CARMELITES OF MARY IMMACULATE
A Short History
The Congregation of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI) is the first now-existing Religious Congregation founded in the Indian Church. It was established in Mannanam in Kerala, on 11th May 1831. The Founders are Fr. Thomas Palackal, Fr. Thomas Porukara and Fr. Kuriakose (Cyriac) Elias Chavara. They were assisted by Jacob Kanianthara who joined the Congregation as a Brother co-operator. The first two of the Founding Fathers passed away in 1841 and 1846 respectively.
On 8th December 1855, the Religious Community at Mannanam became a canonically recognized Religious Congregation with the religious profession of the first batch of eleven priests headed by Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara. He was the first Prior General of the Congregation. The name of the Congregation at that time was ‘Congregation of the Servants of Mary Immaculate of Mount Carmel’. Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara passed away with the odour of sanctity on 3rd January 1871. Holy Father Pope John Paul II beatified Fr. Chavara during his visit to Kerala in 1986. In 1860, this Congregation was affiliated to the Carmelite Order as a Religious Congregation of the Oriental Rite and assumed the name T.O.C.D. (Third Order of Carmelites Discalced). It was granted Pontifical status in 1885. The name of the Congregation was changed to C.M.I. (Carmelites of Mary Immaculate) in 1958. C.M.I. was given Pontifical Exemption in 1967.
It was also Blessed Chavara who, in collaboration with Fr. Leopold Beccaro, founded the first Religious Congregation for women in the Syro-Malabar Church, the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel (C.M.C.), in 1866. They have a membership of more than 6300 professed sisters in 20 Provinces all over India.
The CMI Congregation, with a far-reaching and prophetic vision was involved from its very beginning, in such pioneering activities as the Church in Kerala was in need of at that time. It started with preaching retreats in almost all the parishes in Kerala which brought about vitality and vibrancy throughout the Church. It also introduced into the Church many devotional practices like the Eucharistic Devotion, Rosary, Way of the Cross, etc. which became very popular in the whole Church of Kerala. The Congregation also took leadership in starting Seminaries for the training of the Clergy. The first school of the Catholic Church in Kerala, a Sanskrit School, was started in Mannanam in 1846. Later in 1885, the first English School of the Syro-Malabar Church also was started by the Congregation at Mannanam. Similarly, in 1846, the first Printing Press of the Catholic Community in Kerala was started at Mannanam. Deepika, the first News Paper of Kerala, not only the first of the Kerala Church, started in Mannanam in 1887. It was also an important activity of the Congregation to work for the propagation of the faith and to work for the reunion of the separated brethren among the St. Thomas Christians. The Congregation also was taking great interest in taking care of the poor and downtrodden sections of the society by establishing charitable institutions. Thus, the Congregation was actively involved in an integral development of our people, not only of the Syro-Malabar Church, but the whole of Kerala, irrespective of caste and creed. However, it was the deep-rooted prayer life of the members and of each community, which motivated and supported their people-oriented activities. They were contemplatives in action. In 1861, Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara was appointed Vicar General of the whole Syro-Malabar Church. It was at that time the Roccos schism lashed against the Church in Kerala. He alerted the Catholic community of the dire consequences of the divisive forces, fought against the Roccos schism, and preserved the unity and integrity of the Kerala Church.
The second half of the 20th century witnessed a rapid growth of the CMIs beyond the boundaries of Kerala. Two decisive moments in its history in this line were the shifting of its Major Formation House to Bangalore, by the new name Dharmaram College in 1957 and extending its activities to North India for direct Evangelization in 1962. The Mission Diocese of Chanda was the first Diocese entrusted to the CMIs in 1962. This was also the first Diocese of the Syro-Malabar Church outside Kerala. Today CMI Bishops take care of 6 dioceses, namely, the Dioceses of Bijnor, Sagar, Rajkot, Chanda, Jagdalpur and Adilabad. They are Bishop Gratian Mundadan, Bishop Joseph Pastor Neelamkavil, Bishop Gregory Karotemprel, Bishop Vijay Anand Nedumpuram, Bishop Simon Stock Palathara, and Bishop Joseph Kunnath respectivel.
The CMI Congregation has today 4 Major Seminaries for the training of its members. They are: Dharmaram College, Bangalore, Darsana Philosophate, Wardha, Samanvaya Theologate, Bhopal and Carmel Vidya Bhavan, Pune. Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram (D.V.K.) at Bangalore is a Pontifical Athenaeum with the Faculties of Philosophy, Theology and Oriental Canon Law, and it has a strength of 900 Students hailing from 17 Dioceses and 72 Religious Congregations. In 1998, the CMIs were entrusted with the running of the Regional Major Seminary in Namibia, Africa.
The CMIs are running a Centre for Indian and Inter-religious Studies in Rome. It offers our Indian as well as foreign Students courses in Sanskrit language and Indian Spirituality. The C.M.I. Spirituality Centre established in Liberty, in the United States, is a very promising step which serves the people of America introducing them to Indian, Oriental and Carmelite spiritual traditions.
Today the CMI Congregation is the largest Religious Congregation for men in the Syro-Malabar Church. The CMIs are spread through out India and abroad in 13 Provinces. It has a membership of 2700 personnel including 7 Bishops, 1421 Priests, 11 permanent Deacons, 40 Brothers and about 1300 Brothers in formation. 700 of our Priests are working outside Kerala, of which 200 are outside India. Our Priests are actively involved in pastoral services in 20 Countries around the world. Our first Formation House outside India has been established in 2001 in Kenya in Africa and the first batch of 4 Kenyan CMI Novices made their first Profession in 2005.
The Prior General and his team of four General Councillors and a General Auditor serve the Congregation in its level of general administration. They are elected every six years by the General Chapter of the whole Congregation. The Provincial level administration is carried out by the respective Provincial with his four Councillors and the Provincial Auditor elected by the respective Provincial Chapter every three years.
Fr. Mathew Kaniamparampil, CMI
CMI CONGREGATION AT A GLANCE: STATISTICS: 2005
Founded in 1831 at Mannanam, Kerala, as the First Indigenous Religious Congregation of India.
Present number of total members 2750
CMI Bishops 6
Priestly Students 1286
In Kerala: 6
Outside Kerala: 7
Houses and Residences 288
Houses abroad: 3
Major Seminaries 3
In Kerala: 6
Outside Kerala: 4
Outside India: Kenya: 1
Aspirants’ Houses 30
Mission Centres 140
Medical College (Amala, Thrissur) 1
Engineering College (Rajagiri, Kakkanad, Ernakulam) 1
University Colleges 14
Parallel Colleges 5
B. Ed. Colleges 3
Hospitals and Dispensaries 48
Social Service Centres 99
Rural Development Centres 30
Renewal Retreat Centres 3
Retreat Centre abroad: Tennessee, U.S.A. 1
Cultural & Dialogue Centres 17
Printing & Publishing Houses 16
Social Service Centres 102
Today, 39% of the CMI Priests work in the Missions outside Kerala, in India.
17% of the Priests work outside India in 20 Countries around the globe.
Address of the Generalate:
CMI Generalate, P.B.No. 1056, Ernakulam- 682 011.