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Carmelites of Mary Immaculate

Carmelites of Mary Immaculate
Abbreviation C.M.I.
Motto I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts
Formation 11 May 1831 (1831-05-11)
Type Syro-Malabar Catholic religious order
Headquarters Chavara Hills, Kakkanad, Cochin
  • Kerala, India
Coordinates 10.032584,76.35471
General of Carmelites of Mary Immaculate
Paul Achandy
Key people
Kuriakose Elias Chavara— co-founder
Thomas_Palackal— co-founder
Thomas Porukara — co-founder
Main organ
General Curia

The Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (C.M.I.) are a religious institute for men in the Syro-Malabar Church. It is the first Catholic religious congregation founded in India.


  • History 1
    • Foundation 1.1
    • First monasteries 1.2
    • Contributions to the church 1.3
    • Canonical approval of the congregation 1.4
    • Other pioneering works 1.5
    • Missionary works 1.6
    • Modern history 1.7
  • Statistics 2
  • Administration 3
  • Criticisms 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7



The first monastery of CMI congregation was established on 11 May 1831 at Mannanam, Kerala, India. The congregation was founded by Fathers Palackal Thoma Malpan, Porukara Thoma Kathanar and Kuriakose Elias Chavara.

On 8 December 1855, the religious community at Mannanam was recognised canonically with the profession of vows of eleven priests headed by Father Chavara, the first prior of the congregation. The original name of the group was the Congregation of the Servants of Mary Immaculate of Mount Carmel. In 1860, this congregation was affiliated to the Carmelite Order and its members began to use the postnominal initials of T.O.C.D. (Third Order of Discalced Carmelites).

First monasteries

Several diocesan priests as well as lay people enthusiastically sought admission into the rank of the religious, and six more new monasteries were founded: Koonammavu (1857), Elthuruth near Trichur (1858), Vazhakulam near Muvattupuzha (1859), Pulinkunnu (1861), Ambazhakad (1868), and Mutholy (1870). The congregation was granted pontifical recognition in 1885.

Contributions to the church

The congregation was involved from its beginning in pioneering activities in the Church in Kerala. It started with preaching retreats in all the parishes in Kerala. It brought vitality and vibrancy throughout the church. It also introduced into the local church, adopting from the global church, many devotional practices like eucharistic devotion, rosary, way of the cross, etc., which became very popular in Kerala. The congregation took leadership in starting seminaries for the training of the clergy, beginning with the seminary at Mannanam in 1833.

When a schism developed in Kerala in 1861, the Syro-Malabar Church was on the verge of a division. Father Kuriakose Elias Chavara was appointed Vicar General for the Syrian Catholics. He alerted the Catholic community of the dire consequences of the divisive forces, gave leadership to fight the schism, and preserved the unity and integrity of the Kerala church.

Canonical approval of the congregation

The religious Congregation was canonically approved on 8 December 1855. On that day the first eleven friars made their religious profession. Chavara, the only surviving founder, was appointed the first Prior General of the congregation. In 1860 the congregation became affiliated to the Order of Carmelites Discalced with the name, Third Order of Discalced Carmelites (TOCD). In 1958, the name was changed to Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI). The congregation was raised to one of pontifical right in 1967 by Pope Paul VI.

Other pioneering works

A Sanskrit school was started in Mannanam in 1846; the St. Ephraim English school was begun there in 1890 and converted to a high school in 1903. Similarly in 1844, the first printing press in the Syro-Malabar Church was started at Mannanam. Deepika, the first newspaper of Kerala, was begun at Mannanam in 1887. After running it for more than a century, it was handed over to a registered company.

The congregation took great interest in taking care of the poor and downtrodden sections of the society by establishing charitable institutions. Thus the congregation was actively involved in an integral development of the people of Kerala.

Missionary works

The congregation strove for works of evangelization and to work for the reunion of the separated brethren among the St. Thomas Christians. Fr. Chavara is considered the pioneer of the works of evangelization in the Syro-Malabar Church. Later in 1962, when the Chanda mission territory in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra was entrusted to the Syro-Malabar Church, it was committed to the care of the congregation. Today CMI bishops take care of the dioceses of Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh, Bijnor in UP-Uttarakhand, Rajkot in Gujrat, and Mandya in Karnataka. The mission provinces stand with and for the poor on issues of importance and engage in social work among the marginalised section of the society in particular.

Modern history

The second half of the 20th century witnessed a rapid growth of the Syro-Malabar Church and of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate beyond the boundaries of Kerala. Three moments in its history in this line were:

  • The division of the congregation into three provinces.
  • The shifting of its major seminary to Dharmaram college, Bangalore in 1957.
  • Extending its activities to North India (outside the territory of the Syro-Malabar church) for direct evangelization in 1962.


This congregation is the largest religious congregation for men in the Syro-Malabar Church, who are spread throughout India and abroad in 15 provinces. It has a membership of 2,800 members including 8 bishops, 1725 priests, 4 permanent deacons, 27 Lay brothers, and about 1,300 brothers in formation. 700 of the priests are working outside Kerala, of which 311 are outside India. The priests are actively involved in pastoral services in 22 countries around the world.

The congregation currently has five major seminaries for the training of its members: Dharmaram College, Bangalore, Darsana Philosophate, Wardha, Samanvaya Theologate, Bhopal, Carmel Vidya Bhavan, Pune, and CMI Vidya Bhavan, Baroda. Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram (D.V.K.) at Bangalore is a pontifical athenaeum with the faculties of philosophy, theology, and canon law; it has a strength of 800 students hailing from 17 dioceses and 75 religious congregations. The first seminary outside India was established in 2001 in Kenya and the first batch of students from abroad made their religious profession on 19 March 2005. In 1998, the CMIs were entrusted with the administration of the regional major seminary in Namibia, Africa.


A Prior General, with a team of four general Councilors, and a general auditor administer the congregation. A General Chapter of the congregation elects them every six years. At the provincial level administration is carried out by a Prior Provincial with four councilors and the provincial auditor, each elected by the respective provincial chapters every three years. As of May 2014, the Prior General is Very Reverend Father Paul Achandy, C.M.I.[1]


The congregation (in non-missionary territories) has come under exacting criticism of the Catholic laity and others alike for following capitalist business practices resulting in commercialized education and charging of exorbitant fees in their educational institutions, thus making these institutions unavailable for the poorer sections of the Catholic laity and others. This has been seen as a stark departure from the congregation's policy towards education at the time of its inception (see the section on other pioneering works) and has been criticized for being in contravention to Catholic spirit and principles.

See also


  1. ^ "Administration". Carmelites of Mary Immaculate. 

External links

  • CMI Devamatha Province, Thrissur
  • Carmelites of Mary Immaculate Homepage
  • Palackal Thoma Malpan
  • Chavara Kuriakose Elias of the Holy Family, T.O.C.D.
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