St. Antony’s Monastry, Puthupally. The Calicut Region, entrusted to the Province became a Vice-Province in 1969 and a Province in 1978, named after St. Thomas the Apostle. In 1972 the mission territory of Jagadalpur was created and entrusted to the St. Joseph’s Province.
In 1979, the erstwhile St. Joseph Province, Kottayam was divided into St. Joseph Province Kottayam, St.Joseph Province Trivandrum and into Nirmal Vice-Province, Jagadalpur. St.Joseph Province Trivandrum had its headquarters at Mannanam and later moved it to Trivandrum in 1981. The Provincial House at Puthuppally continued to be the Provincial Curia of the St. Joseph Province Kottayam, till it was moved to Kottayam in 1990.
The St. Joseph Province Kottayam spreads over the entire dioceses of Pala and Kanjirapally and parts of the diocese of Changanacherry, The province is engaged in the education, pastoral work and social apostolate in these dioceses. The Province has established well-flourishing educational institutions in Bangalore, Kritujayanti College and Mary Matha School in Theni. The Province is trying to develop the Madura region of Tamil Nadu as an important locus of its missionary activities.
In 1985 two districts of the diocese of Rajkot were earmarked for St. Joseph Province Kottayam for mission work and later in 1987 a third one was added. The Chavara Sub- Region Bhavnagar was officially constituted on January 3, 1985 as a dependent region of the province. The Sub-region was made a region in 1996 and the Regional House (Devdarsan) is in Merubaugh. Bhavnagar is a well-flourishing vibrant mission field of the Province with 28 brethren working there with clear vision for its over-all development and nourishing it into the status of a mission Province.
In 1972 the Province sent two missionaries to work in Peru and later, a few others followed them. However this mission did not flourish much for some years. The province gradually began to feel Peru as an important area of its evangelising and pastoral mission. In 1990 a small group of missionaries were send to Peru with an intension to revive the mission effectively and efficiently, providing more vigour and vibrancy to the CMI missionaries already working there in Lima and Arequipa dioceses. As an effective and efficient strategy in the training of the future missionaries of Peru the province began to send scholastics there for practical training and for theological formation. In 2001 the sub-region of San Mateo Peru was established. The Sub-Regional house Villa Chavara is in Lima. At present, in Peru 12 of our confreres are working in the dioceses of Chosica (Lima), Arequipa and Chequibamba.
In 1991 a new Mission in Papua New Guinea was also started. A few of our confreres were send to the diocese of Vanimo and got actively involved in the activities in the hard pastoral fields of the diocese. Due to certain practical inconveniences this mission was discontinued since 2002. And new initiatives have started off to revive this mission in 2008 itself, After a short period of interval, the Papua mission is resurrecting with a renewed enthusiasm and hope. The province has also taken up missions in the developed countries like Australia, the USA, Germany and UK and is engaged in the pastoral works of the different diocese of these countries as part of its services to the universal Church. Five of our confreres are working there in two dioceses in Australia. One confrer is working there in one of the dioceses of UK. In the USA and Germany several of our brethren are working in the parish ministry of the different dioceses there. Besides these countries, some other members of the Province are working and/or studying in various other foreign countries. More than 47 priests belong to the province are engaged in oversees missions of the province.
At present the Province has 291 (213 Priests, 8 Brothers and 70 Scholastics) professed members engaged in spreading the Good News in different parts of the world through evangelization activities, pastoral involvements, education programs, communication and printing medias and through various types socio-cultural associations.
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