Eight centuries ago…
The earliest recorded history we have of the Carmelite Order dates back to the thirteenth century. Some time between 1206 and 1214, St. Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem, had been asked by a group of hermits living on Mount Carmel, for a rule of life. The hermits were ordinary laymen, most of whom had come to the Holy Land on Crusades, who wanted to seek God in solitude and silence. They settled on Mount Carmel because of its beauty and link to the Old Testament prophet, Elijah. The hermits also took Mary, the Mother of Jesus, for their model. They even dedicated their chapel on Mount Carmel in her honor. So devoted were they to the Blessed Virgin that their official name became “The Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel,” or Carmelites.
Exodus: From Holy Land to European soil
The Rule of St. Albert was approved by Pope Honorius III in 1226, and again by Pope Gregory IX in 1229 and rule was then promulgated with certain modifications by Pope Innocent IV in his 1247 Bull Quem honorem Conditoris. By this time, all the Carmelites were forced to leave Palestine for political reasons and they fled to different parts in Europe.
Carmelite legacy: Through the Centuries
Carmelites began to develop ministries in keeping with their new status as mendicant religious. The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries are famous for various religious reforms that tried to return the different Orders to their original spirit. Through the years, many friars tried to reform the Carmelite Order. They wanted to return to the original spirit and way of life as lived on Mount Carmel: eremitical and prayerful. Some of the most famous early reform movements are the Mantuan reform, which began in Italy, the Callastine reform, which was begun by Bl. John Soreth, and the Touraine reform. The reform movement led by a Spanish Carmelite nun, St. Theresa of Avila paved way for the formation of Discalced Carmelites by the end of 16th Century. By the middle of the 17th century the Carmelites had reached their zenith. In the followed centuries, Carmelites faced serious threats including Black Death, French revolution, suppression of Religious Orders in different countries and so on. But the 20th century witnessed a rebirth of the Order with a flourishing number of vocations.
Another Exodus in Kerala, India
In December 2006, the Prior General of the Carmelite Order, Fr. Joseph Chalmers, received a request from a group of members of the South Kerala Province of the Discalced Carmelites (O.C.D.) in India who wished to pass over to the Order of Carmelites (O.Carm) to form a new unity to flourish the rich Carmelite spirituality. Following a careful evaluation with the General Council of the reasons for the request, and a lengthy exchange with the then Provost General of the Discalced Carmelites, Fr. Luis Aróstegui Gamboa, the two Supreme Moderators, in accordance with the Code of Canon Law, granted permission to the group to pass over to the Carmelite Order, following a trial period. Given the exceptional nature of the request by such a large number, the two Supreme Moderators sought and obtained reassurances from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life (CIVCSVA).
The unit was specially entrusted to the patronage of St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Albert of Jerusalem. They were given the holy habit and the constitutions of the Order by its Prior General Most Rev. Joseph Chalmers on 6th May 2007 during the solemn Eucharistic celebration presided over by His Excellency Rt. Rev. Dr. Francis Kallarakkal, the Bishop of Kottappuram. Rev. Fr. Sedric D’Cruz was appointed the Special Delegate of this unit by the General Council. The members of the unit were sent to the different communities of the Carmelite Order to have community experience as part of the probation.
In February 2011 Rev. Fr. Anthony Scerri O.Carm of the Australian province was appointed as the Special Delegate General and was sent to India. He helped the members of the unit to do a more intense preparation for the Solemn Profession.
On 5th November 2011, the Prior General Most Rev. Fr. Fernando Millan Romeral O.Carm received the Solemn Profession of 19 friars at Carmelaram Priory, Parur. This group was canonically erected as General Delegation of St. Therese and St. Albert of the Order of the Carmelites and it was officially declared on 6th November 2011 at Carmelaram Priory by the Prior General during the Solemn thanksgiving Mass presided over by His Grace Most Rev. Dr. Francis Kallarakkal, Archbishop of Verapoly in the presence of Rt. Rev. Dr. Joseph Karikkassery, the Bishop of Kottapuram and Rt. Rev. Dr. Varghese Chakkalakkal, the Bishop of Kannur. Fr. Kuriakose Chandanaparambil was appointed its Delegate General and Frs. Manuel Karippote and Jacob Mendez were appointed as the Councillors of the delegation.
the General Council of the Carmelite Order, during session 265 of the 3rd of September 2019 decided to canonically erect the General Delegation into General Commissariat. Fr. Jacob Robin Chakkalaprambil O.Carm became the first Commissari General. Frs. Jose Thomas and Yesudas Asariparambil were appointed as his Councillors.
First General Commissariat Chapter
The first Commissariat Chapter of the General Commissariat of Saint Therese and Saint Albert took place in February 2020 at Bonitas, Carmelaram Priory, North Paravur, India. Most Rev. Micael O’Neill O.Carm, Prior General of the Carmelite Order, Very Rev. Fr. Robert Puthussery O.Carm, General Councilor for Asia, Oceania and Australia and Rev. Fr. Antony Scerii O.Carm, former Special Delegate of the Indian Carmelite unit and former General Councilor of the Order also participated in the Chapter along with 30 solemnly professed members of the General Commissariat. Rev. Fr. Jacob Roby Chakkalaparambil O.Carm was elected as the Commissary General and the Councilors also were elected. The Councilors were Rev. Fr. Kuriakose Chandanaparambil O.Carm (First Councilor), Rev. Fr. Jose Thomas O.Carm (Second Councilor), Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Dixon O.Carm (Third Councilor) and Rev. Fr. Johnson Digal O.Carm (Fourth Councilor).
God continues to bless the Commissariat with a number of zealous vocations. At the request of the Prior General of the Order, St. Thomas Province of the Order (Syro-Malabar Rite) welcomed the novices of the Commissariat for 8 years and prepared them to embrace the Carmelite life very lovingly and generously. The Commissariat is always grateful to former Provincials of the St. Thomas province especially Rev. Fr. Sojan Neendoor and Rev. Fr. Robert Puthussery, their Councilors, Rev. Fr. Jose Alex O.Carm, Rev. Fr. Martin Pulickal O.Carm., community members of the Karmelnikethan Novitiate House at Kattikkulam and to all the members of the Province at large for the fraternal accompaniment and loving encouragement.
Today the General Commissariat has six communities, four in India, one in Ireland and one in Germany. It has 42 professed members of which 31 are in solemn vows (including 26 priests) and another 32 young men in the initial formation. The members are very much involved in various pastoral, educational and social ministries. Some of our members are doing their ministries in Italy, Ireland and in Germany. The Commissariat also runs an educational institution, Chris Cappell College, at North Paravur, adjacent to Carmelaram Priory. For ten years, Chris Cappell College functioned as a parallel college for Higher Secondary students and Degree students. At present, Chris Cappell College functions mainly as a Foreign Language Institute. Divine Mercy retreat Centre at Kattakkada helps us to conduct retreat programs for different groups.
The General Commissariat will always remain grateful to all who guide and help and to all who have been instrumental to form this new unit, especially to Most Rev. Fr. Joseph Chalmers O. Carm, the former Prior General of Carmelites and Very Rev. Fr. Luis Arostegui OCD, the former Superior General of the Discalced Carmelites for their mutual consent and approval. The members look ahead letting themselves be fully at the mercy of God trusting in His infinite love and immense compassion.