Veronica of the Passion
|Mary Veronica of the Passion, O.C.D.|
Foundress of the Apostolic Carmel
October 1, 1823
Constantinople, Ottoman Empire
|Died||November 16, 1906
Pau, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, France
She was born Sophie Leeves in 1823 in Constantinople, capital of the Ottoman Empire, to the Reverend Henry Daniel Leeves, an Anglican chaplain to the British Embassy there, and to Marina Haultain, the daughter of a Colonel in British army.
When Sophie was in her teens a change came over her. She spent long hours in prayers. She was like a child crying for the light. Her spirit craved for something that was beyond her reach. She did not know what she wanted. God had his plans for her. "Easter Tuesday ended in a dark night" she writes. "I blew out the last candles. The house was still. Suddenly a clear but soft voice broke the stillness and I heard these words distinctly 'My peace I leave you; My peace I give you'. Then all was still again, the night as well as my heart".
She felt drawn to the Catholic Church, especially the sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion. Mrs. Leeves and others were annoyed at this. But Sophie felt that God was leading her to unknown paths. She broke off the engagement she had made with a young and handsome naval officer.
She was received into the Catholic Church on 2 February 1850 in Malta. The following year, she went to France where she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition, which had been founded in 1836 by Saint Emily de Vialar. After completing the novitiate, she was professed as a member of the congregation on 14 September 1851 and received the name Sister Mary Veronica of the Passion.
In 1863 she was assigned to teach at the congregation's foundation in India, sent at the request of Bishop Marie Antony, O.C.D., who had appealed to France for assistance to hand over the education of youth to religious. As a preliminary step he had bought a house at Calicut (now Kozhikode) in 1860 and fitted it up for a convent and at the request of the people opened a school there on the 1st April 1862, calling it St. Joseph's School. Mother Veronica and Sr. Mary Joseph, after a long and tiring voyage and a brief halt at Mangalore, arrived there on 27 April 1862, and took charge of the school. She served as the first Superior of the convent and spent two years teaching at both Mangalore and Kozhikode.
It was there that Sister Veronica met Father Marie Ephrem of the Sacred Heart Garrelon, O.C.D. He, along with the other Discalced Carmeltite friars who provided pastoral care for western India, had long envisioned a group of teaching Sisters to provide an education to the women and girls of the region. The friar felt that Sister Veronica was an excellent candidate to lead this effort, which coincided with her own inner call to join the Carmelite Order.
After much reflection and anguish, Sister Veronica accepted the call to start such a foundation. She left the Sisters of St. Joseph and returned to France, where she entered the Discalced Carmel of Pau as a novice. After her profession, Sister Veronica embarked on the formation of a small group of European women who had joined to start the foundation in India, living in a house in Bayonne. They officially formed the Congregation of the Sisters of the Carmelite Third Order Regular, known as the "Apostolic Carmel", on 16 July 1868, the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
A small group of three Sisters left for India, under the leadership of Mother Mary of the Angels, A.C., who served as the first Superior General and Mistress of novices of the new congregation. They arrived in India on 19 November 1870, about the same time as Father Ephrem was appointed as the local bishop. Shortly after their arrival, the Sisters opened the St. Ann School for Girls.
In 1873, Mother Veronica returned to her own monastery, the Carmel of Pau, where she died on 16 November 1906, at the age of 83.
On 5 September 1892, the congregation Mother Veronica helped to found became formally affiliated with the Discalced Carmelite Order. It has grown and now has branches in various parts of India, Sri Lanka, Kuwait, Pakistan, Kenya, Rome and Bahrain. The Congregation is governed under six Provinces and centrally administered by the General Team from the General Motherhouse, Bangalore, with Sr. Agatha Mary, A.C., as the present Superior General since 2008.