CMI History

The Congregation of Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI) is the first indigenous religious congregation of India. It grew out of the intense God-experience in Christ of our founding fathers, Thomas Palackal (+ 1841), Fr. Thomas Porukara (+ 1846) and Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara (+ 1871: beatified on February 8, 1986): They were priests of the Apostolic Church of St. Thomas Christians in India. Under the able direction and guidance of the then Vicar Apostolic, Bishop Maurilius Stabilini, these men of God started a spiritual movement at Mannanam on May 11, 1831. Brother Jacob Kanianthara shared the inspiration of the founding fathers and assisted them in the foundation. (Constitutions and Directory, The Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, 1993, Article 1, p.1). In course of time more and more priests and seminarians joined the religious community. On the day of the feast of Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1855 the first eleven Fathers made their profession of religious vows. Thus the Congregation was canonically erected, and Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara was appointed the first Prior.

The Founding Fathers of the Congregation committed their life to intense prayer and deep recollection and the building up and renewal of the Church. The religious life organised by the Fathers was a life of communion with God, making the Word their food and drink and as a consequence they became powerful heralds of the Word, evangelising the non-Christians, catechising the new Christians, working for the reunion of dissident Christians and labouring for the all-round development of the Church.

In 1861 the community was affiliated to the Order of the Carmelites with the title TOCD (Third Order of the Carmelites Discalced). Brother Jacob Kanianthara, who assisted the founding fathers, made his religious profession in 1865. In 1885, the Congregation got its Pontifical status and for the first time, the constitution was approved by the Holy See, ad experimentum. In 1906 the constitution got final approbation.

On March 2, 1953 it was divided into three Provinces-Devamatha Province, for the northern region of Travancore-Kochi; Sacred Heart Province, for the central region of Travancore-Kochi; and St.Joseph's Province for the southern region with Malabar area as its mission territory, called Calicut Region. In 1958 the constitution was revised and got approved by the Holy See. In the same year the name Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI) was given to the Congregation. In 1962 the first mission territory outside South India (Chanda) was entrusted to the Congregation. Pontifical exemption status was granted to the Congregation in 1967. In 1984 the new constitution of the Congregation, after a period of several years of experimentation and study in the light of Vatican II, got its final approval from the Holy See. Since 1960s, we see a spectacular growth and expansion of the Congregation both inside and outside India. At present the Congregation has more than 2000 members spread all over India, Europe, USA, Latin America, Africa Australia and Philippines. In India, six mission dioceses in North and Central India are entrusted to it. The Congregation has thirteen Provinces. Through various apostolates and socio-pastoral activities in different fields of life, the Congregation continues to keep the torch bequeathed to it by its Founding Fathers.

The Province of St.Joseph established on March 2, 1953 was formally inaugurated on April 23, 1953. The Provincial Curia which functioned temporarily at Mannanam was shifted to Kottayam in 1956 when the new building for the Curia was built. In 1968, due to practical difficulties, the curia was shifted to St.Antony's Monastery, Puthuppally. The Calicut Region, which was entrusted to the Province and was made Vice-Province in 1969 and Province in 1978, is named after St.Thomas the Apostle. In 1972 the mission territory of Jagadalpur was erected and was entrusted to St.Joseph's Province. In 1972 two priests from the Province were sent for mission work in Peru.

In 1979, the erstwhile St. Joseph Province, Kottayam was divided into three - St.Joseph Province, Kottayam, St.Joseph Province, Mannanam and Nirmal Vice-Province, Jagadalpur. St. Joseph Province, Mannanam moved its headquarters to Thiruvananthapuram in 1981 and St. Joseph's Province, Kottayam moved its curia back to Kottayam in 1990. While St. Joseph's Province Kottayam spreads over the entire dioceses of Pala and Kanjirappally and parts of Changanacherry Diocese, St. Joseph Province Thiruvananthapuram spreads over the rest of Changanacherry Diocese. On January 3, 1985 two districts of the diocese of Rajkot were earmarked for St.Joseph Province, Kottayam for missionary work and later one more district was added to these and Chavara Sub-region was erected with Bhavanagar as its centre. In 1990 the Province decided to restart its mission in Peru. In 1991 a new Mission in Papua New Guinea was started. Chavara Sub-region Bhavanagar was made a dependent region in 1996 with its Regional House (Devdarsan) at Merubaugh. At present the Province has 311 professed members engaged in spreading the Good News through evangelization, pastoral work, education print media and social apostolate.