Carmelite history of 400 years in India is of Holiness, Love of God and neighbour – Rev Dr Saverio Cannistra

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Carmelite history of 400 years in India is of Holiness, Love of God and neighbour – Rev Dr Saverio Cannistra

Carmelites Celebrate memorial mass of Blesseds Dionysius and Redemptus at the ruins of the Carmelite Convent at Old Goa

Old Goa: “Camelite history of 400 years in India is of holiness, of Carmelite life, missionary zeal and above all, of love for God and neighbour,” said Rev Dr. Saverio Cannistra, Superior General of the Order of the Discalced Carmelites. Dr. Cannistra was delivering a homily on the theme—“Rejoice and be glad. You are the witnesses to the Gospel” at the Eucharistic celebrations at the ruins of the Convento do Carmo ( Carmelite Convent/Monastery)) in Old Goa to remember the martyrdom of the first Carmelite Martyrs –Blesseds Dionysius and Redemptus. Fr. Agusti Borrell (Assistant General), Fr. Lukas Kansy ( Definitor). Fr. Johannes Gorantla (Definitor), Fr. Daniel Chowning (Definitor), Fr. Francisco Javier Mena (Definitor), Fr. Mariano Agruda (Definitor), Fr. Daniel Ehigie (Definitor) , Fr. Joaquim Loiola Pereira, Secretary to the Archbishop of Goa, Fr. Alfred Vaz, Parish Priest of Se Cathedral Church, Fr. Felix Lobo along with 136 Carmelite priests across the world concelebrated the Eucharistic celebration. Dr. Saverio Cannistra, recalled the historical aspects of the Order’s first foundation in Old Goa.

“The true strength of our religious vocation is not the force of numbers, nor of tradition, nor of structures, which can become burden and obstacle for the religious.” Superior General said further. Referring to religious life he said that the strength of the religious lies in the power of the spirit, the abundance of his gifts, which transforms our weakness and our fears into courage and joy of the disciples and apostles of Jesus Christ. Recalling the St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, he reminded the religious that it is the armour of God that allows them to face trials and challenges of history. “ Truth, justice, peace, faith and listening to the Word of God are the weapons that compose it.” He clarified further.

Highlighting the two basic dimension-Contemplation and action of the Carmelites he Said: “To the extent, one is truly contemplative, then one is also truly active, or better: we are instruments of God’s action, servants of his will.” Referring to St. Teresa of Avila, he said that contemplation is letting oneself be invaded and transformed by God who is love. Love for God and people. We cannot separate one from the other. “ It is that fire of this love that makes Carmelite friars of four centuries ago so dynamic and effective.” he opined. He called the Carmelite family to learn what it means to live concretely today as Carmelites from Blesseds Dionysius and Redemptus and wished that the flame that Spirit has ignited in their hearts is not extinguished in the Carmelites and in our communities.

A wreath was placed at the tombstones of 5 Persian martyrs, Messieurs Bebber, the first one sent by the French East Indian Company to India, 1664 and Pedro Homem Ferreira, Scribe of the Chancellery (Portuguese) of this county and that of his wife Maria de Andrade by Rev. Dr. Saverio Cannistra, Superior General of the Order, Fr. Agusti Borrell, Assistant General of the Order and Dr ( Fr) Johannes Gorantla, Definitor General for India. Scholastics representative from all the 7 provinces of the Carmelites participated in the liturgy while theology brothers of Karnataka-Goa province led the choir. Convenor of the Steering Committee formed for the Celebrations of 400 years of the Carmelite presence in India and Superior of the Carmelite Monastery, Margao, Rev. Dr. Archibald Gonsalves, while expressing the sentiments of gratitude, took the faithful 400 years back when the first foundation of the Carmelite monastery was laid. He also gave the faithful bird view of the Carmelite presence in and around Old Goa including Carmelite Seminary, Carambolim and at the Cruz dos Milagres. Rev. Dr. Johannes Gorantla thanked Fr. Archibald Gonsalves for his service to the restoration of the ruins of the monastery.

Superior General of the Carmelites visits Cloistered Carmel Convent

Chicalim: Superior General Rev. Dr. Saverio Cannistra, his Definitors and the delegates of the General Definitory paid a visit to the Cloistered Carmelite Convent at Chicalim. Mother Prioress Sr. Maria Rita welcomed the Superior General, Dr. Saverio Cannistra, Definition General, and the delegates of the definitory. In her welcome address briefed about the life in Convent and their prayerful support to the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman. This visit coincides with the 72nd anniversary of its foundation. The extraordinary General definitory is being held at the St. Joseph Vaz Spiritual Renewal Centre, Old Goa.

Superior General blesses Renovated Carmelite Monastery Church

Margao: Superior General and the delegates also visited the Carmelite Monastery Margao where they were welcomed by Rev Dr. Archibald Gonsalves. They along with the Carmelite Fathers and young Carmelites participated in the evening prayer of the church. Renovated Monastery and the monastery church was blessed by Superior General of the Order. The renovation work was done under the supervision of Rev. Dr. Archibald Gonsalves, Superior of the Carmelite Monastery, Margao. A plaque to record 400 years of Carmelite presence in India and the Visit of Superior General placed at the entrance of the monastery was unveiled.

Tombstones found in the Convento do Carmo (Carmelite convent), Old Goa

By 1985 Fr. Gabriel de Sa Prepositio de Congregação from Portugal recorded the details of the Tombs and graves which existed in the monastery and the adjacent land probably under the request of Fr. Nemesio Alzola of Happy memory, the first provincial of the Karnataka-Goa province. He found 20 tomb sites.

By 2019 in view of the Extraordinary Definitory under the supervision of Fr. Archibald Gonsalves the entire site of the Carmelite convent, Old Goa was cleaned and during the process, three tombs in the Altar were discovered. Historian John Marshal deciphered the inscriptions and they are published in the upcoming book “First Foundation of Carmelites in India (1619-2019) Volume II”. It is significant to note that of the original 20 tombs only three are remaining. The details of the three tombs here are as follows:-

I. Tomb of the Resurrection – Language: Latin. Content: “And the dead here in resurrect, after the first ten resurrections”. Person: Unknown, possibly the remains of the Five Martyrs of Persia. It refers to the ten resurrections mentioned in the scripture and proclaims the belief in the resurrection.

II. Tombstone of Messieurs Bebber, the first one sent by the French East Indian Company to India, 1664 (died: 1669, Carmelite convent, Goa)- Language: French. Significance: It could rewrite the history of the presence of French in India; it is the only one evidence for the final days of Bebber, the forgotten and defamed founding figure of the French company, Surat; the presence of this tomb makes the Carmelite convent, a potential site for French-Indian relations.

III. Tombstone of the Royal scribe: Language: Portuguese. Description: In the “Via Crucis”, but near the door that leads to sacristy is the tomb of Pedro Homem Ferreira, Scribe of the chancellery of this county and that of his wife Maria de Andrade, who died on the 10th March, 1644 Tomb inscription deciphered by- Fr. Gabriel de s, Prepositio de Congregação from Portugal.

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  1. 400 years of Carmelite dedication in India was filled with prayers, sacrifices, charities as well as virtues that have brought new awakenings as to how and what Missionaries can offer to India, a nation of religious history that has created Busshism, Jainism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity as well as Judaism.

    Carmelites have shown to this Nation how we can respect each faith and live side by side with dignity and respect for each other.

    The arrival of St. Thomas in India as an “uncrowned Ambassador” from Jesus Christ, followed by the arrival of St. Francis Xavier after 1500 years paved the way for variety of Missionary priests and nuns to the Indian sub-continent brought a new awareness in India as to how these foreign groups of Missionaries can create charitable Organizations by establishing schools, colleges, Universities, Hospitals, Orphanages and many other Institutes without indulging into any religious conversions. Carmelites showed to the Indian authorities during the Colonial era and even after the era of Independence that we all can live with peace and harmony and have our own freedom of choice towards our own individual faith.

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