A Brief History of OCD Delhi Province

Malabar Carmelite mission is the realization of a long cherished and expressed desire of the founding fathers of the Discalced Carmelite Order in India, namely, Flanders (Belgium) Province. The Province of Delhi, therefore, is the fulfillment of the wish and vision of the Belgian Carmelites who founded Malabar Province to spread the message of Carmel from Cape Comorin (Kanyakumari) to the Himalayas. The Provincial chapters down through the decades so fondly and faithfully nurtured this vision and it was materialized thanks to the firm determination of the Provincial Chapter of 1975. Visiting the dioceses of North India Providence led Rev. Fr. Ephrem Parathazham, Provincial, and Fr. Constantine Padinjarekutt his Councillor to the Diocese of Jalandhar. Impressed by the warm welcome and the cordial invitation extended by His Excellency Rt. Rev. Dr. Symphorian Keeprath OFM Cap., Bishop of Jalandhar, Rev. Fr. Provincial deputed Frs. Ambrose Panackal and Bernard Thattaparambil in May 1976 to pioneer the Carmelites in the region to examine and explore the possibility of an independent mission exclusively for missionary apostolate, i.e., to establish a local church. Fr. Francis Kunnelpurayidam joined the two towards the end of the same year and Fr. Aurelian Kurias in the following year.

These four fathers acquainted themselves with the people, language, culture and customs of the mission area and presented a positive report to the Province. Subsequently Rev. Fr. Ambrose represented the missionaries in the Provincial Chapter in 1978 at Carmel Hill Monastery, Trivandrum, and delineated the mission prospects demystifying the mission field. The chapter unanimously welcomed the recommendations and delegated the Provincial Council to implement it at the earliest.

In 1978 Rev. Fr. Patrick Mootheril, Provincial, and Fr. Vincent Raj his Councillor visited the mission to appraise the missionary activities. A meeting of the missionaries convened at Una in Himachal Pradesh focused on the necessity of a formal agreement between the diocese of Jalandhar and the OCD Fathers regarding the territorial demarcation and jurisdictional definitions. The Carmelites were given freedom to plan out and execute their mission under the jurisdiction of the Bishop though.

In January 1979 a formal agreement was signed between the Diocese of Jalandhar and the OCD Malabar Province specifying the area: the then district of Hoshiarpur except Dasuya Tehsil, and Anandpur Tehsil of Ropar district in Punjab and the districts of Una, Kangra and Hamirpur in Himachal Pradesh – about 15000 Sq. kms in all.The formal undertaking of this territory was executed on 31 March 1979 during the Holy Mass celebrated by the Bishop and concelebrated by Fr. Provincial and the missionaries. Subsequently the community of missionaries further expanded in the same year with the arrival of Br. Avertan, Fr. Tobias and Fr. Peter Kappalumackal.

With the help of Fr. Gilbert OFM Cap who was the Parish priest of Hoshiarpur the missionaries rented a small house in Hoshiarpur city and moved in on 24 August 1979. Rev.Fr. Aurelian Kurias was appointed Superior of the first community in the Mission. Without much delay the missionaries managed to buy the present site at Kakkon on Hoshiarpur - Pathankot state highway thanks to the assistance of Mr. Buta Masih. On 16 June 1980 the community moved into a temporary house on the new site under the patronage of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The Provincial Chapter of 1981 elected Rev. Fr. Peter Kapplumackal as the first Mission Superior.

As the mission steadily grew in personnel and institutions it was upgraded to a provincial delegation. In 1987 the provincial council rechristened the Malabar Carmelite Mission as the Provincial Delegation of St. Therese of Lisieux entrusting a larger area to the new circumscription. Endorsing the decision of the provincial chapter of 1993 to upgrade the mission further Very Rev. Fr. Camillo Maccisse, Superior General, declared this circumscription as St. Therese’s Regional Vicariate during a concelebrated Holy Mass at Carmel Church Murad Nagar, U.P., on 22 February 1994. Fr. Charles Serrao, Definitor General, Fr. Cyriac Neerackal, Provincial, and all the members of the region took part in the ceremony. The First Regional vicariate Congress that followed elected Fr. Martin Panamthanam as Regional Vicar and Frs. Joseph Thekkel and Ambrose Panackal as councillors.

The Vicariate flourished enviably marking a noticeable increase in the number of Carmelite friars. Consequently, in 2002, the Provincial Chapter of Malabar province and the vicariate Congress requested the General Definitory to grant the Vicariate the Status of a Vice - Province. The General Chapter of 2003 thoroughly perused it and entrusted the follow-up to the General Definitory . As a result Very Rev. Fr. Louis Arestegui Gamboa, the new Superior General, made a pastoral Visitation to the Malabar Province and the Vicariate. On 21 May 2004 the General Definitory endorsed the request of the Vicariate and upgraded it to “The Commissariat of Delhi” and placed it under the jurisdiction of the Latin hierarchy. It was officially executed by Rev. Fr. Patrick Mootheril, Vicar Provincial of Malabar Province, during a solemn High Mass on 23 June 2004. Rev. Fr. Francis Kiliampurackal, Regional Vicar, was appointed the first Commissary General with Fr. Benjamin Kokkat and Fr. Mark Nediyakalayil as Commissariat councilors.

With a view to fostering local vocations the vicariate opened its own formation houses in the north. In 1989 a minor seminary was opened at Mount Carmel Ashram, Kakkon, Hoshiarpur, and on 1 October 1992 the Novitiate was begun at Palampur in a rented house with the vestition of 9 postulants. The Novitiate was later shifted to Una and finally got established at Dehra Dun in 1997. From 2001 a few batches of our philosophy students attended Vishwa Jyothi Gurukul IMS at Varanasi and the others were sent to Carmel Hill Philosophy College, Trivandrum. In the wake of these uneasy shuttling an independent Philosophy College became a cherished dream and oft-discussed priority. Consequently on 22 July 2009 His Grace Most Rev. Vincent Concesao, Archbishop of Delhi, blessed and inaugurated our Philosophy College at Faridabad and ten students from Delhi Commisariat, West Benagal Regional Vicariate and Ranchi Provincial Delegation enrolled as the first batch. Another remarkable achievement of the Carmelite Mission is the Provincial House at Najafgarh, New Delhi. On 22 November 2009, the 441st anniversary of the Reform of our Order, Very Rev. Fr. Saverio Cannistra, Superior General of the Order, inaugurated the Provincial House during a Concelebrated Holy Mass presided by Rt. Rev. Franco Mulakkal, Auxiliary Bishop of Delhi Archdiocese.

The steady and unabated progress of the Commissariat in personnel and multifarious resources made it self-sufficient within a short time. As a result, the plenary council of the Commissariat placed a request before the General Definitory to upgrade the Commissariat to a full-fledged province. Subsequently Rev. Fr. Augustine Mulloor, Definitor General, made a fraternal visit to the Commissariat to appraise its holistic development and self-sufficiency. The General Definitory in its session from 6 to 8 September 2010 endorsed the recommendations of Rev. Fr. Augustine Mulloor and upgraded the Commissariat to a Province. Very Rev. Fr. Saverio Cannistra, the Superior General, officially declared this decision on 4 November 2010 at Mount Carmel Church, Kakkon, Hoshiarpur, during a Solemn Mass officiated by Rt. Rev. Anil Jose Thomas Couto, Bishop of Jallandhar, and concelebrated by Very Rev. Fr. General, Rev. Fr. Augustine Mulloor, major superiors of many religious congregations, priests from many of the North Indian dioceses and the members of the Delhi Province. Fr. Benjamin Kokkat was appointed the first provincial of the new province and Frs. Augustine Mangalathil and Mathew Kaippayil became the Provincial Councilors. Subsequently the First Provincial chapter was held from 21 to 25 February 2011 and elected Fr. Joseph Thekkel as provincial and Frs. Abraham Mittathanickal, Joseph Mattam, George Vayalil and Thomas Vazhakala as councilors.

The Province of Delhi has at present 32 priests, 19 scholastics, 4 novices, 23 postulants, and 20 aspirants. It has 8 formed houses 14 parishes, 11 stations, 11 schools and 1 Kindergarten. The Province in its steady progress is also highly indebted to the self effacing services of the sisters of 12 congregations. The Province of Delhi comprises the states of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi and the Union territory of Chandigargh. The Province in its eagerness and commitment to reach out to the poor and the marginalized has established different social service units like old age home, hostel for poor girls, Mahila Mandals, Balvadis, self help centers, vocational training centres and tailoring centers.

Thanking the Lord Almighty and the Mother of Carmel for the immense graces and protection bestowing on us we look forward expectantly to the fulfillment of the Lord’s Mission Mandate: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy spirit. We put our heads and hearts together to bear witness to the Carmelite Charism in this region under the patronage of St. Therese of Lisieux and the unfailing protection of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.