Media Release

Mangaluru, Nov 18 : The Apostolic Carmel Congregation celebrated the hundred and fifty years of its foundation just two years ago. The first Carmelite order founded in Bayonne, France, for the mission of education in India took its momentous step just two years later with the three pioneering sisters landing on the shores of Mangalore, at Bunder on 19 November 1870. These three sisters along with three sisters of the Cloistered Carmel from Pau, France, who set foot on the soil on Mangalore, embarked on their mission of the empowerment of girl children through education. The Cloistered Carmel in the mean time provided the power house of prayer to the diocese of Mangalore. It is the day immortalized in the history of Mangalore.

The contribution of the Apostolic Carmel since 1870 was significant in that it was a time girls received little or no education and were married off while they were in their early teens; besides there were very few families who could afford education for their daughters. The Hunter Education Commission noted that in 1881 only 0.2% of the women of this part of India were literate. This was the scenario which the Apostolic Carmel Congregation met with. It did not daunt them but rather, inspired the brave Sisters to venture into female education, towards their economic independence and personal empowerment and in particular, faith education.

Mother Veronica, nee Sophie Leeves, an English woman, was chosen by God to initiate this great mission of caring for girl children. The plight of girls while she was serving the poor children in Calicut, Kerala and the call of God ‘I want you in Carmel’ resulted in joining the Carmel and the founding of the teaching order of Carmel on her return to Europe. While she was not destined to launch on this tremendous task in India, in person, Mother Marie Des Anges, a French lady who was prepared by her for the mission in India took over the mantle as the First Superior General of the Apostolic Carmel and guided the congregation. However, it was the daughter of the soil, Mother Mary Aloysia nee Mary Rosario, who joined the Apostolic Carmel during its initial years who laid the sturdy bedrock for women’s education in India and Sri Lanka.

The first school, a veritable temple of learning with 40 students at St Ann’s, Mangalore took a leap forward in terms of enrollments to 160, the following year was acclaimed for its quality by the British administration of the time as to be on par with even British education provided at the Madras Presidency. This was solely on account of the quality education provided by her and the pioneering Sisters. The impact of their education on the lives of girls was so great that parents from different localities earnestly approached the Management of the Congregation to open schools in different places. St Ann’s Convent now served as the Mother House and Schools were established at Dongerkere, later shifted to Urwa as Lady Hill High School, at the request of the Brahmin Community; at Bendore – St. Agnes School, and St. Mary’s School, Falnir and thereafter in Udupi and other suburbs of Dakshina Kannada in order to reach out to the poorest of the poor. At most places it was service for the poor through the opening of Orphanages for poor girls. Simultaneously, Calicut, Cannanore and other locations in Kerala too came under the influence of the Apostolic Carmel education. It did not take much time before requests poured in from the Northern states and even Sri Lanka by the 1920s. Indeed the British administration that saw the quality of the teachers personally trained by Mother Aloysia, prevailed upon her to start a teacher training institute (1890) which gave a great boost to the girls from the whole of south India. Equally impressed was Dr. Lakmanswamy Mudaliar, the Chairman of the Mudaliar Education Commission when he visited St. Ann’s as the Chairman of the Affiliation Commission. He acclaimed that the existing primary teacher training institute was a sound proof for the quality that would be provided at St. Ann’s Training College for graduate teachers he accepted for affiliation to Madras Presidency in 1943.

However, one of the main contributions of the Apostolic Carmel, with its characteristic foresight, is St Agnes College started by this daring woman, Mother Aloysia, the second Superior General. St Agnes College is the first Women’ College on the west coast of India and the first college for girls to be started by an indigenous person in the entire country and provided guidance and direction to many a newly started women’s college after that in South India. Four more Apostolic Carmel Colleges adorned other parts of our country, namely, the prestigious Patna Women’s College, Bihar; Providence Women’s College, Calicut, Carmel College, Goa and lastly Carmel College, Modancap, which at present provide job-centred and postgraduate courses with research centres established.

Today girls in thousands continue to be educated in different parts of the world through a hundred and fifty A.C. convents in India and over fifty outside our country, namely, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and finally in Europe itself. The girls educated in these institutions have not only made a mark in various fields of life and profession, many young women have dedicated their lives as Religious Sisters in the Apostolic Carmel as also in several other congregations and have been heading many of these religious congregations. Apart from education as its main mission, the Apostolic Carmel has been catering to the needs of the less privileged children through orphanages, social service centres, technical institutions, community colleges, schools and residences for differently abled children and adults, crèches, health care centres, counselling centres, homes for the destitute, needle work centres, homes for the aged and social welfare centres. The Sisters have also adopted other ministries, institutions, programmes of the parishes and services to the surrounding villages. These include prison ministry, SHGs, rescue homes, adult education and care for delinquents, to name a few.

A modest celebration of thanksgiving will take place on 19th November, at the Rosario Cathedral, marking the event of the arrival of the pioneers at this hallowed spot exactly a hundred and fifty years ago. While Bishop Marie Ephrem, OCD welcomed them to India, Most Rev. Dr. Peter Paul Saldanha, the present Bishop of Mangalore will preside over the thanksgiving Eucharist with the Apostolic Carmel Sisters. At this celebration of the one hundred and fifty years of sacrificial love and committed service of the Apostolic Carmel Sisters, along with the collaboration of the staff, students, parents, alumni, benefactors and well-wishers, the Congregation wishes to express its profound gratitude to all the ‘Keepers of the Flame’ which was once lit by their Founder, the Venerable Mother Veronica. The Sisters of the Congregation acknowledge with deep humility and respect, all the services, temporal and spiritual, rendered by Church leaders and other individuals who have contributed towards the growth and development of the Apostolic Carmel, and thereby, of the society itself. 

 

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