Carmelites of Mary Immaculate

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Carmelites of Mary Immaculate
Carmelites of Mary Immaculate Logo.jpg
Logo of the C.M.I.
MottoI have been very zealous
for the Lord, the God of hosts
"meṭan ṭenēt l-māryā ’alāhā ḥayltānā" (Syriac)
Formation11 May 1831; 187 years ago (1831-05-11)
TypeClerical Religious Congregation of Pontifical Right (for Men)
PurposeContemplata aliis tradere
(Sharing with others the fruits of contemplation)
HeadquartersChavara Hills,
Kochi, Kerala, India
2,597 members (1,900 priests) (2016)
Prior General
Fr. Paul Achandy, C.M.I.
Key people
Fr.Thomas Palackal
Fr. Thomas Porukara
St.Kuriakose Elias Chavara
Main organ
General Curia
Formerly called
Servants of Mary Immaculate
(അമലോത്ഭവ ദാസ സംഘം)

The Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (C.M.I.) is the largest Clerical Religious Congregation of Pontifical right[1] in the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church.

It was founded on 11 May 1831 by Indian priests Fr. Thomas Palackal, Fr. Thomas Porukara, and Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara .[2] C.M.I. is the first now-existing religious congregations founded in the Church in India.[3] The Identity and heritage of the Congregation is reflected in its triple roots of spirituality namely Indian, Eastern and Carmelite. The Congregation is involved in pastoral works consisting of teaching at all levels, taking care of aged and sick, apostolate of press, running several mission dioceses both in India and abroad.[4]

The Congregation was originally called the Servants of Mary Immaculate (അമലോത്ഭവ ദാസ സംഘം). The original vision of founders was to begin a House of Vision (ദർശന  വീട്) for priests rooted in Christian and Indian spirituality by combining contemplation and service, especially spiritual guidance with sannyasic elements.[5] It was based on their understanding that “a lot of good had not been done due to the absence of a House of Contemplation (തപസ് ഭവനം ) and a House of Vision (ദർശന  വീട്).”[6] The influence of Vicar Apostolic of Verapoly, who were Carmelites resulted in the orientation towards Carmelite order and spirituality. The Congregation was affiliated to the Carmelite Order as a Religious Congregation of the Oriental Rite and assumed the name T.O.C.D. (Third Order of Carmelites Discalced) in 1860. The Pontifical status was granted in 1885. The Congregation changed the name to C.M.I. (Carmelites of Mary Immaculate) in 1958. The Congregation was given Pontifical Exemption in 1967.[7]



The initial idea of leading a hermetic life came up in the minds of Malpan Thomas Porukara and Malpan Thomas Palackal. They approached the then Vicar Apostolic Bishop Mourelius Stabilini for permission. The Bishop cited three reasons namely the difficulty to begin, maintain and continue and turned them back. Later, he changed his decision and said, "If both of you priests, who are intelligent and prudent, are going to lead a life of silence and solitude, then who will teach the people? If you want, you can start a monastery. It will be useful for you and also for others."[8] He approved their request and gave them Rs. 200 to begin the monastic life.

The first monastery of CMI congregation was established on 11 May 1831 at Mannanam, Kerala, India. The foundation stone was laid by Malpan Thomas Porukara in the presence of Vicar Apostolic - Bishop Mourelius Stabilini, the local ordinary, Malpan Thomas Palackal and St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara.[9] The founders of the congregation namely Fr. Thomas Porukara, Fr. Thomas Palackal and St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara were assisted by Brother Jacob Kaniathara.[10] Jacob Kanianthara became the first professed 'brother' in the Congregation. Fr. Geevarghese Thoppil was the first to join the new religious movement. Several priests and young men from then on started to join the religious movement started at Mannanam.

Cenotaph of Fr. Thomas Palackal

On 8 December 1855, the religious community at Mannanam was recognised canonically with the profession of vows of eleven priests headed by St Kuriakose Elias Chavara, the first prior of the congregation. The original name of the movement was Servants of Mary Immaculate (അമലോത്ഭവ ദാസ സംഘം) . In 1860, this congregation was affiliated to the Carmelite Order and its members began to use the postnominal initials of T.O.C.D. (Third Order of Discalced Carmelites). The Carmelite influence on the congregation resulted from fact that during the early period of the Congregation, the Vicars Apostolic of Verapoly were Carmelites. It is because of this reason that the rules of the Carmelites with some modifications were given to them in 1855[11]. The Congregation grew leaps and bounds with the addition of new members and establishing of six more monasteries in a decade.

There was only one Prior till 1885 and the monasteries were headed by his vicars. The constitution of the Congregation were approved for the first time by the Holy See in 1885 thus the Congregation became juris pontific (pontifical right) The Congregation was headed by Prior General's from outside the congregation (Bishops) and their delegates from 1885-1902. It was from then that head of each monastery was called Prior. The title Prior General was used for the elected member who headed the Congregation. In 1902, the General Chapter convened by Bishop Bernard, the Prior General was directed by the Holy See to elect the Prior General from within the Congregation. Thus Fr. Alexander Kattakayam was elected Prior General. The practice of electing Prior Generals from among the members of Congregation continues till date. The final approbation for Constitution was received in 1906.[1] The congregation was divided into three provinces in 1953. The current name Carmelites of Mary Immaculate was received in 1958.[12] The congregation was raised to one of pontifical right in 1967 by Pope Paul VI.

First monasteries[edit]

Several diocesan priests as well as lay people enthusiastically sought admission into the rank of the religious, and six more new monasteries were founded: St. Philomena's Monastery, Koonammavu (1857), St. Mary's Monastery, Elthuruth near Trichur (1858), Carmel Monastery, Vazhakulam near Muvattupuzha (1859), St. Sebastian's Monastery, Pulinkunnu (1861), St. Theresa's Monastery, Ambazhakad (1868), and St. John of the Cross Monastery, Mutholy (1870).

Contributions to the Church[edit]

Retreat Preaching[edit]

Retreat preaching was one of the main apostolate of CMI congregation in the beginning. It was instrumental in the introduction of annual retreats for priests and laity in the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. The members of the congregation used to go in groups of two or three to different parishes in Kerala to preach retreats. The monastic rules were made flexible so that they could return to the monastery some months later after preaching retreats in different parishes. The mission of retreat preaching was supported by Bishop Luduevicos who sent a circular to all parishes of vicariate instructing them to invite the religious priests from mannanam to preach retreats in their parishes. The annual retreats for priests were conducted in the monasteries of Mannanam and Elthurth.[13] It brought about vitality and vibrancy throughout the church in Kerala.

Systematizing Liturgy and Introducing Devotional Practices[edit]

The CMI congregation was involved in the radical renewal of the Church by systematizing liturgy and introducing devotional practices. The systematization of liturgy consists of mainly systematizing the liturgical celebrations. St.Kuriakose Elias Chavara played a significant role in this regard. He wrote a number of liturgical texts that played an important role in reforming liturgy. They include the Divine office for priests, Divine office for the dead, office of the Blessed virgin Mary, prayers of various blessings, the order of Holy mass - Tukasa, liturgical calendar, forty hours adoration and prayer books for laymen.[14]

The members of the congregation were instrumental in revitalizing the sacramental life of the laity. It was done by visiting and instructing them by visiting families, Sunday homilies, Preparing children for first holy communion and above all popularizing devotional practices which were practiced in the global church such as the Rosary, Way of the Cross and the Eucharistic Devotion.[15] The spiritual outcome of such an effort could be found in The Syro-Malabar Church who are blessed with three saints, three blesseds, four venerables and ten servant of Gods.[16]

Papal Honour[edit]

Fr. Alexander Kattakayam (Sr.) was honoured by Pope Leo XIII with the title MISSIONARY APOSTOLIC in 1892. The same pope endowed him with yet another title CROCE DI BENEMERENZA in 1903. Fr. Alexander was remarkable preacher and was attentive of the pastoral needs of parishes. He is credited with introducing the first holy communion service in the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. B Charles Levinjnue once prophesied, “Fr. Chandy will die while preaching” These words were fulfilled when Fr. Alexander fell ill while preaching retreat at Thidanad and passed away.[17]

Seminary Formation[edit]

The system formation of priests in Syro-Malabar Catholic Church was called Malpanate system.[18] The seminary or the Malpanate was attached to certain parish churches and only a few candidates were taken as aspirants for priesthood. The three founding fathers of the CMI congregation were Malpans or teachers involved in priestly formation. They were instrumental in systematizing the seminary formation and thus they began the first common seminary of Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in Mannanam in 1831. It could accommodate 150 seminarians. It functioned till 1894 and was later joined with major seminary at Puthenpally. The seminaries were founded attached to monasteries in Vazhakulam (1866), Elthuruth (1868) and Pulincunnu (1872). The priests who received formation in these seminaries were instrumental in thwarting the threat raised by Roccosian and Melusian Schism and for upholding the unity of the Catholic Church.[19]

Defending Catholic Faith[edit]

When the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church was facing the threat of schisms of Bishop Roccos (1861) and Bishop Melus (18740), the CMIs were in forefront to unite the Church and defend faith. During the period when Kuriakose Elias Chavara was the Vicar General of the Syro-Malabar Church, he divided the Syrian parishes into zones and members of CMI congregation were entrusted to assist in taking care of the faithful in the parishes especially with regard to pastoral services, functioning of Sunday schools, conducting retreats. The members of the congregation was aware of the identity of Syro-Malabar Catholic Church which was under the Latin Church. Many letters were written to Rome pleading for bishops from the Syro-Malabar Church and also for freedom in liturgical worship. The congregation had to pay heavy price for such an act with seven members were expelled for writing letters to Rome. The only reason for expulsion being asking for separate Bishops for Syrians without the consent of vicar apostolic of Verapoly.[20] One of the seven, Aloysius Pazheparambil (Louis Pazheparampil), became the first bishop of the Vicariate of Ernakulam in 1896.[21]

Reunion Movement[edit]

The Coonan Cross Oath resulted in the division of Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara and members of the CMI congregation were instrumental in bringing the separated Jacobite brethren back to the Catholic fold. Letters were written by Kuriakose Elias Chavara to Rome in 1896 requesting separate Bishops for Syrians and Latins which would created an ambient atmosphere for the return of the Jacobites. St. Chavara had also written letters to Jacobite to attend the First Vatican Council held between 1869-1870 which was encouraged by the Pope too. Yet another significant name in the reunion movement is Fr. Mathai Mariam Palakunnel. Together with other members of the CMI Congregation he worked among Jacobites in Kollam, Kottar, Pandalam, Kottarakara, Adoor, Chenganur etc. He also established Ashrams in prominent Jacobite centers such as Ayroor and Puthupally. Based in the major seminary in Chethipuzha, Fathers Stephan Thayil, Hyacinth Kunnumkal, Gregory Neerakal, Ignatius Puthanpurackal were the leading lights of the 20th century re-union movement. Yet another notable member of the CMI congregation was Fr. Placid J. Podipara who also played a key role in the re-union of Geevarghese Ivanios (Mar Ivanios) and Mar Teophilos towards the establishment of Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. [22]

Other pioneering works[edit]

A Sanskrit school was started in Mannanam in 1846; the St. Ephraim English school was begun there in 1890 and converted to a high school in 1903. Similarly in 1844, the first printing press in the Syro-Malabar Church was started at Mannanam. Deepika, the first newspaper of Kerala, was begun at Mannanam in 1887. After running it for more than a century, it was handed over to a registered company.

The congregation took great interest in taking care of the poor and downtrodden sections of the society by establishing charitable institutions. Thus the congregation was actively involved in an integral development of the people of Kerala.

Missionary works[edit]

The congregation strove for works of evangelization and to work for the reunion of the separated brethren among the St. Thomas Christians. Fr. Chavara is considered the pioneer of the works of evangelization in the Syro-Malabar Church. Later in 1962, when the Chanda mission territory in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra was entrusted to the Syro-Malabar Church, it was committed to the care of the congregation. Today CMI bishops take care of the dioceses of Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh, Bijnor in UP-Uttarakhand, Rajkot in Gujarat, and Mandya in Karnataka. The mission provinces stand with and for the poor on issues of importance and engage in social work among the marginalised section of the society in particular.

Global Mission[edit]

The CMI Congregation began its global mission in 1938 with the Iran Mission. The Iraq mission was undertaken in 1960. The priests worked in parishes and seminary formation. The missions to Europe and North America too began in 1960s with involvement in pastoral ministry. The focus was shifted to Africa with the opening of Peru mission in 1975. In 1977 Missions were opened in South America and Kenya. Gradually missions were opened in African countries like Ghana, Botswana, Tanzania, Namibia and South American countries like Argentina, Chile, Ecuador and Paraguay. The priests also serve in Australia, Philippines and in Indonesia.[23]

The members of the CMI Congregation serves in 31 countries around the globe. The CMI congregation dedicates the month of October every year to pray for the global missions. Each country of the mission is remembered during prayer.

Modern history[edit]

The second half of the 20th century witnessed a rapid growth of the Syro-Malabar Church and of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate beyond the boundaries of Kerala. Three moments in its history in this line were:

The division of the congregation into three provinces, The shifting of its major seminary to Dharmaram college, Bangalore in 1957 and Extending its activities to North India (outside the territory of the Syro-Malabar church) for direct evangelization in 1962.


There were 400 members and 37 houses for the Congregation by 1950 and it was a felt need to divide the Congregation into provinces. Bishop Bonaventure Arana, was appointed by the Apostolic See as an Apostolic Visitor to study the matter and report it to Apostolic See. Based on the report the Apostolic See agreed for the division of Congregation into three provinces. The decision to divide the Congregation intro provinces was taken at the extraordinary meeting of the General Council at Mannanam after the General Chapter which was held from 23 February 1953 to 25 February 1953. The division of the province was done geographically. The South was named St. Joseph Province, Kottayam, The Central region was named, Sacred Heart Province, Kalamssery and Northern Part as, Mary Matha Province, Thrissur. At present there are 15 provinces in the CMI Congregation. They are Joseph’s Province, Trivandrum, St. Joseph’s Province, Kottayam, Carmel Province, Muvattupuzha, Sacred Heart Province, Kochi, Devamatha Province, Thrissur, St. Thomas Province, Kozhikode, St. Paul’s Province, Mysore, Preshitha Province, Coimbatore, Nirmail Province, Jagdalpur, Marymatha Vice Province, Bellampalli, Mar Thoma Province, Chanda, St. Paul Province, Bhopal,St. John’s Province, Bijnor, Chavara Vice Province, Bhavnagar, and St. Xaviour's Province, Rajkot.[24]


This congregation is the largest religious congregation for men in the Syro-Malabar Church, who are spread throughout India and abroad in 15 provinces. It has a membership of 3,000 members including 10 bishops, 1840 priests, 1 permanent deacons, 23 Lay brothers, and about 1,300 brothers in formation. 700 of the priests are working outside Kerala, of which 311 are outside India. The priests are actively involved in pastoral services in 31 countries around the world.[25]

The congregation currently has five major seminaries for the training of its members: Dharmaram College, Bangalore, Darsana Philosophate, Wardha, Samanvaya Theologate, Bhopal, Carmel Vidya Bhavan, Pune, and CMI Vidya Bhavan, Baroda. Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram (D.V.K.) at Bangalore is a pontifical athenaeum with the faculties of philosophy, theology, and canon law; it has a strength of 800 students hailing from 17 dioceses and 75 religious congregations. The first seminary outside India was established in 2001 in Kenya and the first batch of students from abroad made their religious profession on 19 March 2005. In 1998, the CMIs were entrusted with the administration of the regional major seminary in Namibia, Africa.

Important Activities

Field of education - CMI's are running some of the notable institutions in several disciplines around India. Christ university Bangalore, Rajagiri Institutions Kochi, Amala Medical College Thrissur, SH College Kochi, etc

Field of social service - There are centralized and province based specific wings for social works. CEVA, KESS, PDS, etc are rendering notable services for the social justice, enrichment of the marginalized people, etc.

Field of retreats - Jerusalem Retreat Center, Darsana Thalipparambu, Nirmalgram Bhoothathankettu, etc

Field of Journalism - Deepika News paper, Chavara Vision, several religious press and magazines, etc

Field of Art - Kalabhavan Kochi, Chavara cultural center Kochi, Darsana Kottayam, Upasana Thodupuzha, etc


A Prior General, with a team of four general Councilors, and a general auditor administer the congregation. A General Chapter of the congregation elects them every six years. At the provincial level administration is carried out by a Prior Provincial with four councilors and the provincial auditor, each elected by the respective provincial chapters every three years. As of May 2014, the Prior General is Father Paul Achandy, C.M.I.[26]

List of Prior Generals[edit]

Name of Prior General Start date End date
Fr. Paul Achandy, C.M.I. 2014
Fr. Jose Panthaplamthottiyil, C.M.I. 2008 2014
Fr. Anthony Kariyil, C.M.I. 2002 2008 Later ordained Bishop of Mandya
Fr. Alex Ukken, C.M.I. ) 1996 2002
Fr. Thomas Mampra, C.M.I. 1990 1996
Fr. Vijay Anand Nedumpuram, C.M.I. 1985 1990 Later ordained Bishop of Chanda
Fr. Thomas Aykara, C.M.I. 1978 1985
Fr. Theobald Pothanikkad, C.M.I. 1972 1978
Fr. Canisius Thekkekara C.M.I. 1966 1972 Declared Servant of God
Fr. Maurus Valiyaparampil, C.M.I. 1953 1966
Fr. Vincent Alappatt, C.M.I. 1947 1952
Fr. John Berchmans Koithara, C.M.I. 1941 1947
Fr. Bartholomew Perumalil, C.M.I. 1936 1941
Fr. Silvester Thattil, C.M.I. 1933 1936
Fr. John Berchmans Koithara, C.M.I. 1926 1933
Fr. Bartholomew Perumalil, C.M.I. 1936 1941
Fr. Silvester Thattil, C.M.I. 1933 1936
Fr. John Berchmans Koithara, C.M.I. 1926 1933
Fr. Louis Neriamparampil, C.M.I. 1923 1926
Fr. Alexander Kattakayam, C.M.I. 1920 1923
Fr. Gabriel Pulickal, C.M.I. 1917 1920
Fr. Alexander Kattakayam, C.M.I. 1914 1917 Honoured by Pope Leo XIII with titles Missionary Apostolic (1892) and CROCE DI BENEMERENZA (1903).
Fr. Basil Thaliath, C.M.I. 1908 1914
Fr. Alexander Kattakayam, C.M.I. 1902 1908 Honoured by Pope Leo XIII with titles Missionary Apostolic (1892) and CROCE DI BENEMERENZA (1903).
Archbishop Bernard of Jesus Arginzonis y Astobiza, O.C.D. 1892 1902
Archbishop Ladislaus Michael Zaleski 1892 1892 Later Patriarch of Antioch
Cardinal Giovanni Simeoni 1891 1892
Archbishop Andrea Aiuti 1887 1891 Later Cardinal
Marcellino Berardi, O.C.D. 1885 1887
Fr. Kuriakose Eliseus Porukara, C.M.I. 1871 1885
Saint Fr.Kuriakose Elias Chavara 1855 1871

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (C.M.I.)". GCatholic. Retrieved 2018-10-09.
  2. ^ "CMI at a Glance".
  3. ^ "CARMELITES OF MARY IMMACULATE (CMI) - A Short History". Retrieved 2018-10-09.
  4. ^ "To Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, 20 March 1974 | Paul VI". Retrieved 2018-10-10.
  5. ^ Schaeffer, Mary M. "India: Christian" in Encyclopedia of Monasticism edited by William M. Johnston, Pg. 640. Routledge Publishing, 2000.
  6. ^ "CMI History". Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  7. ^ "CARMELITES OF MARY IMMACULATE (CMI) - A Short History". Retrieved 2018-10-09.
  8. ^ Plathottam, Valerian (1939). Vazhathapetta Divya Shree Chavara Kuriakose Eliasachan (biography). Mannanam: St. Joseph's Press. p. 49.
  9. ^ "Carmelites of Mary Immaculate | Dharmaram Daily". Retrieved 2018-10-10.
  10. ^ "CMI Global: CMI". CMI Global. Retrieved 2018-10-10.
  11. ^ "CMI". Retrieved 2018-10-10.
  12. ^ "Carmelites of Mary Immaculate | Dharmaram Daily". Retrieved 2018-10-10.
  13. ^ "CMI Global: PASTORAL". CMI Global. Retrieved 2018-10-12.
  14. ^ "Kuriakose Elias Chavara", Wikipedia, 2018-10-08, retrieved 2018-10-12
  15. ^ "CARMELITES OF MARY IMMACULATE (CMI) - A Short History". Retrieved 2018-10-12.
  16. ^ "The Syro Malabar Church: Saints". Retrieved 2018-10-12.
  17. ^ "CMI Global: PASTORAL". CMI Global. Retrieved 2018-10-12.
  18. ^ Tyler, Peter; Woods, Richard (2012-08-30). The Bloomsbury Guide to Christian Spirituality. A&C Black. ISBN 9781441109422.
  19. ^ "CMI Global: PASTORAL". CMI Global. Retrieved 2018-10-12.
  20. ^ "CMI Global: PASTORAL". CMI Global. Retrieved 2018-10-12.
  21. ^ "Aloysius Pazheparambil", Wikipedia, 2018-09-22, retrieved 2018-10-12
  22. ^ "CMI Global: PASTORAL". CMI Global. Retrieved 2018-10-12.
  23. ^ Kuzhikandathil Mani, "Globally Oriented CMI." Talk during CMI Renewal meet in Germany. 20 June 2018
  24. ^ "CMI". Retrieved 2018-10-10.
  25. ^ "CMI". Retrieved 2018-10-10.
  26. ^ "Administration". Carmelites of Mary Immaculate. Archived from the original on 2014-08-14.

External links[edit]