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Carmelites of Mary Immaculate


The Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI; Official Catholic Directory #0275) is a religious congregation of priests and brothers of the Syro-Malabar Church, founded at Mannanam, Kerala (India), in 1831 by Thomas Palackal, Thomas Porukara, and Blessed Kuriakose Elias chavara, three native diocesan priests. Palackal and Porukara soon died, and Chavara had to carry on the work alone. It was the first religious institute among the Malabar Catholics. Members, who are mostly clerics, take simple perpetual vows. Blessed Kuriakose, who took his religious vows with ten other priests when the institute was canonically erected in 1855, was superior until his death in 1871. During his lifetime seven monasteries were established. The following eight decades saw the Carmelites spread throughout Kerala.

In the beginning their rule/constitution was a modified version of that of the Discalced Carmelites. Through various revisions radical changes were introduced so much so that the original rule finds only a very distant echo in the present constitution. The Holy See approved the first constitution in 1885 and 1906, and a revision of them in 1958. A more radical revision started after Vatican II and the new constitution was approved by Rome in 1983. Slight modifications were made in 1996 and 1997. Governing the congregation is a prior general, assisted by four councillors and an auditor general, all of whom are elected every six years. Each provincial superior and his four councilors and provincial auditor are chosen for three-year terms. The Generalate is located in Ernakulam, Kerala (India).

From its inception, the congregation has always labored to serve the church in Kerala, focusing on preaching retreats, training clergy and lay ministers; educating the youth and disseminating Christian literature; laboring for the conversion of non-Christians and for the reunion of all Christians; undertaking works of mercy and operating charitable institutions. As the congregation grew, it was divided into three provinces in 1953. The number of provinces increased during the last fifty years and at present there are 13 provinces (six in Kerala, seven in other states of South India and North India, and one mission region in West India). In 1962 the congregation was entrusted with a mission territory in the Archdiocese of Nagpur in central India. After that four more mission dioceses were entrusted: Sagar (MP), Rajkot (Gujarat), Jagadalpur (MP), Bijnor (UP/Uttaranchal).

Since the 1950s, the CMI has experienced tremendous growth. By the end of the 20th century, membership was over 2,300 with 224 houses and 130 mission stations. Outside of India, the congregation has an active presence in Africa (Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania), Australia, Canada, Papua Guinea, Europe, South America and the USA. The North American headquarters is located in Brookyn, NY.

Bibliography: k. c. chacko, Father Kuriakose Elias Chavara: Servant of God (Mannanam, India: 1959). The Carmelite Congregation of Malabar (Trichinopoly 1931). The Syrian Carmelite Congregation of Malabar (Kottayam 1955). (CMI) Constitutions and Directory (Kochi 1997). Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI) Directory (Kochi 1997). "Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI)," in Indian Christian Directory (Kottayam 2000, 12491250).

[a. m. mundadan]

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