We have gathered here today to remember fondly and celebrate and above all to express our gratitude to God Almighty for the two rare events in the history of the church in India, especially that of the Syro-Malabar Church.
One is the remembrance and celebrationof the canonization of our two saintly stars namely, Fr. Kuriakose Elas Chavara and mother Euphrasia who is the beloved of Ollur who were declared saints by the holy Father Pope Francis in Rome on 23rd November 2014 keeping hundreds over thousands of joyous believers as witnesses . Another is the inauguration of the Sesqui centennial Jubilee of the CMC, the first indigenous women religious Congregation, founded by Saint Chavara, a great Socio- religious reformer of Kerala of the 19th century. Saint Euphrasia was a member of the CMC. We wish to express our immense gratitude to God Almighty along with all of you assembled here for these invaluable gifts which fill our hearts with ineffable joy.
At this juncture, I would like to peep in to the background and aim of the foundation of the CMC. The Thought about the pitiable condition of the Kerala church that received faith directly from St. Thomas, the Apostle of Jesus Christ, caused great sorrow in the heart of Fr. Chavara , an ardent lover of the Church. 19th centuries had passed since the people received the light of the true faith .Still there was not even one canonized saint from the Malabar church. Besides, on account of the spiritual blindness there was no way to know the heavenly Father and grow in divine love. There were neither monasteries nor convents to guide the believers in the path of virtues and holiness. The women who were desirous of leading the life of virginity all through their lives had no opportunity . Thus, there were no saints due to the existing circumstances in the Malabar church. Believers lived like sheep without shepherds. Fr. Chavara realized very well that it was this situation that resulted in disunity in the Christian community. As God gave Moses as an answer to the cry of the Israelites, so saint Chavara , the new Moses was given to the Malabar church . About a century before the Vat. II that taught that “every one is called to sanctity and the religious life should change in to a living symbol that can inspire the people of God to perform their duty of Christan vocation with valiance and power ” , Fr. Chavara founded Convent for the same goal .This shows the importance and the highest need of the foundation of our congregation at that time.
On 13th February 1866 our congregation, then known as the Third Order of the Carmelites Discalced (TOCD) for women Religious was founded by saint Chavara at Koonammavu. Rev. Fr. Leopold Beccaro OCD, the then Provincial Delegate in Kerala is our co-founder. Eliswa Vakayil a widow, her daughter Anna, Theresa Vyppicherry sister of Eliswa, another widow,Eliswa(Clara) Puthangady from Vaikom were the first members. They were a mixed group of Latin and Syrian Rites.
As the fragrance of their virtuous life at Koonammavu spread around more and more young women joined them to lead a life of holiness and soon their number increased by leaps and bounds.
The steady growth of this congregation had great impact on the history of the Syro-Malabar church. On May 20th 1887 Pope Leo XIII through His Encyclical ‘Quod Yam Preetham established the Vicariates of Trissur and Kottayam for the Syro-Malabar Church. It was a turning point in the history of our congregation too. At the Koonammavu convent there were members belonging to the Vicariates of Verapoly, Trissur and kottayam. In 1888 Mar Charles Lavinj took the Syrian sisters of the Vicariate of Kottayam to Mutholi at Pala to start a new convent .It became the first foundation of that branch. On 19th April 1890 the Holy See through a papal order placed the convent at Koonammavu under the Vicariate of Trissur. Consequently, seven sisters of that convent who belonged to the Latin Rite were taken to Verapoly by Monsgr. Leonarde Melano and started the first convent of that branch there. This section of the Latin sisters are now known as the Thresian Carmelites (CTC) and the Syrian section is called as the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel(CMC).
The Vicariates of Ernakulam, Changanacherry and Trissur, were established and the indigenous bishops began to undertake the responsibility of the administration . Each group flourished independently following the constitution given by the respective Bishops. On November 16th 1963 all the five independent branches of the CMC were unified and were brought under the administration and spiritual animation of one Superior General.On2nd March 1967 the Holy See accepted the common Constitution prepared and changed the former name ‘The Third order of Carmelites Discalced’ into CMC(Congregation of the Mother of Carmel) and raised it to the status of a Pontifical congregation. That gave CMC an international out look. She began to grow spreading her wings of service beyond the limit of the state of her origin. Today the CMC has 6700 members under 20 provinces (13 in Kerala and 7 in the North of India) and 6 Mission Regions zealouly working for the Kingdom of God in four continents , Asia, Africa, America and Europe.
At the time of the Founding Fathers itself CMC started various apostolic activities. After the foundation (1866) without much delay on 2nd January 1868 a Boarding House(Edukumdath) for girls to stay and study was established by the Fathers themselves. The boarders learned there not only languages and secular subjects but also biblical matters, virtues , prayers, handicrafts as tailoring , lace and rosary making .They were capable of teaching others too how to do certain works. The aim of the boarding was to train girls to be good wives as the light of their homes and of the society and if any one wished, to give her an opportunity to become a holy, consecrated virgin. It gives us delight that Rose Elavuthinkal (St.Euphrasia whom we remember today with great respect, devotion and love ) joined the same boarding at Koonammavu on 3rd July 1888 and got training till 1897. It is to be noted that the convent and boarding at Koonammavu was the pioneer institution of its kind among the Catholics in Kerala for the training of the Christian girls in faith formation , Christian formation, education and professional training. As we remember this fact with immense satisfaction we also are aware that the CMC needs to walk miles in this area of service for others. The boarding school opened in 1868 and St. Theresa’s Girls School started in 1872 at Koonammavu are the cradles of the attempt of Kerala Catholic Church for women education and empowerment.
Establishing for the first time in India an Institute for Charity and an Association of Happy Death, Saint Chavara opened the road for Hospital service and commitment to the poor and the destitute. Getting inspiration from the founder, CMC started in1880 their service through an orphanage at Koonammavu in order to make Jesus, the lover of the poor and the helpless present among them. When we turn the pages of the early history of the CMC we understand that attached to almost all convents there was either children’s home or orphanage.
Today, the children of the CMC are actively involved in multifarious services through institutions caring the depressed, afflicted, rejected and marginalized, Hospitals, Clinics, Home palliative
Centres, Social work program including Self Help Groups, family counseling , education, Catechism and parish animation, and above all sharing the word of God through spiritual movement, special service to the aboriginals, animation , Home and foreign mission activities, street evangelization, religious renewal program, new evangelization through mass media etc,. They serve both in India as well as in foreign countries with great missionary zeal according to the need of the church and the people. The daughters of the CMC has begun special social service program to help the poor and the needy in the society as a preparation for the sesqui-centenniel Jubilee year of the congregation. As a souvenir of the jubilee we are giving free of cost 150 houses for the homeless, land for 150 landless families, meeting marriage expenses of 150 young women, and sponsoring the higher education of another 150 children. In addition to these acts of charity there is another combined effort of the CMI and the CMC congregations to constitute a Charitable Trust of Rs. one crore to perpetuate the memory of the canonization of our founder Fr. Chavara and Mother Euphrasia who were lovers of the the helpless and the less fortunate. We know that we have to enter more fields of service where the people of God are waiting to see us with the light of truth and development. In order to realize that dream more young women need to enter the CMC boat. “A life separated to dedicate for God is not a life lost but a life gained”. I challenge the youngsters seated before me to accept the path of our saints whose memory we celebrate today. I appeal to the parents lovingly to opt for large families and prepare their children to listen to the call of God for consecrated life.
Fulfilling the dream of saint Chavara several women religious congregations sprang up in different parts of the Kerala church. It is a matter of joy that CMC sisters, as the pioneers in religious life, had been playing commendable role in training their members in the initial stage and in helping the sisters in their on-going formation . Thus, more than 40 newly established congregations had acknowledged their debt of gratitude to us for having trained their sisters under our care and protection.
The Church in Kerala, particularly the Syro-malabar church, is being enriched by the Servants of God, the Venerable, the Blessed and especially by the saints who were canonized on account of their deep desire to make the church holy with the presence of saints. They searched, found out and executed the ways and means of starting religious congregations and leading the people of God in the right track of Gospel values. Due to a witnessing life and the charism handed down to the succeeding generation, Fr. Chavara and Mother Euphrasia were exalted to the sainthood and we are celebrating that grand memory of their canonization
Dear brothers and sisters, I am going to wind up my speech by bringing in to your notice an unavoidable remembrance in this holy assembly. It is nothing other than a remembrance of a thanks giving. CMC is stepping to her 150th year. There have been so many generous people rendered invaluable service in different periods behind the growth of the CMC as it is today. Some of them committed themselves for her, others lent helping hands through personnel, many financed, there many who gave themselves, their precious time, health, talents and spiritual wealth and guidance to water and groom the plant of CMC congregation. Among them stand the founding fathers and the first members. All the holy Fathers From Pope Leo the XIII to the present Pope Francis, those Cardinals who were the Heads of the Oriental Church especially Cardinal Eugene Tissarang, from the Vicar Apostolica Bernadene Baccinelly who granted the legal permission for the foundation of this congregation to Monsgr. Leonarde Melano who guided the Syrian Catholics up to 1896 in Verapoly, Kottayam, and Trissur Vicariates, Foreign Vicar Apostolica Adolf Medalicot and Chaarles Levinj, Indigenous Bishops Mar Louis Pazheparambil,MarMathew Makkil and Mar John Menacherry who led the Vicariates of Ernakulam, Changanacherry and Trissur in 1896,and all the Bishops and priests who gave spiritual help to CMC sisters in Kerala, in the mission places in and outside India, besides, all the Delegates of the bishops, spiritual directors, and confessors , the CMI, OCD, Diocesan priests who guided the sisters in the path of holiness from the very inception of our congregation until date. All of them deserve our gratitude in a very special way. Along with them I thankfully remember the people of God in general, the parishioners, leaders of the laity, well wishers and families who wanting to have the CMC presence in their locality did lend their hands to us in different ways especially through donation of land or money to start our convent .We owe a great debt of gratitude to the parents of our sisters who were very generous to send their beloved daughters for the service of God through the CMC. May the divine blessings be always up on you. Requesting all of you to thank the Lord for the wonderful ways through which the Almighty had been guiding the CMC during the past years and thank Him along with the psalmist who acknowledged the marvels of the ways of God and praised Him incessantly, I windup .
Thank you all.