The congregation of the Apostolic Carmel is, a need fulfilled, by realizing a dream of Mother Veronica of the Passion, the founderess of the Congregation. It was established in the year 1868 16th June at Bayonne, France. The need of the birth of this congregation was the faith formation of the young girls in India. In the 19th century, India was under British Rule and the catholic formation was threatened by the Anglican education under the British rule. Mother Veronica who was serving as a sister of St. Joseph of the Apparition in India since 1862, felt deep within her being that God wanted her in Carmel. As she was trying to appraise the meaning of this inner voice, in consultation of her Spiritual Director, Fr. Marie Ephram OCD, she realized that there was a great need of sisters to uplift the lives of the young girls in India through education. Fr. Marie Ephram, being a Discalced Carmelite, had a vision for the third order of sister of the Carmelites who would be engaged in prayer and apostolate both. Thus, under the guidance of Fr. Marie Ephram, Mother Veronica understood her “Call within a call” to found this new congregation of Carmel sisters for mission in India.
Founding a new Order had never been an easy task for any of those great men and women in the past nor will it be in the future. Mother Veronica underwent struggles, difficulties, humiliation and trials before she gave birth to the Little Carmel. She had to leave her much loved congregation of St. Joseph of the Apparition where she was accepted and loved dearly, then complete the period of Novitiate in Carmel in order to imbibe the spirit of Carmel. Finally, in 1868 on the feast of Mount Carmel, the ‘Little Carmel’ was established at Bayonne which was to become a mighty tree in the years to come with the grace and guidance of God.
Embracing the Mission in India
The reason for the third order of Carmelite sisters was to enable them to send missionaries to India to fulfil the need for the teaching sisters on the West coast of India. Therefore, Under the directions of the now Bishop Marie Ephram OCD, three Apostolic Carmelites arrived in India on 19th November 1870 and were joined by two more the following year. They were established in the Diocese of Mangalore under the jurisdiction BishopMarie Ephrem OCD., where, bravely facing many difficulties, hardships and inconveniences, they worked zealously and successfully for the spread of God’s kingdom. The foundress, however, in spite of her earnest desire and longing to be with her spiritual daughters, was not destined to reach India, as ordered by Bishop Marie Ephram OCD,and she had to remain in Bayonne and train more sisters to be sent for the Indian Mission.
The little shrub growing into a mighty tree
Subsequently, however, unfavourable circumstances obliged Mother Veronica to close down the t A.C Bayonne Novitiate in 1873, the convent for which she had suffered and agonized. The work begun by Mother Veronica was not to die, for it was the work of Divine Providence. It was kept alive through the instrumentality of Mother Marie des Agnes, the first Superior General, who was one of the pioneers from Bayonne. In course of time, the little congregation grew in number and in stability as a teaching Institute of active Carmelites, and was subsequently aggregated to the Order of Discalced Carmelites. Under Mother Aloysia, who succeeded Mother Marie des Agnes, the congregation was further stabilized and became one of pontifical right in 1925.
Shading the Pearl of the Indian Ocean
During Mother Aloysia’s tenure of office, the Apostolic Carmel took roots in Sri Lanka in response to the earnest request of the Bishop of TrincomaleeRt.Rev.Gaston Robichez SJ who recognized the educational competence of the sisters and eagerly sought for their services in his diocese. The late Superior General Mother Aloysia and her Council thus, decided to plunge into the deep in saying ‘yes’ to the Lord, to begin a new mission in Ceylon by accepting St. Mary’s school Trincomalee, which was vacated by the sisters of Cluny from France.
Receiving a summons to leave for TrincomaleeSrs.Lourdes,Cresence,Clare and Justine started from St. Anne’s and reached Trincomalee on 5th February, 1922. Sisters of Cluny left in the care of the Apostolic Carmelites, two schools, one English medium and one Tamil medium, an industrial school and an orphanage. Three months after, in the same year, five more sisters (Srs. Eulalie, Leonie, Perpetua, Theodolinda and Catherine) arrived from India to take charge of the convent and the school at Batticaloa. And with this two pioneering convents, thus the Apostolic Carmelites started their mission in the pearl of the Indian Ocean.
Under the care of the Apostolic Carmel sisters, the schools progressed rather well and in 1924, St. Cecila’s School Batticaloa was upgraded to a First grade English School.Having being impressed by the good work the A.C. sisters had done in Trincomalee and Batticaloa, Rt. Rev. BeckmeyerBishop of Kandy, invited the A.C. Sisters to take over St. Ursula’s convent and school Badulla and later as the neibouring parish of Bandarawela was in need of Catholic School management, the Bishop of Kandy requested the Apostolic Carmelites to accept the new mission in Bandarawela.
The Roman Catholic Church in Sri Lanka is composed of one ecclesiastical province with an archdiocese and 11 dioceses. Of these twelve dioceses, today, Apostolic Carmel has taken roots in 10 and thus the number of the convents in Sri Lanka rises to 37. Under Mother Carmelita in 1981 the mission of the Apostolic Carmel, Sri Lankan province took roots in Pakistan. On 2, May 1981 the pioneering band of Zealous apostles, comprising sisters Dorothea, Tholinde and Kanthi started their mission in Pakistan. Over 35years in a land where Christians are being persecuted, Apostolic Carmel sisters continue to weather the storms of hostility for the minority of Catholics there, to strengthen the faith and support them spiritually.
In 1949, the Apostolic Carmel Constitution was granted pontifical approval.The little seed sown in the heart of Mother Veronica over a hundred and fifty years ago has now grown into a mighty tree, its branches spreading over the length and breadth of India and Sri Lanka, and reaching even to Pakistan, Kuwait, Rome, Kenya, Bahrain and France. Rooted in the contemplative spirit of Carmel, and nourished by its life of prayer and missionary zeal, the Apostolic Carmel expresses the vitality of the Church through its fruitfulness in the active apostolate of education and other works of mercy.