Religious Congregations for Men and Women

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Bibin Thomas

      God in His loving providence provides saints for the Church for her spiritual renaissance. Saints Francis of Assisi, Dominic, Benedict, Ignatius of Loyola were selected for the spiritual renewal of the Church in the right course of time. They started religious congregations and motivated people to lead saintly life. St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara was instrumental to begin indigenous religious congregations for men and women and became the trend setter in the flourishing catholic movement in Indian church, particularly the Syro Malabar Church.

            By the words of saint Chavara, from the first page of his chronicle, we may allude to the request fathers Palackal and Porukara (Rector & Spiritual animator of Saint Chavara) placed before the bishop Maurelius Stabilini “Seeing that a lot of good has not been done due to the absence of a Thapasu Bhavanam (house of discipline) in Kerala even for priests, we desire to start a ‘Darsana Veed (house of vision) at least for priests”.

          The Vicar Apostolic, finally on 1st November 1829, granted permission to establish a religious house. On May 11, 1831, the foundation stone for the proposed religious house was laid at Mannanam dedicating it to St.Joseph. This was the first indigenous religious institute for men in the Indian Church of modern times, known now as Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI).

        In 1841, Malpan Thomas Palackal, and in 1846 Malpan Thomas Poroukara died, leaving the whole burdens of organizing the religious community to Fr. Kuriakose Chavara. On 8th December 1855, Fr.Chavara with his eleven companions made their religious vows assuming Fr.Chavara as superior (prior) of the religious community.Starting seven religious houses, besides the first one at Mannanam, in different parts of Kerala, the new congregation made great strides in the spiritual renovation in the Kerala Church.

            A religious congregation for women in Kerala was a great desire of Fr. Chavara. It was a long cherished desire of his and the result of several attempts one at Alangad in 1857 another at Puthanpally in 1859. In 1866, on February 13, with the co-operation of Fr. Leopold Beccaro, Carmelite Missionary, the first Carmelite convent of the sisters was inaugurated at Koonamavo, under the name “Third Order of the Carmelites Discalced”. The motive of starting such an institute of religious life was for Christian formation, education and empowerment of women folk.

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