History

panambumadam (200 x 125)

Congregation OF Teresian Carmelites  ( CTC)

Servant  of  God  Mother Eliswa, the foundress

 It is surprising to learn  that until the second half of the19th century, there were no religious congregations for women and Catholic schools for girls in Kerala. The Servant of God Mother Eliswa  was the precursor of women religious in Kerala and the founderess of the first indigenous Third Order Discalced Carmelite Congregation (TOCD) for women in India which later bifurcated to  the Congregation of Teresian Carmelites (CTC) and the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel (CMC). She established the first convent school, boarding house and orphanage for girls in Kerala and provided a value oriented and integral formation for girls and women. The members of both CMC and CTC, i.e. more than 7000 sisters, could receive the heavenly beams of prayer sacrifice and service through Servant of God Mother Eliswa Vakayil, the foundress.

 Mother Eliswa, the first religious sister, is the mother of all consecrated women in Kerala. Eliswa was born on 15 October 1831, to a noble Vyppissery Capithan family in Cruz Milagris Parish at Ochanthuruth, in the Diocese of Verapoly, Kerala. She was the first of eight children born to Thomman and Thanda. Louis, her third brother, was the first to be ordained a priest for the St Pius X Province of the Discalced Carmelite Order in India. He was also the founder of the first Catholic bi- monthly, ‘Satyanadhakahalam’. Louis was a scholar, a linguist and one of the translators of the Bible into Malayalam. He has written ten books.

 

In 1847 when Eliswa was 16 she married Vatharu Vakayil at Koonammavu and bore a daughter, Anna. When Vatharu fell ill and died, Eliswa refused to remarry and chose a life of prayer, detachment and solitude, received the Sacraments frequently, and spent long years in silent preparation for a life inspired by the Holy Spirit. An Italian Carmelite Missionary, Fr Leopold  Beccaro, OCD, revealed God’s plan to her. Eliswa’s daughter, Anna, also decided to be consecrated. Thresia, Mother Eliswa’s youngest sister, met Fr Leopold too and expressed her desire to consecrate her life to God.

 The then Vicar Apostolic of Verapoly, Archbishop Bernardine Baccinelli, OCD, officially signed the decree of foundation of the Third Order of the Discalced Carmelite Congregation for women (TOCD). On 13 February 1866, these three Latin-Rite women moved from their home to the newly built bamboo convent on their property. It was the first convent in Kerala and the history of the TOCD is unique in the history of the Catholic Church. Later, members of the Syro-Malabar Rite were also admitted to this Congregation. On 27 March 1867 the sisters moved from the bamboo convent to St Teresa’s Convent at Koonammavu that had just been built on the property owned by Mother Eliswa and her daughter Anna. On 24 March 1890, the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide decided that St Teresa’s convent at Koonammavube given to the Vicariate of Thrissur. On 17 September 1890 all the Latin sisters, including the Foundress Mother Eliswa, had to leave the convent. They were sheltered in St. Teresa’s Convent(CSST) Ernakulam for few days after which they were brought to Varapuzha by the Archbishop of Verapoly. Today the two branches of this TOCD Congregation form two independent religious congregations: The Congregation of Teresian Carmelites (CTC) and the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel (CMC).

 CTC  CHARISM

 The CTC charism is “Familial simplicity of heart and to become Pray-er”. Our motto is “passion for God and compassion for the poor”. It is “Faithful  and constant  contemplative  prayer experientially lived in our community as the source of familial simplicity of heart and committed compassion for the poor witnessed in the ecclesial context”. Mother Eliswa was  a woman of  Family: she was a wife, a mother and a widow. Her experience of being  completely and  unconditionally immersed in her responsibilities as  wife, mother and widow is inevitably woven into the matrix of her God experience.

 She had received from her younger days the seed of contemplative prayer as a gift from God. Her  personality had, therefore the aptitude necessary for its sprouting and growing. She was spontaneously drawn to the practice of contemplative prayer. Being introduced to the Teresian Carmelite contemplative prayer tradition through the spiritual direction under the guidance of Discalced Carmelites of Koonammavu Monastery, the seed of contemplation in her found the proper ground for its blossoming.  Her life as a consecrated person and foundress is characterized by this prayer experience which served as the source of  her being and her activities. This was not merely an individualistic experience but a communitarian experience. She founded a community of praying persons.

 The contemplative prayer experience became the source of  two fundamental values of her personality and spirituality: familial simplicity of heart and committed compassion for the poor. These two qualities  are inseparable from her human experience as wife, mother and widow. But they were redimensioned and re-characterized by her contemplative prayer experience through which she identified herself with God and his nature. The simplicity of heart is the sincerity and  single-mindedness of heart  coming from the experience of God as the Father and from the sense of belonging to His family. Hence it implies freedom of  feeling at home with everyone. Mother Eliswa always meant what she said and did and they corresponded to her heart. Compassion for the poor is the experience and expression of God’s motherhood through the contemplation of the nature of God who is merciful love. Mother Eliswa was  purely motherly especially to the poor.

 These fundamental qualities were placed totally at the disposal of the Church by Mother Eliswa.  Her ecclesial consciousness is again emerging from the Teresian Carmelite spiritual tradition. Mother Eliswa wanted her congregation to participate in the edification of the Church through the various ministries. Teresian Carmelites integrate themselves into the local Church and cater to its needs wherever they are as desired by Mother Eliswa.

 Presences in India and Internationally

 Mother Eliswa was a trend setter and she responded whole heartedly to the challenges of her liberative mission.  Her daughters – sisters of the congregation – follow her mission facing the challenges of the times, pioneering new ventures according to the needs of the people.  She is the prioneer religious, social reformer, foundress and educationist with a special emphasis on her contribution to Kerala Culture and to the whole nation which is continued today through her thousands of followers who serve in many states of India, Africa, Rwanda, Italy, Rome, Germany, and trying to make their presences in other countries too.

 The Congregation of Teresian Carmelites (CTC)  is proud to remember that the first convent of ours in Europe was established in Essen on October 01, 1984. The endless toil, the incessant struggles and daring undertakings for the first developing venture, the mission in Germany, by rendering selfless dedicated service to the people, being united with our Lord in the spirit and charism of our congregation of  the first team is commendable. So St Joseph Convent in Essen became the mother house of CTC in Europe from where it expanded to many other locations. At present 35 of our sisters are rendering their service in following hospitals and homes for the aged in Germany :

 1.       St. Joseph Krankenhaus Essen.

2.       St. Ewaldi Altenheim in Dortmund.

3.       Katholisches Krankenhaus, Werden

4.       Johannium Social work center, Ostbevern.

5.       St. Edith Stein Convent, Nippes.

6.      St. Anna Convent, Materborn

 Another memorable and heroic direction was towards Africa and Italy in the year 1978 and 1986. There are three communities in Sudan and Rwanda being involved in caring the sick and running an Arabic Medium School. 16 sisters do their service in Italy in the field of Old Age care and parish activities. They are:

 1.       Casa di Santa Teresiana, Forcoli, Pisa

2.       Convento di SGraseppe, Prato

3.       Casa di Riposo, Pesaro, Marote

4.       Euthymia Carmel House, Rwanda

5.       Shalini Nivas, Sudan

 Thus the love and light of Christ is spread through the sisters of the Congregation of Teresian Carmelites (CTC) by their prayer, presence and service in India, Germany, Italy and Africa living the spirit  and charism inherited from the Servant of God Mother Eliswa, the foundress and first member.

 Main Contribution  of the Congregation to society

 Total Number of Convents………………..172

Total Number of  Sisters…………………1400

Total Number of Provinces………………..05

Total Number of Regions…………………..02

Convents outside India……………………..13

 

 

Names

Convents

Schools and

colleges

Hospital and

Dispensaries

Boarding

Girls

Home

  S.W Centre

St. Joseph Province

30

35

2

7

9

15

Devamatha  ‘’

27

26

7

5

3

3

Amala            

23

12

10

8

2

5

Avila              

23

16

12

8

3

5

Lisieux            ‘’

23

20

8

3

6

Carmel Matha Region

09

10

1

2

3

2

Vimala                 

16

08

5

5

1

3

Under Generalate

21

03

05

02

02

Total

172

130

50

40

21

41

Educationist

Though the formal education was denied for girls at that time in Kerala, she taught the girls, language, Mathematics and handicrafts along with moral teachings, prayers, cooking and house management. This value oriented formation brought an improvement in the status of women and it brought about a spiritual renewal in the families. She respected the poor and marginalized and convinced them of the dignity of human life and freedom of the children of God.

Mother Eliswa empowered women training them in handicrafts which still continues.  She imparted integral education focusing on the physical, spiritual, moral, cultural and economic growth.  She stood against social evils like caste system, untouchability and exploitation of the women folk. With an unassuming courage, Mother Eliswa  liberated widowhood from its age – old practices in her time. It was a break-through, though  unproclaimed and unannounced.

 Relevance Today

Mother Eliswa presents a glorious model of consecrated life to this consumeristic and wounded world, which goes after pomp, luxuries and superficial pleasures. She believed that only the spirit of love, tolerance, mutual understanding and generosity of heart can heal the world. She was an embodiment of all these noble qualities. She is  not only the foundress of religious congregation, but also of the first school for girls in Kerala, first boarding house and orphanages attached to the school for girl students and poor uncared children respectively.  She tried to dispel the darkness of illiteracy among girls.

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