THE A.C. GENERALATE
19 November 1870, was a day of great rejoicing for the Diocese of Mangalore when three Apostolic Carmel Sisters and three Cloistered Carmel Sisters arrived at Bunder and were given a rousing welcome by Bishop Marie Ephrem and the people of Mangalore. After the singing of Te Deum and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in the Rosario Cathedral, they were led in procession to St. Ann’s Convent, Mangalore where they were warmly welcomed by the nine Carmelite tertiaries of Bishop Michael Anthony. They all formed one single community.
On 27 March 1871, a fresh group of two Apostolic Carmelites and four Cloistered Carmelites arrived from France. Bishop Marie Ephrem appointed Sister Agnes local superior, Mother Marie des Anges, the mistress of novices and Sister Elias headmistress of the School. Sisters Mary Joseph and Cecilia were to help them in the apostolate. Father Lazare of the Cross was appointed superior and confessor of the community.
The A.C. pioneers had to start life in no better lodging than a collection of huts, till the bishop could arrange for more suitable accommodation for them. Such was the zeal and love of the sisters for Jesus Christ and His mission, that neither poverty nor the enervating heat seemed to disturb their peace of mind. Frequent letters of Mother Veronica from Bayonne, visits of Bishop Marie Ephrem and his interest in them went a long way to sustain the courage and zeal of the little community.
In August 1871, at the request of Mother Magdalen Lubis, Superior, St. Joseph’s Convent, Cannanore, and in October 1872, as desired by Mother Marie Perillon, Superior, St. Joseph’s Convent, Calicut both these convents were incorporated into the Apostolic Carmel. The three Carmelite Tertiaries of Bishop Michael Anthony joined the Apostolic Carmel in October 1872, after closing down their house at Tellicherry, thus raising the number of Apostolic Carmel Sisters to 24. When in 1872, Mother Agnes submitted her resignation as superior of St. Ann’s Convent, the Bishop appointed Mother Marie des Anges in her place as superior, in addition to her responsibilities as mistress of novices. Mother Agnes returned to Bayonne in 1872, followed by Sisters Cecilia and Mary of Jesus Crucified, who were sent back to Pau, France.
After the death of Bishop Marie Ephrem in April 1873, Father Paul Vidal ODC administered the Vicariate of Mangalore until 2 October 1876 when Father Victor Veuleure ODC., was appointed Vicar General and Pro- Administrator of Canara by the Holy See. With his arrival in Mangalore on 18 October 1876, there began a new dawn for the Apostolic Carmel Congregation.
Until 1876, there was no central government, so very necessary for the peace and progress of any religious congregation. On 27 May 1875, St. Joseph’s Convent, Quilon was established. These four houses at Mangalore, Cannanore, Calicut and Quilon were all independent of one another, each having in addition, to its own local superior, a priest who was the chaplain, manager and confessor.
The first thing that Father Victor did after his arrival in Mangalore was, to formally nominate Mother Marie des Anges Superior of all the four Apostolic Carmel convents of the Mission and declaring St. Ann’s as the Motherhouse and the seat of the novitiate.
In 1878, seeing the need for a central authority for the various houses including Quilon, he issued the following Circular: “… Solicitous to see … the Third Order Regular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, whose Motherhouse has been established since several years in Mangalore, and is flourishing more and more for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls; solicitous to preserve and conserve union between the existing, and those which are to be founded in the future, and to give them homogeneousness, and to have regularity, order and good intelligence between all the sisters and to secure a proper existence to their institutions in the Missions; considering that the number of nuns and of the convents is more than sufficient to make and constitute a regular congregation; considering the request of the sisters themselves, we have deemed it indispensably necessary to establish a Mother Superior General for all the sisters present and to come as members of the above mentioned Congregation. In consideration of her personal merits and that the establishment and progress of this congregation owe much to her labour and perseverance, we have made the choice of Mother Marie des Anges, and have nominated and constituted her the Superior General of the whole Congregation of the Sisters of the Third Order Regular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel…” (Sister Candida, History of the Apostolic Carmel, 1873 – 1928, P. 76).
Thus Mother Marie des Anges was invested with authority from the highest Ecclesiastical Superior in the diocese. Father Victor took keen interest in improving the internal organization of the Congregation with a view to get the approval of Rome as a Pontifical Congregation. It was decided that Novices would be received only at St. Ann’s. Besides the School which already existed, A Catechumenate, A Room for Destitutes, A Boarding House and an Orphanage were opened at the same time, and, Father Victor drew the attention of Mother Marie des Anges at writing and preserving the history of the congregation, maintaining registers of sisters, records of significant events, files of important letters and documents. Thus she was initiated into the organization of a well run congregation.
The work of revising the Constitutions for the approval of Rome was next taken up. While in Rome Father Victor, requested Mother Marie des Anges to send him three copies of the printed constitutions. However, he could not do much in this regard, as the Mangalore Diocese had to be handed over to the Jesuits on 31 December 1878. In the two years that Father Victor had been Pro-Administrator, he had proved to be a real friend and guide to Mother Marie des Anges. In his appraisal of the training and spirit she imparted to the novices he wrote, “Console yourself with the thought that there is not a single Vicariate Apostolic in which Indian nuns have succeeded so well, as you have”.
With the coming of the Jesuits in December 1878, a bright epoch opened up to the Apostolic Carmel, who found in Bishop Nicholas Pagani S.J., a firm friend and supporter of Mother Marie des Anges. He helped her to stabilize the congregation during its early years by approving the Rules and Regulations laid down by Father Victor and confirming the appointment of Mother Marie des Anges as Superior General.
Mother Marie des Anges was greatly concerned about the lack of space in the existing chapel and accommodation for the sisters at St. Ann’s. So between 1894 and 1898 she was busy at planning and supervising the construction of a Chapel and a Convent. The spacious dormitories helped her to realize one of her longstanding dreams: to invite all the Malabar sisters for a reunion at the motherhouse. The problem about transport was solved when on 29 June 1907, the Mangalore-Malabar railway line was inaugurated and the ‘Iron Horse’ rushed into the Mangalore station. The St. Ann’s community spent some days at the Malabar convents and then the Malabar convents were invited to St. Ann’s. The joy of meeting was beyond description. She even took the 12 novices to Cannanore for a change.
St. Ann’s remained the seat of the generalate till 1966, when Mother Theodosia who was re-elected Superior General, along with her newly elected Team, decided to shift to Maryhill with its spacious and beautiful campus, and quiet, peaceful and bright surroundings so very conducive for prayer and work. The old chapel and the adjoining dormitory became the generalate quarters till the new generalate building on the Western side was completed by 1968.
Maryhill was the ‘Head House’ only for a period of six years, as by then, Bangalore with its wide range of religious institutions and qualified personnel, several study centres, easy means of transport and communication, access to government offices, availability of medical and legal aid, opportunities for higher education and a large enough campus for expansion attracted the attention of the superior general and her council. So they sent a petition to Rome to permit them to transfer the Generalate from Mangalore to Bangalore. Quick came the reply from Agnelo Cardinal Rossi, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation, Rome, dated 27 March 1973: “…I am pleased to inform you that this Sacred Congregation has taken note of the wise decision made in your General Council to transfer your Generalate to Bangalore and warmly commends it. This is indicative of the genuine progress which your beloved Congregation has been making over the years”.
The shifting of the Generalate to Bangalore benefitted the congregation in various ways. It was now easy for the sisters from different parts of India and those abroad, to reach Bangalore. They came in batches to make a study of the charism and spirituality of the congregation, and to make charism retreats under expert spiritual guides. The climate of the administration was to encourage sisters to take personal responsibility to the deepening of religious commitment and enthuse them to respond positively to human misery and oppression through seminars, workshops and exposure programmes. Sisters were encouraged to utilize the renewal programmes especially in the areas of prayer, Scripture, Apostolic Carmel Spirituality, Carmelite and Asian Spirituality, Catechetics, Church Documents, Inculturation, Community Dynamics and Professional updating in personal and professional development. Liturgical Music Seminars were organized at the A.C. Generalate during the summer vacations. All this fostered unity in the congregation and helped the spiritual growth of the sisters.
By 1977 additional accommodation was provided for the Generalate and a beautiful corner room was tastefully done up for a private chapel in which the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. The sisters loved to pray in it, long after retiring time, far into the night. It was very conducive for quiet prayer, especially during seminars and retreats for various groups.
With the transfer of the documents of the congregation to Bangalore in 1972, the need arose for classification and systematic maintenance of our records, especially as a means of ready reference. Hence, Mother Carmelita launched one of the most valuable ventures in the congregation – the setting up of the Apostolic Carmel Archives. In June 1974, Sister Lorena’s services were requisitioned for this important work. It involved a systematic classification and preservation of the documents pertaining to the Apostolic Carmel. The archives were updated from time to time with Historical material on our foundress Mother Veronica and the beginnings of our congregation.
The practice of maintaining ‘Personal Record’ in triplicate, of every sister in the congregation was introduced in 1975.
Since photographs tell their own unique tale, a lot of trouble was taken to collect and classify the photographs of the sisters, of the buildings, of apostolic works and of special occasions. In January 1978, two maps, one of the whole congregation and the other of the Northern Province prepared by Sister Prescilla Moras, were presented by Sister Blanda to the Archives. Subsequently Sister Sylvette was invited to Bangalore to do similar maps of all the other provinces, which adorn the outer walls of the museum.
The Generalate was extended in 1990 to include a set of rooms for the “Archives”. A separate block “Saranya” was built to provide residential accommodation for the sisters attending chapters, meetings, workshops, seminars and renewal courses.
To give prominence to the Foundress at the Generalate House, to keep her inspiring life alive and also to spread devotion to her, the old archives hall was converted into “Mother Veronica Museum” in 2007. Important scenes from the life of Mother Veronica are depicted on the walls and a few precious relics, received from the Carmel of Pau, are displayed along with some of her original letters, Autobiography and other biographical material on the foundress.