CMI - A brief history

CMI a short history   |    The blesssed Kuriakose Elias Chavara

The Congregation of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (C.M.I.) had its beginnings in the first half of the 19th century. When two zealous priests, Fr.Thomas Palackal and Fr.Thomas Porukara of the Vicariate Apostolic of Verapoly in Kerala, sought to live in retirement and prayer, their Ordinary, the Vicar Apostolic, Bishop Maurilius Stabilini advised them to found a religious house so that they might do good to the people in the world too. This was in 1829 A.D.

On May 11, 1831, a small house was started at Mannanam in the then Travancore State. Some more priests and clerics joined the Founding Fathers, and thus a small religious community took shape. Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara (whose beatification was on February 8, 2021), who was a devoted disciple of Fr.Palackal, had associated himself with the religious community from its very beginning. On December 8, 1855, the religious congregation was canonically erected. Since then the name of Mary Immaculate has been invariably attached to the title. Blessed Chavara, the only surviving founder, was appointed the first Superior of the Congregation.

Since during the early period of this Religious Congregation the Vicars Apostolic of Verapoly were Carmelites and Carmelite missionaries were guiding the new religious community, the Carmelite influence was there from the very beginning of the Congregation. The rules of the Carmelites with some modifications were given to them in 1855. In 1861 the Community was affiliated to the Order of Carmelites with the title T.O.C.D. (Third Order of the Carmelites Discalced).

The Constitutions were approved ad experimentum by the Apostolic See in 1885. In 1958 the name was changed to C.M.I. (Carmelites of Mary Immaculate). The Congregation was granted pontifical exemption in 1967.

The Congregation from its beginning exercised itself in such activities as the Church in Kerala was in need of at the particular times. It started with preaching retreats, conducting seminaries and training of priests; met the challenge of educating the youth and disseminating Christian literature; laboured for the conversion of non-Christians and for the reunion of separated brethren; undertook works of mercy and started charitable institutions.

The mission work of the C.M.I. Congregation gathered new dimension and momentum as local churches were entrusted to it beyond the boundaries of Kerala. In 1962 Chanda took shape as the first missionary Ordinate of the Syro-Malabar Church and was entrusted to the Congregation. Since then New Mission Dioceses and Regions were erected in Central and North India. There are now six dioceses in North India entrusted to the Congregation, viz, Chanda, Sagar, Jagdalpur, Bijnor, Rajkot and Adilabad. These six dioceses are headed by CMI Bishops. This is indeed a milestone in the progress of the CMI Missions and an abiding evidence of recognition by the Apostolic See.

For the sake of administration, the congregation is divided into eight Provinces, five Vice-Provinces and one Region.

At present the congregation has more than 2,500 members spread all over India. Some of them are in Europe, U.S.A., Latin America, Africa, Madagascar and in Papua New Guinea engaged in studies and apostolic activities.

A Prior General elected from the Congregation, assisted by four Councillors is at the head of the administration. The headquarters of the whole Congregation is at Chavara Hills,Kakkanad.