[News] [Addresses] [Carmelite sites]
Secretariat of Missions: ocdmis@pcn.net + FAX ++39 06 85443212

News
Mangalore (India)

1st Mission Congress
of Asia and Oceania
( 4 )

 

 

Unforgettable Carmelite Missionaries on Asian Soil

 

 

Fr. Paul D’Souza, OCD

Karnataka-Goa Province of Discalced Carmelites

 

It is impossible to recall in a brief space of time the scores of Carmelite missionaries who spent and extinguished the candles of their lives for the sake of enlightening the peoples of Asia. We can, however, gain some inspiration from the very attempt to turn our thoughts on the gestures and achievements of the few who have been selected for mention on this occasion.

 

1. Fr. John Thaddaeus Roldan of St. Eliseus (1574-1633)

 

Fr. Juan Roldán, born in the life-time of Mother Teresa deserves to be remembered along with the whole group of missionaries despatached by Pope Clement VIII to Persia in 1604. They made a vow to shed their blood for the faith if needed. After a journey filled with incredible hardships during three and a half years, they finally reached Isfahan the then capital of Persia, to find there was no accommodation ready for them. Fr. Roldan, moreover is the first bishop not only of Isfahan, but also of the Teresian reform. Consecrated bishop in 1632, he passed away the following year, before reaching Isfahan on his return journey.

 

2. Fr. Prosper of the Holy Spirit (1583-1657)


Fr. Próspero (Riojano) from Calahorra, Spain, was born in 1583 and seems to have been a priest before joining the Roman novitiate of La Scala in 1607. We find him in charge of the Persian mission as superior at Isfahan in 1621, the year in which a cruel persecution erupted against the Christians, five of whom were martyred.[11] The Fathers too would have been killed had they not been in the embassy of the Holy See. Fathers Prospero of the Holy Spirit and Basil of St. Francis – a Portuguese of the Roman province, founded a mission in Basra, about 80 kms. from the Persian Gulf which was practically independent of Persia in those days.

 

When Fr. Prosper had first proposed foundations at Aleppo and Mt. Carmel, the superiors of the Order had contacted the Propaganda Congregation for the approval of the project. The Propaganda had contacted the French diplomats and other influential persons in the region to help negotiate the acquisition of the ancient sites associated with the Carmelites. One unforeseen event was the attitude of the general superior, Fr. Ferdinand of St. Mary, who is said to have advised Fr. Prospero to think of first climbing the ascent of the spiritual Mt. Carmel of St. John of the Cross. But the whole situation changed when Fr. Paul Simon (Rivarola), the erstwhile leader of the Persian mission came to take charge at the general headquarters.[12] The Aleppo mission was founded in 1627.

 

On 29 November 1631, Fr. Prosper succeeded in signing the documents which entitled the sons of St. Teresa to take possession of the sites that had witnessed the birth of the order in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

 

After a life of hectic activity, ceaseless journeys, and voluminous correspondence, his last words were: May the adorable will of God be accomplished.[13]

 

3 Fr. Leander (1580-1630)

 

Father Leander is a great missionary who was born in the life-time of St. Teresa. We cannot forget Fr. Vincent of St. Francis (Gambart), from Valencia, born six years before Fr. Leander of the Annunciation,[14] a native of Burgos. Both were full of zeal for the missions. Both joined the Italian congregation, not together, but one after the other; and one after the other they were sent to the Persian mission. Fr. Vincent, after making his profession in Rome in 1599, was included in the very first batch despatched to Persia. He had made a foundation in the Portuguese colony at Ormuz between 1609 and 1612, before coming to Goa in 1620 as general visitator.

 

Fr. Leander of the Annunciation had reached Goa the previous year, and had already commenced vigorous preparations for the foundation. He was able to make a foundation around 1620 with the permission of D. Cristobal de Sa Lisboa, the archbishop, a Hieronymite (1610-1622) – who had a deep devotion to Blessed Teresa of Jesus. The Viceroy, Fernando de Albuquerque, also permitted the foundation.

 

On the occasion of a solemn celebration, when the archbishop wanted the statues of the saints to be carried in procession, Fr. Leander managed to include a statue of Teresa, who had been beatified in 1614. They presented the statue, first, for the blessing of the archbishop. While blessing the statue, the archbishop noticed a petition in the hand of the statue; it was a request for permission to make a Carmelite foundation in Goa. The archbishop was moved to grant permission for a small oratory and restricted ministry, but could not permit a foundation against the explicit orders of the king.[15] He wrote two letters on behalf of the Carmelites, one to Philip III of Spain and Portugal, the other to the Pope.

 

Archbishop and viceroy contributed to the construction of the magnificent church which was inaugurated on 25 April 1620 and completed in 1621. It was dedicated to O. Lady of Mt. Carmel and canonically established through the approval by the general definitory on 23 June 1623. The following year the visitor of the Persian mission was asked to consider also the situation in Goa, Fr. Leander being at that time, vicar provincial of the Carmelites in Persia and India. At Diu, there was a residence founded by the same Fr. Leander in 1628. It was dedicated to St. Joseph.[16] The actual founder of the mission before the Carmelites took over, was a zealous Portuguese priest who had been murdered because he had moved the authorities to destroy a pagan temple.

 

Fr. Leander himself, founder of the Goa house, visited the court of the shah in Bijapur, being sent there by the Portuguese viceroy. While there, unexpectedly, he was called to his eternal reward in April 1630.[17]

 

4 - 5 Blessed Dionysius and Redemptus (d. 1638)

 

Peter Berthelot[18] was one of ten children born in Normandy to deeply Christian parents and baptized on 12 December 1600. At the age of nineteen, with the blessings of his parents, he took to the sea. Within a short time, he learned to brave the inclemencies of the weather including the heat of the tropical sun. After rounding the Cape of Good Hope with his companions he reached as far as the East Indies.

 

Toughened by all these hardships and perils he grew into such an expert and daring navigator that he was appointed chief pilot of the little squadron. On more than one occasion he had to suffer not only for being a Frenchman, from the Dutch, but also for being a Catholic, from the Calvinists. After spending three years on an island under the control of the Dutch, where he found it so difficult to practice his Christian faith, he obtained leave to go to Malacca, which was in the hands of the Portuguese. From there he secured a passage to Goa. The fame of Peter Berthelot’s maritime knowledge and naval skills had preceded him, and to the astonishment of all, this relatively young Frenchman was given charge of the 28 Portuguese galleys that set out for the East Indies in September 1629. The result of the expedition was a glorious victory for the Portuguese who showered honours on the French naval officer and appointed him royal cosmographer – an office he would hold in perpetuity.

 

Meanwhile Peter had begun to feel with progressively greater conviction that God wanted him all for Himself. According to some accounts he used to withdraw secretly from his companions for several hours each night and go off somewhere by himself. A few of his colleagues became curious to know where he went; and they quietly followed him one night, suspecting possibly that he might be frequenting some red-light area in the city. What was their amazement to learn that he used to go to the premises of the Carmelite Church, and there spend some time in prayer and severe self flagellation.

 

After coming to know that the superior of the Carmelite monastery at the time was a Frenchman like himself, he could approach him with trust and confidently discuss what he considered to be God’s plans for him.

 

When he revealed to the Portuguese administration, that he wished to abandon his career in the navy, and join the Carmelite monastic life, the Portuguese were disappointed. The viceroy, Linares, had no intention of dispensing with his services so easily. But when the viceroy’s term of office was over in 1635, he invited Peter to go with him to Portugal in order to introduce Peter to the celebrities there. If the Carmelites had not received him, Peter would readily have gone in the hope of entering the religious life in Europe. Fr. Philip, however, was unwilling to let go so precious a catch. On his recommendation, Peter was unanimously admitted to the novitiate in 1635. The Portuguese authorities in Goa were greatly dismayed when they heard that Peter had been admitted to the monastic community, and they protested to the Carmelites for their lack of concern for the good of the state.

 

But Fr. Philip appeased them, explaining that Peter was not a Portuguese subject; and moreover that he would have left for Europe with the previous viceroy had he not been admitted to the religious life. An agreement was made that in case the government urgently needed his services, the Carmelites would allow Fr. Dionysius to leave the monastery. On the occasion of an emergency due to the presence of Dutch ships in the Arabian sea, the government requested the services of Fr. Dionysius XE “Dionysius” .

 

In accordance with the Carmelite custom, Peter changed his name when he put on the religious habit: he would henceforth be known as Br. Dionysius XE “Dionysius” of the Nativity. He was admitted into the novitiate on Christmas eve 1635. A year later, in 1636 he made his religious profession. He received priestly ordination on 24 Aug. 1638.

 

Thomas Rodrigo da Cunha, born in the diocese of Braga in 1598, accompanied the viceroy, Joao Coutinho, Count of Redondo, to India. He joined the army and proved his worth so convincingly as to be promoted to a captaincy in the Portuguese garrison at Mylapore. He became acquainted with the Carmelites in Tatta and later evinced a desire to join them as a non-cleric. Providence led him also to the Order of Mary to whom he was deeply devoted. But he opted for the religious brotherhood.

 

When the ambassador, Francis D’Souza was to leave for the East Indies – as we have seen above - being requested by the government, his superiors allowed Fr. Dionysius XE “Dionysius” to go along with the delegation sent by the viceroy to the sultan of Acheh in the East Indies. The erstwhile cosmographer was accompanied by Redemptus of the Cross.[19] Fr. Dionysius requested that Br. Redemptus be given him as companion on this last journey. Both shared the martyrs’ crown after being painfully tortured on 29 November 1638 and were beatified by Leo XIII in 1900. The region where they were martyred has recently been devastated by a tsunami that has swept away thousands of people. Several descriptions of the eastern seas drafted by the cosmographer are still extant. The British museum has a chart of the seas near Africa and Madagascar, ascribed to him.[20]

 

 

 

Following in the foot-steps of Bl. Dionysius and Redemptus, missionaries of the Manjummel province under the leadership of Fr. John Britto OCD and Fr. Thomas Kalloor OCD arrived in Indonesia on 19 August 1982. They were given a red-carpet welcome by Mgr. Donatus Djagom SVD, archbishop of Ende and the faithful. In 1984 on 29 January, they took charge officially of a parish, and soon built up strong relations with their flock.

 

Soon they were able to get 25 young men who aspired to join the Carmelite way of life. Many of these young men were admitted to the aspirancy. And on 14 November 1992, they made their first profession.

 

On 28 December 1995, Fr. John Britto, due to his health reason had to return to India. On 17 October 2001 he bade farewell to this world.

 

On 3 September 1999, St. Joseph’s Delegation was raised to the status of regional vicariate by Rev. Fr. General on the occasion of his visit to Indonesia to attend the first Carmelite ordinations of nine priests.

 

6. Msgr. Sebastiani (1623-1689)

 

Born at Caprarola, Jerome Sebastiani entered the Order in 1641, and proceeded for his studies to Graz in Austria, where he was ordained priest. For a while he taught theology. But he was requested as assistant by Fr. Hyacinth of St. Vincent, who had been selected in 1656 as leader of the mission to Malabar.

 

By that time, the Portuguese having taken Cochin, the territory had already been set up as a diocese in 1558, a suffragan of Goa. As usual in Portuguese conquests, Franciscan, Dominicans, Augustinians and Jesuits soon arrived for the purpose of evangelization.

 

Some Christians in the region, however, were deeply attached to their Syrian pastors. Because of this and several other reasons,[21] they disagreed with the Portuguese, especially the Jesuits, particularly, with archbishops Roz and Garcia. Their leaders, especially the archdeacon Thomas had written to Rome, expressing appreciation for the Carmelites. Hence, the Holy See took up the issue, after the ‘Coonen Cross’ oath of 1653, and dispatched Carmelites to the region then known as Malabar. Two parties of Carmelite missionaries were sent by Propaganda: Fr. Joseph of St. Mary (Sebastiani), of the Roman province came via Mt. Carmel, Tripoli, Aleppo, and Iraq, while Fr. Hyacinth of St. Vincent and his companions came via Lisbon and Goa.

 

Fr. Sebastiani, with his colleagues, Fathers Vincent of St. Catherine, a Lombard, and others left in February 1656, and arrived in 1657. Their approach was full of charity and immense patience in the face of great animosity instigated especially by the archdeacon Thomas. He managed to reconcile several of the dissident churches with Rome. To the pleasant surprise of Fr. Vincent Mary of St. Catherine, who accompanied Fr. Sebastiani, there was a Scapular Confraternity at Kuraulengad in Kottayam district, which had 5,000 members. This information is said to be included in his famous account of his journey by land and sea.[22] His writing shows that he was a highly gifted person. He became vicar general of the Order in the general chapter of 1677.

 

Fr. Sebastiani returned to Italy in January 1658, leaving one Fr. Mathew of St. Joseph as delegate. The party of Fr. Hyacinth would arrive about two months later. Within these two months, archdeacon Thomas managed to get himself declared “patriarch” – through a letter that people were made to believe was not only official, but allegedly papal.[23]

 

Sebastiani, ordained bishop of Aleppo, returned on 14 May 1661 to Cochin, as the first vicar apostolic of Malabar. This is what makes him memorable. He represents a long series of Carmelite vicars apostolic who built up the church in Kerala, which today plays such an important role in the Indian Church.

 

In January 1663, the Dutch stormed and captured Cochin and asked Msgr. Sebastiani to leave the place. So Sebastiani ordained Alexander Ocampo (Chandy) vicar apostolic and returned to Italy via Goa, where we find him in 1664. Msgr. Sebastiani was later appointed Bishop, first of Bisignano in Calabria, and then of Citta del Castello in Umbria, where he died in 1689.

 

7. Fr. Mathew of St. Joseph (b. 1612)


Born in 1612, he was a qualified medical doctor before professing as a Carmelite in the Neapolitan province. He had been sent to Persia in 1644, was at Tatta in Sind in 1651, before he went to Goa, and then to Cochin, where his knowledge of botany and medicine won the admiration even of the Dutch though they were anti-Catholic.
It happened at that time that the Dutch Governor of Cochin, a man called Van Rheede, was also passionately interested in botany. And the two became great friends. In fact, they col­laborated in writing a celebrated botanical text: Hortus Malabaricus (the garden of Malabar). In it are descriptions and illustrations of the plants and fruits of Malabar, indicating also their therapeutic properties; it is a storehouse of knowledge of the bo­tany of the region. This work was re-published in Kerala in 2003 – being attributed to Van Rheede alone, apparently without mention of Fr. Mathew. Fr. Matthew was also the sole author of another similar work: Viridarium Orientale. [24]

 

Through this providential circumstance of botanical friendship, the Carmelite missionaries were able to continue their mission in Malabar, and were able to found two monasteries: Chathiath (1673) and Verapoly (1674). Vera­poly in 1682 saw the first emergence of a Carmelite­ staffed seminary. It was ephemeral, but that work of seminary training was destined to continue, culmina­ting in the seminary at Alwaye in 1932.

 

8. Bishop Peter Paul of St. Francis (1643-1701)

 

Fernando Palma Pignatelli, Neapolitan, a nephew of the then reigning pontiff, Innocent XII, renouncing a dukedom became a Carmelite in 1672 and after studying at the mission seminary of St. Pancrazio, was destined for the Malabar Mission. He visited Madura district and is said to have received about three hundred non-Christians into the Catholic fold.

 

In Verapoly, it was he who started a seminary for the Syrian Christians, and worked for the reunion of the non-Catholic Christians.[25] He served also as prior of Goa, and vicar provincial for the missionaries in Persia and India.

 

He attended the general chapter of the Order in 1689. He was appointed first apostolic vicar of the Great Mogul in 1696 after which he made a tour of several parts of Europe, and reached Surat in 1700 with Fr. John of St. Mary. The following year he was called to his reward, at the age of fifty-eight. His huge new vicariate comprised 3,000,000 sq. kms with a population of more than 100,000,000. After Fr. Peter Paul, twelve more Carmelites would be entrusted with this colossal vicariate --- many of them from the Milan province.

 

9. Fr. John Baptist Mary of St. Teresa (1678-1750)

This Genoese was one of the most outstanding prelates of Verapoly. Born in Liguria, he entered the Genoese province and reached Goa at the age of 31, in the year precisely when the community was undergoing a deep crisis. He became the leader of the community just when the Portuguese were threatening to arrest all the Carmelites and confiscate their property unless they promised obedience to the Viceroy and the archbishop of Goa.

 

Under the leadership of Fr. John Baptist, the Carmelites refused point blank to make any oaths of allegiance to archbishop or viceroy.[26] Being warned by friends, they escaped from Goa in order to avoid being arrested and deported to Portugal, and fled to Sunkery.

 

Expelled in 1709 from Portuguese territory, the Carmelites made their way to Sunkery, which in those days was closer to the sea than it is today. This was to be the new mission of the Carmelites.

 

Among the vicars apostolic of the Great Mogul, there are two Peter Alcantaras in the eighteenth century, and one, in the nineteenth. The first of these was Bishop P. Alcantara of St. Teresa (1663-1707), who was sent to Syria, and then worked in Basra and Isfahan in Persia, before being appointed vicar apostolic of the Great Mogul to succeed Bishop Peter Paul of St. Francis. He made Surat in Gujarat, his headquarters.

 

From April 1709 to 1717, Fr. John Baptist Mary, vicar provincial of the Carmelites in India, was in charge of the new Sunkery mission. He and his brethren managed to make ends meet in their initially most uncomfortable environment. The English were sufficiently polite in this case. They were hospitable, too. They gave the Carmelites land for a church and residence, and even provided communication facilities with Rome and Bombay through their naval services.[27]

 

Yet the Carmelites here led a precarious and very insecure existence, though these factories of the East India Company were usually small fortresses. The English themselves were scarcely secure.

 

Fr. John Baptist was ordained bishop in 1717 and appointed vicar apostolic of Verapoly which he governed for more than 30 years with prudence and zeal, and great profit for the faithful.

 

10. Fr. Paulinus of St. Bartholomew (1748-1806)

 

One of the Carmelites who is known to have first visited Tamilnadu, was Fr. Paulinus of St. Bartholomew, an Austrian. Missionary and orientalist, born at Hoff in Lower Austria, 25 April, 1748. Having entered the Carmelite Order, he was sent as missionary to India (Malabar) and there was appointed vicar general for some time. In 1776, he reached Verapoly and worked and studied assiduously for thirteen years in South India. He is one of the Carmelites who is known to have first visited Tamilnad. In 1780, while residing at Padmanabhapuram he is said to have pleaded with the maharaja of Travancore, on behalf of persecuted Christians.

 

Recalled in 1789 to Rome to give an account of the state of that mission, he was charged with the edition of books for the use of missionaries. In 1790 he presented an account of the Indian missions to the Propaganda and then remained at the Carmelite mission seminary in Rome as professor of oriental languages.

 

On account of political troubles he stayed from 1798 to 1800 at Vienna. He returned to Rome as prefect of studies at the Propaganda. Paulinus is the author of many learned books on the East, which were highly valued in their day and have contributed much to the study and knowledge of Indian literature and Indian life. He was later appointed librarian of the public library at Padua, where his services to oriental studies – through his many publications—was acknowledged.[28]

 

We are indebted to him for the first printed Sanskrit grammar. The following are some of his more important works:

(1) "Systema brahmanicum liturgicum, mythologicum, civile, ex monumentis indicis musei Borgiani Velitris dissertationibus historico-criticis illustratum" (Rome, 1791), translated into German (Gotha, 1797); (2) "Examen historico-criticum codicum indicorum bibliothecae S. C. de Propaganda" (Rome, 1792); (3) "Musei Borgiani Velitris codices manuscripti avences, Peguani, Siamici, Malabarici, Indostani . . . illustrati" (Rome, 1793); (4) "Viaggio alle Indie orientali" (Rome, 1796), translated into German by Forster (Berlin, 1798); (5) "Sidharubam, seu Grammatica sanscridamica, cui accedit dissert. hiss. crit. in linguam sanscridamicam vulgo Samscret dictam" (Rome, 1799), another edition of which appeared under the title "Vyacaranam" (Rome, 1804); (6) "India orientalis christiana" (Rome, 1794), an important work for the history of missions in India. Other works bear on linguistics and church history.

He departed this life in Rome on 7 January 1806.

 

11. Bishop Maurilio Stabellini (1777-1853)

 

Born in 1777 in Ferrara, Maurilio joined the Calced Carmelites when the armies of Napoleon were causing turmoil all over Europe. For some time he taught theology in Padua. Sent to Bombay in 1804 he arrived there in 1806. In 1809 he is in Karwar; and the following year, in Coorg, from where he is expelled and returns to Bombay. In 1816, he is back in Italy, only to be sent again to India in 1821. Three years later, he is consecrated coadjutor of the vicar apostolic of the Great Mogul.For long, he had cherished a desire to join the Discalced; and this he finally did in Verapoly in 1827. He became interim vicar apostolic of Verapoly (1828-1831).

 

Bishop Maurilio's name is rendered memorable in the annals of the CMI Fathers who are indebted to him for his encouragement. Fr. Porukara, a co-founder of the CMI’s being his secretary. The bishop "…was almost divinely inspired to suggest to the Fathers that they should think of starting a religious institute for priests which would inspire the whole church of Kerala to follow in their footsteps." [29]

 

Bishop Maurilio himself was present on 11 May 1831 when the foundation stone was laid for the monastery at Mannanam, towards which the bishop generously contributed. The founding fathers were later joined by Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara (1805-1871), who became well known for his apostolate of the press. His efforts built up the congregation of Servants of Mary Immaculate[30] who later came to be known as Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI), a congregation that is flourishing today. Fr. Kuriakose has been raised to the honours of the altar by Pope John Paul II, his feast being celebrated on 3 January. Bishop Maurilio’s name remains forever associated with the CMI congregation.

 

Bishop Maurilio resigned from the office of vicar apostolic over the dispute concerning the admission o fishermen's sons into the seminary. He returned to Italy via Karwar and Goa, and departed this life in his native Ferrara.

 

12. Bp. Francis Xavier of St. Anne (1771-1844)

 

Hailing from the province of Genoa, he studied at our mission seminary of St. Pancrazio during the Napoleonic wars. The seminary itself was ransacked at that time. Pope Pius VI was taken captive. During his voyage to India, the ship itself in which he was journeying, was confiscated by the French navy, but Fr. Francis managed to reach the foot of Mt. Carmel in a Turkish fishing boat. He followed the land route to Baghdad and then to Basra where an English sea-captain volunteered to take him to Bombay where he reached on 22 August 1799. He was 28 years old.

 

His name deserves to be recorded in the Guinness Book of World records. Deputed to the Karwar mission, he managed to find his way alone, without much help even from the archbishop of Goa, Manuel de S. Caterina (1784-1812) who happened to be a Discalced Carmelite of the Portuguese congregation. Mr. Read, the English agent, obtained for Fr. Francis a monthly pension of Rs. 35/- (which meant much more at that time, than it means today) from the Madras government.

 

By 1803 Fr. Francis had put up a new church as well as residence. He planted many coconut plants and fruit-trees and settled some families in the area to see to the property.[31] Meanwhile he kept in mind also the spiritual needs of his flock, whose spirit was broken by the persecution of Tippu Sultan. He witnessed the return of some of the captives from Srirangapatnam and did what he could to rehabilitate them. In 1805, he was deputed to settle some discords in Coorg, where the raja was favourable to him, and supported the Christians.

 

With great solemnity and many participants, the centenary of the mission was celebrated in 1809. In 1821 there was a military rebellion in Goa against the viceroy. The archbishop of Goa, Galdino, did what the Carmelites from Goa had done a hundred and twelve years earlier: he fled to Sunkery. The Carmelites, of course, gave him shelter for the two years that he remained there.

 

Fr. Francis was selected for being ordained bishop and vicar apostolic of that diocese. He humbly rejected the appointment; and requested, instead, to be allowed to return to Italy. When he received permission to return to Italy, he was too ill and weak to undertake the long and tedious journey. Meanwhile he wrote the history of the mission.[32] He acquired such fluency in Konkani that there is said to have been no difference between his accent and that of the natives. Moreover he published a Portuguese-Konkani dictionary that was re-printed in 1859 and again in 1868.[33]

 

The re-builder of the Sunkery mission was later ordered under precept of obedience to receive episcopal ordination and take on the office of vicar apostolic of Verapoly. He was the fourteenth vicar apostolic of Verapoly (1831-1844). In the see of Verapoly, he succeeded Bishop Maurilio Stabellini

 

Bishop Francis Xavier took charge as rector of the seminary, and made every effort to solve the dispute concerning the admission of the sons of fishermen into the seminary, seeing also to the stability of its economy. He provided valuable information to Propaganda concerning the state of the Church in India, and advised the Holy See regarding measures to be taken for the solution of the padroado problem.

 

A man of great prudence, with no respect for persons, yet courteous towards all, he made no distinction between Europeans and Indians, or the different classes of Indians. There is evidence that his memory lives on among the people of Karwar, if not among those of Kerala. The historian Agur calls him a prince among the prelates of Travancore and the glory of the mission of Verapoly. [34]

 

13. Bishop Leonard Mellano of St. Louis (1826-1897)

 

Fr. Leonard reached Verapoly at the age of 25, and was, for some time, rector of the Verapoly seminary. He was appointed vicar apostolic in 1868. His name will ever be remembered, along with that of Fr. Leopold Beccaro, in the annals of the CTCs and the CMCs. The CSSTs will also remember Bishop Leonardo Mellano, who invited their Mother Foundress, Teresa of St. Rose of Lima to Ernakulam.

 

Especially in the chronicles of the Manjummel province, will Bishop Mellano be gratefully remembered. He re-vitalized the movement initiated by Fr. Kuruppassery (who had aspired to participate in the Teresian charism) in the 1850s, constructed and, in 1874, inaugurated the Manjummel monastery by installing there, the Third Order of Discalced Carmelites (TOCD). Today, these form the now thriving Manjummel Province of St. Pius X.

 

In 1886, on the constitution of the Indian hierarchy by Leo XIII, Msgr. Leonard became the first archbishop of Verapoly.

 

 14. Bishop Marie Ephrem (1827-1873)

 

 

The third Vicar Apostolic of Mangalore was Msgr. Marie Ephrem. Born in France in 1827, and professed in the province of France, he came out from Bordeaux in 1859 to Mahe where he studied English and Malayalam. He worked in Calicut, Mangalore, Cannanore and then in Quilon. In 1861 Fr. Marie Ephrem met Sister Veronica. Born, Sophie Leeves in 1823 to Anglican parents, she had been converted to Catholicism in 1850 and then entered the religious congregation of St. Joseph of the Apparition, which sent her to make a new foundation in India. Humanly speaking, it was a strange conspiracy of circumstances that led to her meeting with Fr. Marie Ephrem who became her spiritual director. In Veronica’s view he was the instrument of Providence in helping her to realize her vocation to the Teresian Carmel.

 

She entered the Pau Carmel along with Miriam Baouardy. Miriam, an Arab girl had lost her parents when she was around three years old in 1849, and adopted by a paternal uncle, she moved to Alexandria. Her refusal to marry earned her ill-treatment from her adoptive parents. Her refusal to convert to Islam was the cause of a murder attempt by an old Muslim. She survived miraculously. She worked as a servant in several families before reaching Marseilles in May 1863 as the cook of an Assyrian family. Experiencing the attraction of the religious life, Miriam was admitted among the postulants of St. Joseph of the Apparitions in May 1865. Some strange phenomena that were noticed in her, particularly the stigmata, were given as reason for her not being admitted to the novitiate. She accompanied M. Veronica to the cloistered Carmel of Pau in June 1867. Sr. Veronica, having completed an abridged novitiate, left Pau at the end of 1867 and spent about six months in a fruitless search for a residence and for candidates, till in mid-1868 she was able to found a little Carmel in the diocese of Bayonne.

 

The Cloistered Carmel

 

Fr. Marie Ephrem received in July 1868 the appointment of pro-vicar of Travancore.[35] He was consecrated bishop at Thangassery by Bishop Michael Anthony with the prelates of Bangalore, Madura, and Coimbatore as assistants. But when he went to Europe for the first Vatican Council, he was transferred to Mangalore. By that time, Miriam, the Arab, was doing her novitiate as Sr. Mary of Jesus Crucified. Bishop Marie Ephrem, before embarking for India after the Council, made arrangements for the foundation of a cloistered Carmel in Mangalore. Six nuns from the Carmel of Pau were to leave for India, along with three tertiaries trained by Mother Veronica, who had entered Carmel precisely with the intention of starting such a tertiary congregation with the approval of Bishop Marie Ephrem and the superior general of the Discalced.

 

Accordingly in August 1870, three of these tertiaries accompanied the six nuns to Marseilles where they boarded the ship that would take them to Pondicherry from where they would proceed to Mangalore. Along with them went Fathers Lazar of the Holy Cross and Gratian of St. Ann. On 19th November, only three out of the six cloistered nuns reached Mangalore, the other three having succumbed to the hardships of the journey. Among the survivors was the Arab lay Sister, Mary of Jesus Crucified. The community had by then been reinforced by new arrivals from Pau and also from Bayonne.

 

Though Mother Veronica’s venture of forming active apostolic Carmelites had been approved by Bishop Marie Ephrem and even by the superior general of the Discalced Carmelites – the great Fr. Dominic of St. Joseph -- her project at Bayonne had to be closed down in 1869 for lack of support. Mother Veronica then applied again for admission into the Pau Carmel and eventually became a cloistered Carmelite.

 

In 1871 Sr. Mary of Jesus Crucified, while in Mangalore, made her first profession of the religious vows. Soon after that strange phenomena began to take place. These, she discussed only with her spiritual director, Fr. Lazar, till he was transferred from Mangalore in 1872. After his departure, Sr. Mary experienced such severe misunderstandings with the community that the Bishop agreed to send her back to Pau. But she soon set about preparing a new foundation in Bethlehem. Accompanied by several nuns, including Mother Veronica, she set out for the Holy Land in 1875. After setting the Bethlehem Carmel on a sufficiently firm foundation, Sr. Mary went on to make another foundation at Nazareth, directing the labourers, and working along with them, till, spent and exhausted Sr. Mary breathed her last after intense suffering on 26 August 1878. Mother Veronica returned in 1887 to Pau, where she wrote her autobiography as well as the biography of Blessed Mary, the ‘little Arab’ before her own demise in 1906. Blessed Mary, beatified in 1983, deserves to be remembered as a great Carmelite individual, and also as representative of the hundreds of Teresian nuns from Europe who sacrificed themselves on Asian soil for the evangelization of Asia.

 

As for Mother Veronica, at the time it appeared that all her sacrifice, all her work had come to nothing. The few sisters, however, whom she trained and sent to India managed to weather many a storm, to take firm roots in Indian soil, and eventually to grow into two mighty branches of the Teresian family in India. When the Jesuits took over the administration of the diocese, some of these tertiaries opted to continue in the diocese; but another group proceeded to the south to work with the Carmelites in Kerala. Thus the daughters of Mother Veronica branched out into two religious congregations --- the Apostolic Carmel (AC), and the Congregation of Carmelite Religious – one more flourishing than the other. And so Sister Veronica became doubly a Mother Foundress.

 

15. Bishop Benziger (1864-1942)

 

Among the most illustrious of the bishops of Quilon was Bishop Benziger. Born into a rich Swiss family in 1864, the young Adelrich Benziger gave up all worldly ambitions and entered Carmel in the Belgian province taking the religious name of Aloysius of Holy Mary. He was ordained priest in 1888.

 

Two years later he reached Verapoly in 1890. After serving for a time as professor in the Puthenpally seminary, he was chosen in 1892 by Bishop Zaleski, the papal delegate to India, as personal secretary. This gave him opportunities to see India, and how other religious congregations were faring, and especially how Indians were faring in European religious congregations. He would later use this knowledge to promote vigorously the admission of Indians to the first Order of Carmel.

 

He wrote vigorous letters to the definitory general; his ideas reached his Belgian superiors; they were reinforced by suggestions from Msgr. Zaleski; and finally the chapter of the Flanders province decided to take the necessary action. On 19 March 1902, the first house of regular observance of the ‘first order’ was blessed at Cotton Hill in Trivandrum. Cotton Hill was re-named Carmel Hill. Around the same time, the Carmelites of the Navarra province, who had taken over the archdiocese of Verapoly, opened a house of observance in Ernakulam.

 

He soon realized that the many misunderstandings between different groups of Christians in India, and misunderstandings even between the Carmelite missionaries themselves, were the work of the devil. [36] He was appointed coadjutor bishop of Quilon in 1900.

 

On 12 September 1902, Bishop Benziger, along with Archbishop Bernard of Verapoly had boarded the train from Madras to Bombay, in order to proceed to Europe. In the same express there were also two Italian missionaries, and the Mother Foundress of the CSST Sisters, Sr. Teresa of St. Rose of Lima with her sister Sr. Josephine. Around midnight there occurred one of the greatest tragedies in the early railway history of India. The train crashed into a river, the bridge having collapsed because of heavy rains. The two Sisters along with many people were swept away by the current. The two prelates and the two priests, by the special Providence of God, managed to survive. The bishop attributed his miraculous survival to the intercession of Our Lady of Einsiedeln (Switzerland), whose feast is celebrated on 13 September.[37]

 

In 1911, the bishop of Quilon (a diocese entrusted to the Carmelites) found himself in need for priests to staff the seminary in his diocese; so he requested three priests from Verapoly. Among these, the most prominent was Fr. Lucas of the Infant Jesus from Burgos, who staffed the seminary till 1928, when he was appointed novice master in Trivandrum, the first Indian novitiate for the first Order in India. After retirement as bishop, Msgr. Benziger also came to stay and spend his last years in this novitiate.

 

In 1919 Bishop Benziger recommended the establishment of the Latin diocese of Trivandrum. But this was realized only after his retirement. In those years many Jacobites were returning to the Catholic Church, and Bishop Benziger was delegated by the Holy See to receive their profession of Faith. In 1930 he received into the Catholic communion, Archbishop Mar Ivanios, Mar Theophilos and others. That same year, the southernmost part of the diocese was sliced off and constituted into the Kottar diocese. Msgr. Benziger, may be considered an apostle of Kottar because of his yeoman service to the people of this region, even before the diocese of Kottar was created.

 

The bishop continued to work for the spread of Carmel in India. To young missionaries coming from Belgium, Bishop Benziger gave the advice: Never pass any judgment about any of the things in India before you have spent ten years in India.[38]

 

Of Bp. Benziger, we read in the Catholic Directory:

 “ The second phase of the missionary enterprise in the diocese (Quilon) begins with the dawn of the present century. The Archbishop Benziger, who became coadjutor bishop of Quilon in 1900 and bishop in 1905 was the apostle who propagated Christianity in the Diocese through the fragrance of his saintly life, wise leadership and unceasing assistance to the missionary priests. When he retired to the Carmel Hill monastery in 1931, there were Christian communities established in almost all places of the interior region.” [39]

 

Encouraged by Fr. Constantine, vicar provincial of the Carmelites in Malabar, in February 1938, the aged bishop visited Goa, in the company of Fathers Lucas and Mary Joseph. He had wished since 1928 that a foundation be made. This year 1938 was the third centenary of the martyrdom of Blessed Dionysius and Redemptus.[40]

 

16. Father Aurelian of the Blessed Sacrament (1887-1963)

This was another great luminary of Alwaye Seminary and one of the most illustrious sons of the Navarra province. He came out to India as a missionary at the age of 25 in 1912 and was assigned to the formation of seminarians. His ardent devotion to the Holy Eucharist inspired him to compose and publish several works on this Sacrament of Love, and to promote perpetual adoration. He was a key figure in the organization of the National Eucharistic Congress in 1937 at Chennai, where his abilities for organization became evident.

 

Appointed rector of the Alwaye seminary in 1944, he continued in that office till 1956. After Indian independence, he opted for Indian citizenship. He participated in the formation of about 1,500 priests, besides being director of the Priests’ Eucharistic League (1928-1945); for many years, editor of the periodical Eucharist and Priest and secretary for the 5th National Eucharistic Congress held at Goa in 1931. He departed this life in 1963, and was declared Venerable in 1999. [41]

 

Among his many publications, there are courses in ascetical and mystical theology as well as handbooks of priestly spirituality, as also devotional literature.

 

17. Father Zacharias (1887-1957 )

 

Father Zacharias, yet another shining star in the firmament of the Church in Kerala, and particularly of the Alwaye Seminary was Fr. Zachary of St. Teresa who arrived in India in 1912, the year of his priestly ordination. He worked indefatigably in the ministry, in studying and teaching. From 1913 till his death in 1957, he was on the staff of the major seminary -- most of the time as spiritual director. In 1951, he was appointed commissary for the Manjummel Carmelite tertiaries. [42]

 

He was known for his tact in effecting reconciliation between conflicting parties. It is said that on one occasion he even went down on his knees to beg a young priest not to continue disobeying his bishop. Fr. Zacharias was a prolific writer on a variety of topics but Indian philosophy was one of his main interests.

 

18. Fr. Hilary Castellan (1912-1978)

 

Born in Argentina of Italian parents, Hillary came to Italy and joined the Venetian province, passing through the stages of formation at Treviso, Brescia and Venice. After a short spell as professor in Treviso, he became army chaplain during World War II, and experienced pain and hardship. In 1947 he became superior of a missionary group destined for China. When political changes in China compelled the missionaries to leave, Fr. Hilary and some of his companions passed over to Japan. One of these, Fr. Rodrigo Bonaldo, worked in Japan till he departed this life, in 1995. Another great missionary on Japanese soil who had accompanied Fr. Castellan, was Fr. Ermanno Cognin, who remained in Japan till his demise in 1994 – more than 40 years after his arrival in the land of the rising sun.

 

A man of intense prayer and interior life, Fr. Castellan seemed to be obsessed with the shortness of time for the immense project of converting all China and Japan to faith in Jesus. As chaplain assisting in the catholic hospital in Kanazawa, he used to interest himself in the welfare of every patient as well as the Sisters who staffed the hospital. He had the joy of baptizing a good number of non-Christians, and proclaiming the Good News to many more.

 

Not only by word of mouth did he proclaim the Good News but also through constant letter-writing and the publication of numerous articles.

In his personal diary for 1 Jan. 1978, he had written:

 I will to say my 'Amen' to all that the Good God has planned for me, of me, in me. And let this 'Amen' repeated every moment from my soul express thanksgiving love, and also faith and hope… [43]

 

During his months of suffering, his colleagues could witness the spiritual grandeur of his personality. He had been a man who loved adventure and was ready to make himself all things to all men, taking even risks for the sake of others.

 

19. Fr. Joaquim Guizzo (1918-1991)

 

Joaquim, early in life, joined the Venetian province, and by the age of 28, he was ready to leave Italy for major seminary studies on Mt. Carmel, just before World War II broke out. After the war, the Venetian province was thinking of missions in China, and that is where Fr. Joaquim found himself at the beginning of 1948. But Mao and his Red Army were over-running the country, and hard times came especially on the foreign missionaries. Fr. Joaquim was imprisoned; and later, being released by the "will of the people", he was officially expelled from main-land China, and had to proceed via Hong-Kong to Macao, where the cloistered Sisters took good care of him. By 1951 he was struggling to meet the needs of his new environment in Japan, which was far poorer economically in those days than it is today. He worked especially in Nagoyo and Kanazawa.

 

On his return to Italy in 1955, his enthusiasm for the Japanese mission was infectious. In 1974, he was requested by superiors to pass over to South Korea and contribute to the planting of Carmel in that country.

 

Fathers Castellan and Guizzo were two among other great pioneers of the East Asian missions. The nuns had already reached Japan in 1933, but the Fathers arrived only after the second World War – around 1951.

 

20. Fr. Jo. Mary Chin

 

Fr. John, born in Sabah of Chinese stock, spent his formative years in the Malabar province and was ordained in 1946. He too was expelled from China. Later on, in the early 1980s, he introduced the Carmelite way of life into Taiwan.

 

21. Bishop. Patrick Shanley

 

Born in Ireland in 1896, Patrick Shanley was ordained in 1930 in his native Ireland. Shortly after his ordination, he joined the American Washington Province. In 1942 he became chaplain in the US army. By mid 1945, he was on active duty in the Far East steering towards the Philippines Islands. He was assigned as chaplain to the 248th Military General Hospital in Makati, Manila. Although his chaplaincy duties were often burdensome, he used his off-duty time and natural ingenuity well, to collect food, clothing, rations and any available relief goods to be distributed among the patients at the Leper Colony in Tala, Manila. This was his favorite personal and missionary "project".

 

Wishing to do all he could to help alleviate the devastation in the country caused by the carpet bombing during the liberation of Manila, Father Patrick visited the Nuncio, Msgr. Egidio Vagnozzi and the Archbishop of Manila, Michael O'Doherty. The Nuncio's immediate concern was the dire need for priests on the national and local levels. For the most part, seminaries were closed during the war. There was practically one priest for every 50,000 Catholics! Father Patrick also made the acquaintance of the widow of the first President of the Philippine Commonwealth, Dona Aurora Quezon. This noble lady told him about the deplorable conditions in the rural areas specially as far as sacramental needs were concerned. One day in February 1947, Father Patrick accompanied by Dona Aurora Quezon and Mr. Eusebio Gutierrez OCDS visited the Bishop of Lipa Diocese, Msgr. Alfredo Verzosa. Lipa at that time was considered one of the poorest dioceses in the country. Father Patrick told the good bishop: "subject to the will of my superiors, I would like to work in the most forsaken parish in your territory." The bishop immediately took out a huge map and circled an area along the eastern coast of Luzon island. The area was due east northeast of Manila comprising the towns of Baler-Casiguran in the north and Infanta-Polillo due east of Manila. The bishop was most willing to assign the area to the Carmelite Friars should they get permission to come. Immediately, Father Patrick wrote to his superior, Fr Thomas Kilduff explaining in more detail the actual religious situation in the Philippines.

 

On 7 May 1946, Fr. Thomas endorsed Fr. Patrick's request to the Father General to open a mission despite the fact that the Washington Province numbered only 21 priests and 8 brothers at that time. It was during Fr. Peter Thomas' fraternal general visitation of the Washington Province in 1946 that official approval was granted. The Provincial chose six men to start this mission. On 22 April 1950, the territory of Infanta was raised to the level of Prelature. In less than six months Infanta was canonically erected and entrusted to the Carmelite Friars. On 23 August 1951, Fr. Patrick Shanley was appointed first Apostolic Administrator of Infanta.

 

 In 1947, Fr. Patrick was among six friars from the Washington province who established a mission on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. Other friars from the province followed, and three years later the mission territory was separated from the Lipa diocese and established as the prelature of Infanta, a three-hundred mile strip along the east coast of Luzon and the whole of Polillo. On April 25, 1950, the Holy See entrusted the prelature of Infanta and its almost seventy thousand inhabitants to the Washington Province. Fr. Patrick Shanley was consecrated the first bishop of Infanta in 1953. In 1966 Fr. Julio Labayan, O.C.D. succeeded Bishop Shanley as bishop of Infanta. In 1980 the Carmelite presence in the Philippines was reorganized into a Commissariat under the General administration, bringing the involvement of the Washington Province in the Philippines to an end, although some of the Washington friars continue to work in the Philippines. Bishop Shanley departed this life in 1970.

 

Conclusion

 

We have recalled just a few of the many great Carmelites who spent themselves for the evangelization of Asia. They inspire us by their holy lives on the one hand, and, on the other, invite us to follow in their footsteps and play our part in building up the frame of Christ’s Body which is the Church. The first missionaries who went to Persia took a vow to lay down their lives for the faith if necessary. We do not know how many of us may be called to shed out blood that the soul of Asia may produce a rich harvest for Christ.

 

Lives of great men, all remind us

We can make our loves sublime;

And departing, leave behind us

Footprints on the sands of time.

 

Footprints that perhaps another

Sailing o’er life’s watery main –

Some forlorn and shipwrecked brother …

Seeing, may take heart again.

 

Ritu Gangele

 

 

Select Bibliography:

 

Alberto de la Virgen del Carmen, Historia de la Reforma Teresiana (1562-1962) Madrid, 1968.

 

Ambrosius a S. Teresia, OCD, Hierarchia Carmelitana: Fasciculus III: De Praesulibus Ecclesiae Magni Mogolis seu Bombayensis, in Analecta OCD XI-XIII, Romae,1936-1938.

 

Ambrosius a S. Teresia, Nomenclator Missionariorum OCD. Re-impressum iuxta Analecta OCD vol. XVII- XVIII, Romae, 1944.

 

Benziger, Marieli Archbishop Benziger: Carmelite in India, Benziger Sisters, California, 1977.

 

Edassery, Job Arrival of Carmel in India, Carmelaram, Bangalore,1986.

 

Edassery, Job Carmel and Malabar Province, Carmel Publishing Centre Thiruvanantapuram, 1995.

 

Florencio of the Infant Jesus, Bibliotheca Carmelitano-Teresiana de Misiones, Tomo V; Misión de Goa, 1619-1630. La Obra Máxima, San Sebastián 1988.

 

Justo de S. José, B. Dionisio de la Natividad y Redento de la Cruz. Madrid, 1900

 

Malloth, Paulinus “ The Manjummel Province”, in Souvenir of theIV Death Anniversary of St. Teresa of Avila, Carmelite Family of India, 1982.

 

Moore, J. (ed.) History of the Diocese of Mangalore, 1905.

 

Regis, Sr. CSST., Mother Teresa of St. Rose of Lima: Our Foundress 

 

Silas, CMI, " Carmelites of Mary Immaculate" in Souvenir of the IVth Death Centenary of St. Teresa of Avila, Carmelite Family of India, 1982.

 

Silva S., History of Christianity in Canara, Kumta, n. d.

 

******

  

 

[11] V. Zubizarreta, ed. Próspero del Espíritu Santo: Relaciones y Cartas Roma, 2006. p. XVI

[12] cf. S. Giordano, ed.. Carmel in the Holy Land, “Messaggero”, Arenzano, p. 97

[13] V. Zubizarreta, p. XL.

[14] Luis de Melgosa: b. 1580 in Burgos, joined the Italian Congr.; Vicar-Provincial of the Persian and Indian missions, 1621-1628.

[15] Edassery, 1986. 48.

[16] Edassery 1986. 55.

[17] Fr. Florencio of the Infant Jesus, Bibliotheca Carmelitano- Teresiana de Misiones: tomo V Misión de Goa. La Obra Máxima, San Sebastián 1988, p. 191.

[18] Peter went just when the Portuguese were preparing an expedition against the king of Aquen in the East Indies.

[19] The most complete accounts are said to be by John of Christ in the Chronicle of the Discalced Carmelites vol. II (pp. 798 ff.) and y H. de la S. Famille, in the Etudes Carmélitaines 1912 pp. 426 ff.

[20] [NM 1944 115-116]

[21] cf. J. Thekkedath, History of Christianity in India 1982 TPI Publ. v.2, p.94

[22] Viaggio all’Indie Orientali, Venice, 1683. p. 172: cited in The Scapukar CTS p,2.

[23] [Thekkedath 1982, 98]

[24] Fr. Michael Buckley, OCD., :Malabar"

[25] cf. Fr. Ambrosius a S. Teresia, , Hierarchia Carmelitana III p. 103

[26] cf. Marieli Benziger, Carmelite in India, Benziger Sisters, California, 1977. p. 526

 

[27] [Moore 1905. 72 ff] This work is a mine of information for Carmelite history.

 

[28] [ Alberto 1968, 404-405]

[29] Fr. Silas, CMI, "Carmelites of Mary Immaculate", in Souvenir of the IVth. Death Centenary of St. Teresa of Avila, Carmelite Family of India, 1982. p. 71

[30] cf. Paulinus Malloth, “The Manjummel Province” in Souvenir of the IV Death Anniversary of St. Teresa of Avila, Carmelite Family of India, 1982. p. 54

[31] cf. Baptist Rodrigues Bishop Francis Xavier of St. Anne (1771-1844). His Life and Missionary Activities, in Gregorian Univ. 1992. p. 18 ff.

[32] Annales Missionis Caruarensis

[33] {Rodriguez 1992, 30}

[34] C. M. Agur, Church History of Travancore, Trivandrum , 1903. p. 307 in Rodrigues 1992, 30.

[35] Moore 1905, 150.}

[36] cf. Letter to Fr. Alphonse 29.9.1898

[37] cf. Marieli Benziger, Archbishop Benziger, The Benziger Sisters, California, 1977. p. 202 ff.

[38] Marieli Benziger, Archbishop Benziger – Carmelite in India, California, 1977. p. 429

[39] Catholic Directory of India, 1998. CBCI Centre, n. Delhi. p. 946

[40] cf. M.Benziger, 1977, 529-530.

[41] cf. The Indian Christian Directory , Deepika, 2000. p. 143

[42] cf. A. Mampra, SDB and J. Puthenkulam SDB. Sanctity in India Yercaud, 2000. pp. 382 ff.

[43] Delegate General's letter, informing of Fr. Hilary's demise.

 

 
 [
 English] [ Italiano] [ Español] [ Français ] [ Deutsch]
[ ] [  ]

Updated 24 nov 2007 by OCD General House
Corso d'Italia, 38 - 00198 Roma - Italia
++39 (06) 854431 FAX ++39 (06) 85350206