Men religious
Holy Family Monastery, Perumpadappu - 682 006 Sacred Hearts Boys' Home, Perumpadappu - 682 006 St. Jude Monastery, Eramalloor - 688 537 Carmel Ashram, Chellanam - 682 008

The Carmelites trace the root of their tree to the Mount Carmel in Palestine where Prophet Elijah and his disciples, said to be their forefathers, lived. These 'Sons of the Prophet' who continued their solitary existence founded the Order in 1156 which was made mendicant in 1247. They were given a code of life by St. Albert, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, which was approved by Pope Innocent IV.

The hermits later migrated to Europe and in course of time some slackening crept in as a result of which the primitive code was mitigated. The Order was reconstructed by St. Mother Teresa of Avila and the first convent of the reconstituted Carmelites for nuns was established. With the help of St. John of the Cross, Mother Teresa opened a monastery for friars on November 28, 1568. Hence, St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross are referred to as the 'parents' of the Order.

On 19th February, 1656, Fr. Sebastiani and four friars, the first Carmelite Missionaries, were sent to India by Pope Alexander VII and with them begins the history of Carmelites in our country. Through the Synod of Diamper (1599) Archbishop Alexis de Menezes had brought back to the Catholic Church the so called 'St. Thomas Christians' of Kerala who had been following the Nestorian heresy and so many customs and practices contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church. But the St. Thomas Christians were not happy and this dissent finally ended at the infamous revolt called 'the Oath of Coonan Cross' at Mattancherry on January 3, 1663 and the formal schism at Alangad on May 22, 1663 about which the Portuguese Bishop of Cochin could do nothing.

As per the Concordat (1500) between the Pope and the King of Portugal, the Holy See was not able to do anything but considering 'Salus Animarum Suprema Lex' it had to interfere. The Holy See therefore sent a group of Carmelites under the leadership of Fr. Joseph Sebastian O.C.D. and as a result of their endeavours, the Vicariate of Malabar (1657) and later the Vicariate of Verapoly (1704) were established. Through the efforts of these Carmelite Missionaries, major part of St. Thomas Christians came back to the Catholic Church and they were placed under the then Vicariate of Malabar, later Verapoly. While Carmelites under Propaganda Fide were ruling the Vicariate of Verapoly, there were two Carmelite Bishops under Portuguese Padroado ruling Cochin Diocese i.e. Bishop Manuel de Santa Catharina, O.C.D., (1778-1785) and Bishop Jose de Soledad O.C.D, (1785-1818).

The Carmelite missionaries were so influential in Kerala that it was natural for a few priests of St. Thomas Christians, Fr. Thomas Panackal, Fr. Thomas Parukara and Fr. Elias Kuriakose Chaavara to have formed a Community imitating the Carmelite Fathers in 1829. On May 11, 1831, a small house was put up at Mannanam which was approved on December 8, 1855. This Community was called the Third Order of Carmelite Discalced (TOCD) and a century later, in 1958, it was named the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI).

Some priests of Latin Rite of Kerala, Fr. Francis Xavier Kuruppasery, Fr. Egidius, Kumbalanghy, Fr. Louis Vaippissery (Ochanthuruthu), Fr. Policarp Kadaviparambil (Mundamvely) and Fr. Michael Puthenparambil also formed a Carmelite Third Order (TOCD) at Koonammavu on July 23, 1857 and it was approved by the Vicar Apostolic of Verapoly, Dr. Bernardine Baccinelli. But this Community was virtually dormant for almost 17 years and so some priests from Mannanam Monastery were brought to the Koonammavu House over which Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara was appointed Superior.

Another monastery was established at Manjummal solely targeting Latin vocations where four novices received their religious habits on April 20, 1874. This Congregation also had to face troubles and trials and even the threat of suppression during the time of Vicar Apostolic of Verapoly, Dr. Bernard of Jesus Arguinzons O.C.D. (1898-1919). As the Vicar Apostolic showed reluctance to recommend any petition to the Holy See, the Carmelite Fathers even thought of starting the Carmelite Order in Cochin Diocese. Ultimately they succeeded in bringing their petition before Pope Pius X and His Holiness granted them approval in 1910.

The second Community of the Order was started in the Cochin Diocese at Perumpadappu for which the then Bishop Dom Jose Bento Martin Rebeiro granted necessary permission on August 28, 1921. The Carmelite Fathers set about their mission from 1922. Fr. Bernardine Kadaviparambil instituted the St. Antony's School in 1927 and in the same year began the construction of the monastery at the location known as Vattathara Veli. A chapel and a few rooms were completed in 1930 and it was inaugurated on 15th of October. The first Superior of this monastery, just a Vicariate, Fr. Bernardine Kadaviparambil, died on September 26, 1944. 

Being a port city, Cochin had a lot of business and industrial establishments around among which coir manufacturing was a flourishing enterprise. There were a lot of firms engaged in various activities and there was a considerable portion of the populace depending on such concerns. Pierce Leslie, Volkart Brothers, Madura Company, V.O. Vakkan & Sons and Aroor Coir Factory were but a few prominent ones among them. For the families of innumerable employees in these establishments, their respective concerns were the main stay.

Leissez-faire having been the rule of the day, the unorganised labour force without leadership was at the mercy of the employers. Bishop Abilios Vas Das Neves, therefore, entrusted Fr. Bonaventure Kattiparambil, T.O.C.D., with the mission of organising labour union of Pierce Leslie Company. Fr. Bonaventure formed a union with the approval and recognition of the Government at which Rev. Fr. Mathew Kothakath and Rev. Fr. Basil Koodarappilly, T.O.C.D later assisted him.

In 1935 Bishop Abilius entrusted St. Peter's High School and the Boarding House at Kumbalanghy to the Carmelite Fathers. Rev. Fr. Joseph Rockey Balummel, T.O.C.D., started the Little Flower Press and the Sacred Heart Poor House sponsored by Mr. Bismark Swarez, Goa, at the southern wing of the St. Antony's School which Bishop Abilius blessed in 1935. Fr. Joseph Rockey started also an Engineering Workshop at Karuvelipady. The same year witnessed a second blessing in the fact that Fr. Andreas Pothanad, T.O.C.D. started the 40 Hours Adoration at Perumpadappu. This is the only church in the Diocese now where 40 Hours Adoration is conducted every year during lent.

In 1936, an English monthly "Little Flower" began to be published from Perumpadappu Monastery with Mr. Alexander Parambithara as its Editor but due to technical reasons this had to be stopped in 1941. In 1950 Bishop Alvernaz entrusted Rev. Fr. Bonaventure Kattiparambil, T.O.C.D., with the activities of Catholic Action in the Diocese. On 18th March, 1953, the Third Order of Carmelites of Manjummal was merged with the first Order of Carmelites (O.C.D.) and on May 16, 1953 they accepted the constitution of the first Order.

On February 2, 1965 the Perumpadappu Monastery was raised as a Priorate. The first Friars were Fr. Bernardine Kadvaiparambil, Fr. Sebastian, Fr. Joseph Rockey Balummel, Fr. Augustine Chirayath, Fr. Sylvester Kalloor and Fr. Bartholomew Kannenkeril. On 8th December, 1964, Manjummel was made a Semi Province of the First Order of Carmelites and on July 1, 1967 it was raised as a Province.

The new Church of the Monastery was blessed on 21st December, 1970. In 1974 a Nursery School and a Tailoring Centre also started functioning. Later, the Father General, Rev. Fr. Camillo Maccise, O.C.D. blessed the foundation stone for a retreat centre, on March 14, 1992. The new edifice for the Centre when completed was blessed on May 21, 1993.

The Carmelite Fathers opened another House at Eramalloor and a third house at Maruvakkad. From the very beginning the Carmelite Fathers were always ready and willing to help the priests of Cochin Diocese in their parish activities. They help the various convents, preach retreats, hear confessions and thus the presence of the Carmelite Fathers is a great blessing to the Diocese. 

The narration hitherto provides but a brief sketch and it would tantamount to denial of satisfaction if some attempt is not made at tracing its beginning in the Diocese. It was after attending the Episcopal Consecration of Mar Isaac Yoahanon, the Bishop of Thiruvalla Diocese and of Cyril Mar Baselios, Bishop of Bathery Diocese at Thiruvalla on December 28, 1978. Bishop Joseph Kureethara visited V. Rev. Fr. Bonaventure Kattiparambil, O.C.D., who was then Chaplain of the Cloistered Carmelite Sisters at Thiruvalla. While talking, Fr. Bonaventure suggested that the Diocese should have a Carmelite Monastery at Eramalloor.

The Rev. Father himself prepared a petition in the name of the Bishop of Cochin showing the necessity of a men's religious Community at Eramalloor where there are many parishes like Aroor, Kumbalam, Perumpalam, Arookutty, Eramalloor, Ezhupunna, Neendakara, Vallethode, Kuthiathode etc. So too are there many convents in the area, viz., Mercy Convent at Aroor, Holy Cross Convent and Holy Mary's Convent at Kumbalam, C.T.C. Sisters at Perumpalam, C.T.C. Sisters at Panavally, Gleaners at Ezhupunna, Fatima Convent (C.T.C.) at Kumbalanghy etc. All these parishes and convents badly needed the presence and spiritual assistance of some Religious Priests. His Excellency's request, dated December 23, 1979, was sent to V. Rev. Fr. Provincial, Fr. Paulinus, O.C.D. which was approved at the Provincial Council held on 3rd January 1980. But the ultimate permission had to come from V. Rev. Fr. General in Rome.

The prelate's petition passed its 'primus annus' but the anxiously awaited positive response from Rome remained perhaps pertinently silent. Meantime it could be gathered from Rev. Fr. Paulinus, O.C.D., the Provincial, that their Fr. General, V. Rev. Fr. Philip Sainz de Baranda, O.C.D., would be coming on visit to their Community in connection with the blessing of a new church. His Excellency headed straight to Kolayad on March 5, 1981 to meet the General and enquire about the request already sent. Though the Fr. General accompanied by Fr. Patrick, O.C.D., of a different rite assisting him as translator of Italian to Malayalam, received the Bishop well, the hovering hope still remained hanging!

The Fr. General was given a lunch at the Provincial House in Ernakulam at which Fr. Paulinus offered an opportunity to His Excellency to address the General. During the talk, the Bishop brought forth the issue and mooted the proposal on the establishment of a monastery at Eramalloor. Finally the Fr. General granted the request for the Carmelite Monastery at Eramalloor, jovially remarking that the Bishop of Cochin would not let matters rest nor leave him alone otherwise! Thus, Deo Gratias, the episodes on the long quest for a monastery had its fructifying finale when V. Rev. Fr. Philip Sainz de Baranda, O.C.D., the General, laid the foundation stone of the St. Jude's Monastery at Eramalloor on March 16, 1981. An agreement between the Provincial, V. Rev. Fr. Athanasius D' Almeida, O.C.D. and Bishop of Cochin was signed on 4th August 1984 and a diocesan property there, consisting of an acre and 27 cents, was donated to the Carmelite Fathers.

'Three kilometres distance should be kept between churches of different rites' was the existing maxim approved and retained by the Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council on the erection of fresh chapels and churches. It so happened that the parish priest of Ezhupunna under a different rite made moves and collected funds to raise a structure as if an extension of the Lisie Hospital, Ernakulam. Even a foundation in Octogonal shape was laid and it was left biding time at the coastal junction of Eramalloor locality. There were just eight families of the concerned rite in the locality whereas there were more than 250 families of Latinites there. The Vicar of Eramalloor, Rev. Fr. George Malatt, therefore, approached Bishop Edezhath and secured sanction to build a chapel there. Most of the members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society had been congregated at the locality and it was a long cherished dream of the Vincentians to have a chapel there amidst them. 

The parishioners erected a shed there, moved the necessary requirements like altar, church bell etc. on 12th September and early the next morning, carrying the statue of St. Jude, the faithful proceeded in procession led by Fr. George Malatt to the new chapel where the newly ordained Rev. Fr. John Thattumkal celebrated Holy Mass. This chapel and property were donated to the Carmelite Fathers in March 1975 and the foundation stone for the new church was laid by Rev. Fr. George Malatt. During the time of Rev. Fr. Joseph Pollayil some property was bought for the church and a small new rectory was attached to the chapel. When Rev. Fr. John Manakatt assumed charge of the parish, he bought a property on the southern side of the road, donated to the Carmelite Fathers and initiated the erection of the new, large Church of St. Jude. 

The foundation stone of the St. Jude's Monastery was laid by V. Rev. Fr. Philip Sainz de Baranda, O.C.D., Superior General of the Carmelite Fathers, Rome, on March 16, 1981 and under Rev. Fr. Romeus, O.C.D., the construction work of the church and monastery steadily progressed. Finally the monastery was blessed and inaugurated by V. Rev. Fr. Athanasius D'Almeida, Provincial of Manjummal Province on the feast of Assumption, August 15, 1984. The magnificent new Church of St. Jude was blessed on October 15, 1988. Subsequently, Rev. Fr. Bosco Manaparambil, O.C.D., built the Catechetical Hall and it was blessed on March 31, 1989.

The Carmel Ashram was inaugurated by His Excellency, Rt. Rev. Dr. Joseph Kureethara, Bishop of Cochin, in the presence of Very Rev. Fr. Provincial Linus Puthanveetil on 16th October 1988 at Maruvakkadu. Rev. Fr. Firmus Kachappilly was the first and only member of this House and since the Provincial Council intended that the Ashram was to witness poverty in a special way through life and work, the monastery then was but a small hut. An agreement was signed by the Bishop of Cochin and the Provincial of Manjummal Province on August 21, 1993 with regard to the property and Nithya Sahaya Matha Chapel and the ministry of the members of this monastery. According to the agreement, 25.6 cents of land and the use and care of Nithya Sahaya Matha Chapel were entrusted to the Carmelites, to "attend to the spiritual needs of the people in the Diocese of Cochin, especially in and around Maruvakkadu".

V. Rev. Fr. Linus Puthenveettil, O.C.D., the Provincial of Manjummal Carmelite Fathers informed His Excellency, Rt. Rev. Dr. Joseph Kureethara that the Provincial Council had decided to open a Carmelite Monastery on the coastal area where the poor fisher folk live. The encouraging information was very much according to His Excellency's own plan, as the Bishop visualised the need for a monastery in Chellanam where there are many parishes all along the coastal area -two in Chellanam, one each at Kandakadavu, Kannamaly, Kattiparambu and Mundamvely and three parishes in Kumbalanghy. Also there are some convents where the help of Religious Priests is very much needed. Moreover, as the Religious Priests are needed to hear confessions of the pilgrims who come to the Shrine of Our Lady of Velankanni at Maruvakkadu, the presence of the monastery was a must.

Though the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour at Maruvakkadu, within the parish of St. Sebastian's, Chellanam, was far away, the priests of the parish had to celebrate Sunday Masses there. Bishop Joseph Kureethara was chewing the cud of a monastery at Maruvakkadu, hoping the clerics of the Order could help at the shrine as well and trying to acquire some land. But properties along the shore were found to be rather difficult to come by. Enriched by ever so many experiences in the devious and divergent routes of Divine Providence, His Excellency prepared a request to the Provincial at Manjummal on the All Fools Day of 1988. Typical of Divine designs, the Provincial Council had its eyes on a monastic bed elsewhere - in Vypeen area!

In lay man's tongue, 'as luck would have', it was then that light was shone on Rev. Fr. Firmus Kachappilly, who came up with a unique experimental idea of living in a humble hut, not a big monastery and alone, without a Community! The Provincial Council decided to grant permission to the Rev. Father with the proviso that the 'hut' would be an extension of the Monastery at Perumpadappu and that it would be temporary.

The Bishop by the time had managed to procure a small patch of 25.6 cents very close to the shrine at Maruvakkadu and intimated the offer of the same to V. Rev. Fr. Linus Puthenveetil to which the Provincial responded favourably. The Provincial however, erased the prospects of the proposed monastery forthwith but generously admitted a priest could be permitted to live there on a temporary basis.

On the request of His Excellency, Bishop Joseph Kureethara, Rev. Fr. Bernardine, O.C.D., the First Counsellor, allowed Fr. Firmus Kachappilly to stay at Maruvakkadu alone but as a member of the Community at Perumpadappu. The Rev. Father reached the place on October 16, 1988 to take up his solitary mission among the tide-watchers on the sea shore who led a hand-to-mouth existence. Typical of the huts and hovels of the famished fisher folk Fr. Firmus raised a "Parnasaala" (hermitage) of coconut palm-frond thatched roof and sliced bamboo screens about which an article appeared in the 'Sathyanadam' weekly on April 29, 1992.

Since the Provincial Council could not allow Fr. Firmus to make his strange experiment indefinitely, the Rev. Father submitted a request to the Father General in Rome - to permit him to live a life of radical poverty. On August 21, 1993 an agreement was signed between the then Provincial, V. Rev. Fr. Athanasius D'Almeida, O.C.D. and the Bishop of Cochin regarding the ownership of the property and use and care of Maruvakkadu Chapel. Later on a proper monastery was to be erected at Maruvakkadu. A new building was blessed and inaugurated on August 15, 1994. Fr. Innocent Valiaveettil, O.C.D. started a homoeo dispensary at Maruvakkadu Monastery. 

The Carmelite Fathers of Maruvakkadu live with the poor people of the coastal area, celebrate daily Mass at the Chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and preach retreat to the Sisters and in the parishes. They conduct classes for the Sisters and students in convents and give spiritual directions to the nuns. Other activities carried out by OCD Fathers around these monasteries are generally pastoral missions, running orphanage, dispensary, charitable endeavours and social service among the fishermen.

Written by His Excellency, (Late) Rt. Rev. Dr. Joseph Kureethara