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CMI History

Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI)

The congregation of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI) is the first indigenous religious congregation in the Catholic Church of India. It has its humble beginning by the effort of three pious and holy priests Fr. Thomas Palackal, Fr. Thomas Porukkara and Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara of the Syro-Malabar Church of apostolic origin. They felt that a lot of good had not been done due to the absence of a Thapas Bhavan and a Darsana Veedu, and had a challenging vision of providing spiritual leadership and fostering unity and growth in the Kerala Church. With the permission of Bishop Maurilius Stabilini, the Vicar Apostolic of Verapoly, they founded a religious house at Mannanam on May 11, 1831. Jacob Kanianthara who later became the first professed brother in the congregation, co-operated with the founding fathers from the beginning. The name of the congregation was Servants of Mary Immaculate.

Soon, some more priests joined the founding fathers and thus a small religious community took shape. Om December 1855, the first eleven fathers made their religious profession. Kuriakose Elias Chavara, the only surviving founder was appointed the first Superior of the Congregation. Since, during the early periods of the religious congregation, the Vicar Apostolic of Verapoly were Carmelites, the congregation had come under the influence of Carmelites; hence, the rules of the Carmelites with some modifications were given to them in 1855. In 1860, the community was affiliated to the order of Carmelites Discalced with the name: “Third Order of the Carmelites Discalced’ (TOCD). The constitutions were approved ad experimentum by the Apostolic See in 1885. In 1958, the name was changed to ‘Carmelites of Mary Immaculate’ (CMI). The congregation was granted pontifical exemption in 1967.

The Religious life of the congregation was rooted in the Indian, Oriental and Carmelites traditions. They were contemplatives in action and exercised their activities responding to the needs of the particular times. They preached retreats, established seminaries for the training of the local clergy, propagated Christian literatures and faith, worked for the reunion of the separated brotheren from Catholic Church, undertook works of mercy and started charitable institutions.

The apostolate of the CMI congregation attained a new momentum and a new dimension when it was entrusted with territories outside Kerala to do mission work. In 1962, Chanda was erected as the first missionary exarchate of the Syro-Malabar Church. Since then, new mission dioceses and regions were erected in central and north India. There are now 6 dioceses in North India that were pioneered by the congregation, viz. Chanda, Jadavpur, Sagar, Bijnor, Rajkot and Adilabad. Two of them are shepherded by CMI bishops even today. This is indeed a milestone in the progress of the CMI missions and an abiding evidence of the recognition by the Apostolic See. Besides, many members are engaged in various kinds of apostolate in other parts of India and also in other countries.

The CMI Congregation, at present, is the largest Religious Congregation for men in the Syro-Malabar Church. The CMI’s are spread throughout India and abroad. It has a membership of more than 3000, including 10 Bishops, 1875 priests, 22 Lay Brothers and 1059 Scholastics and Candidates in formation. Almost half of the CMI priests are working outside Kerala, of which more than 400 are outside India. CMI priests are actively involved in missions and pastoral ministry in 30 countries around the globe.

The Prior General, assisted by four General Councillors and General Auditor, is at the head of the administration. The Prior General’s house at Chavara Hills in Kakkanad, Kochi, India is the head quarters of the congregation. The General Synaxis elects them every six years. For the sake of administration, the congregation is divided into 15 provinces, one region and a few sub-regions. The Provincial level administration is carried out by the Provincial’s with four Councillors and the Provincial Auditor elected by the respective Provincial Synaxis every three years.

The Sister Congregation, Congregation of the Mother of Carmel (CMC), founded by the same founder Kuriakose Elias Chavara, with independent administrative set up following the same Charism, is having about 6500 members and 20 Provinces with 629 religious houses and 599 social, Charitable and educational institutions, and spread all over India and in several countries of the world.

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