Bevy of Nuns Seek Spiritual Legacy of Sr Mary of Jesus Crucified during Symposium

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” Holy Spirit, Inspire Me. Love of God, Consume Me. Along the True Road, Lead Me. Mary, My Good Mother, Look down upon me. With Jesus, Bless Me. From all Evil, all Illusion, all Danger, Preserve Me” — Sr Mary of Jesus Crucified ( Mary Baouardy) 1846-1878

Mangaluru: It was predominately a huge crowd of spiritual Sisters and more Sisters, and just a bunch of men and women who had gathered to taste the spiritual legacy handed down on them through the simple and obscure life of Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified ( Mary Baouardy), during a over two-hour long Symposium held at St Ann’s Convent here on Saturday, 16 May 2105. Although a few among the crowd were aware of this unique and enigmatic French Arab nun, Mary Baouardy who attained the Church title “Blessed”, but many others learned more about her through this informative Symposium.

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St Ann’s Convent-Mangaluru has some close connection with Sr Mary of Jesus Crucified, because in 1870 she had come down from France to this coastal town with a band of Pioneer Carmalites and had stayed at St Ann’s Convent for 2 years (1870-1872). So for the Apostolic Carmel sisters of St Ann’s Convent and AC sisters of other convents in and around Mangaluru it was a good fortune for them to see that one of their former resident religious resident is on her way to be declared as Saint on Sunday, 17 June by Pope Francis in Rome. Sr Mary is a shining example of how our Lord can make use of a soul that is humble and faithful to Him, in spite of any obstacles that may lie in the way. It is indeed a thrilling story at this point in time, with her canonization in sight.

It is noted that since ancient times, India has been saturated with Sages and Saints- and for that matter South Kanara/Mangalore (Dakshina Kannada)has also shared a prime place and share in it too. Faiths and religions have moved hand in hand in high secular principles of this Holy Land-Mangaluru, which is also known as the “Rome of the East”. Just few months ago, on 14 January 2015, we saw Fr Joseph Vas, who had served in and around Mangaluru being canonized as a Saint by Pope Francis in Colombo-Sri Lanka. Coming close on its heels, on March 9, 2015- a announcement by the Vatican came as a Miracle which was relayed by the Cloistered Carmel Sisters based at Kankanady here, that one of their pioneers, Mariam Baouardy who lived in Mangaluru from 1870-1872, whose religious name was Sr Mary of Jesus Crucified, is to be canonized as Saint by Pope Francis in Rome on 17 May 2015.

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For people to know more about this Saintly person, Sr Mary, who lived in constant communion specially with the Holy Spirit, the Beloved of her soul, four eminent personalities namely Rev Fr Pius James D’souza, Rev Fr Joe Tauro, Rev Sr Liceria AC, and Rev Sr Olivia AC shared their views on Sr Mary of Jesus Crucified during this symposium. And the best is that all these four personalities are Carmalites and each of them enjoys the protection and guidance of their beloved Mother Mary of Mount Carmel under whose mantle they all live as one Carmelite Family.

The compere of the symposium, Sr Linete D’Souza AC introduced the four speakers with their brief profiles- Fr Pius James D’souza, a pious religious as his name suggests, is the right person to deliver the keynote address and to moderate the session, on this pious, Holy occasion, said Sr Linete on a witty note. Fr Pius is the director of Ryshivana- Institute of Indian Christian Spirituality in Ranipura/Mangaluru. Rev Fr Tauro- is presently the Superior of St Joseph’s Monastery-Carmel Hill-Bikarnakatte here. He has been a spiritual director to hundreds of religious Sisters and Priests. During his tenure as the Provincial Superior of Karnataka and Goa Province, he has ably led the Province to greater heights.

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Rev Sr Liceria AC- is presently the Directress of the Apostolic Carmel Spirituality Centre. A unassuming person, Sr Liceria was the former Principal of Patna Women’s College; former First General Councilor for 12 years; and she is the postulator for the cause of Venerable Mother Veronica. Rev Sr Olivia AC- was the former Principal of St Agnes College-Mangalore; former Provincial Superior of Karnataka AC Province; former Superior of Yesu Prema Nikethan-Bendore,Mangalore; and presently she offers her whole-hearted services at the Apostolic Carmel Spirituality Centre at Mary Hill,Mangalore. The Fathers of Sacred Heart Betharram too have a large share of their gratitude to this great Saint who had befriended them and miraculously guided the moves of getting approval for their constitutions from Rome and getting their Congregation under ‘Propoganda de fide’. The Betharram Fathers came to Mangalore in 1999 and stay at Maria Kripa Maryhill. Representing this congregation was Fr Sterwin, who was also on the dais during the symposium.

Quoting from the Bible, ( 1 Corinthians 27-28), ” But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong”, Sr Linette AC- the Provincial Superior-Karnataka Province while welcoming the august gathering advised the participants to follow in the footsteps of Sr Mary of Jesus Crucified and lead a spiritual life like Sr Mary. After a prayer song by a group of Sisters, it was all time to share the life and history of Sr Mary of Jesus Crucified, which was beautifully and very informatively narrated by the four eminent speakers.moderator.

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There was also question and answer session, where the participants has an opportunity to ask and clarify their doubts and views on Sr Mary, which was answered by the eminent speakers of the day. After the symposium, the crowd moved to Oratory of Sr Mary of Jesus Crucified, where after a short prayer, Fr Pius did the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. The symposium ended with a short documentary on the screen presented by the youthful and zealous OCD Brothers. Sr Nirmala Francis AC- Provincial Councilor proposed the vote of thanks, and the entire symposium was professionally and spiritually compered by Sr Linet D’Souza AC.

About Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified (Mariam Baouardy):

Mary was born at Abellin, a hill country of Upper Galilee, Palestine, the land of Jesus and Mary. Her father Giries (George) Baouardy and mother Mariam Chahyn had 12 sons born to them and all died in infancy; they walked 170 kilometers on foot to the Grotto of the Nativity, Bethlehem and prayed for a girl child The Mother of God blessed them by granting their request – the miracle child of Bethlehem was born on 5 January, 1846, baptized Mariam, on 15 January 1846 in the Greek Catholic Church. After two years God gave them a second child a boy whom they named Boulos (Paul), but very soon both the parents died and the two children became orphans.

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God looked upon Mariam (Mary) as a child of predilection, From the tender age of 3 she was blessed with the gift of interiority. She referred to herself as “the Little Nothing”. People ordinarily called her “the Little Arab” or “the little one”. Mariam’s paternal uncle took charge of her, and when she attained the age of 12, made all preparations to get her married. But Mariam was in love with Jesus of Nazareth and had already made up her mind to remain a virgin and so escaped her uncle’s gaze and disappeared.

Being an illiterate child, for seven years she spent time working as a servant in four or five different places in Greece and France, in homes of God-fearing families and at last, God called her to join the Convent of St. Joseph of the Apparition in Marseilles, France where Mary was received with much affection, she edified everyone through her saintly and childlike ways. She stayed there as a Postulant for two years. She was sincere and transparent, fully given to God in Jesus her Spouse. She was also endowed with extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit, including the ‘stigmata’ which appeared on her body on Fridays. Yet God had a different plan for her, for she did not get selected to the Novitiate and therefore had to leave the Convent.

As Divine providence had willed it, her second Novice Mistress Mother Veronica of the Passion recognized the unique and extra- ordinary working of the Holy Spirit in this young maiden and took special care of her. Mother Veronica was chosen by God to be the foundress of a new Active Carmelite Congregation to work for the education of girls in Mangaluru and the Malabar coast, and for this purpose had received from Rome the authorization to transfer to the Carmel of Pau, and was about to leave Marseilles.

With great compassion in her heart she proposed to her dear child ‘the Little One’, that she introduce her to the Mother Prioress of Pau. She wrote and the reply was immediate and positive. God put a close spiritual and genuine bond between the two souls and they from that moment forward grew as ‘soul mates’ on the path to sanctity, always pursuing God’s will and seeking perfection through prayer, obedience and openness to the Holy Spirit to gain spiritual insights and led forward on the path of holiness.

Mary Baouardy and Mother Veronica – The Twin Eagles

They are likened to twin Eagles soaring high in the heavens. The two religious presented themselves at the door of Carmel of Pau on Saturday June 15, 1867, the eve of the feast of the Blessed Trinity, and were received by the prioress Mother Elias with open arms. Mary became a Postulant and then a Novice and chose to stay as a Lay Sister engaged in all the hard and hidden work in the cloister, she took the name of Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified. The stigmata reappeared on Good Friday 10 April 1868. All the extra-ordinary gifts and graces God gave her were always exercised as led by the Spirit and in submission to holy obedience. She always used them for the good of others, even outsiders, and to render help in all difficult circumstances. Mary always remained humble.

The Apostolic Carmel Sisters of Bayonne and Cloistered Carmel Sisters of Pau

In the meanwhile Mother Veronica, after a training of 3 months in Carmel, made her simple profession and set out a week before Christmas, guided by the Bishop of Mangalore, Marie Ephrem OCD, on the arduous journey of recruiting vocations for the active Carmel of Mangalore. Bishop Marie Ephrem wanted the mission of his diocese to be made fruitful by the power house of prayer and therefore also worked to get a group of Cloistered Carmel Sisters from Pau to start a convent in Mangalore. All were eager to volunteer to join the group. Mary the Arab was a choice of the Bishop though she was still a Novice! The Prioress made it known that they did not have funds to start the foundation in Mangalore.

But due to the gift received from the Lord, Mary had a vision and she asked the prioress to contact the Count of Belgiusm George Nedonchel to be the founder of the Indian Carmel, and it all took place as Mary foretold. As per God’s plan and ordinance, three Apostolic Carmel sisters who had just made their first vows in the Little Carmel of Bayonne, and the six Cloistered Carmel sisters of Pau set out as pioneers of the twin mission – the Apostolic Carmel and the Cloistered Carmel in Mangalore, India. While on a strenuous and tiring journey of three months by sea, three cloistered Carmel nuns, including the prioress Mother Elias died on the way.

The three Cloistered Carmel nuns and the three Apostolic Carmel sisters reached Mangalore Bunder on 19 November 1870 and were welcomed with a prayer service in the Rosario Cathedral by Bishop Marie Ephrem, the clergy and faithful of Mangalore. And were led in procession to St. Ann’s Convent Mangalore, where the Cloistered Carmel and Apostolic Carmel sisters lived side by side in two different enclosures for 12 years. It was only on 19 March 1882 the sisters moved to Cloistered Carmel, Kankanady.

Prior to her Profession, the Bishop himself guided Mary with a retreat of 21 days! It was a privilege too, that Mary made her solemn vows on 21 November, 1871 in St. Ann’s, at the altar of the Cloistered Carmel chapel received by the Bishop.Immediately after this event, Mary had extraordinary experiences of the Spirit as well as sufferings from the evil one, but she always obeyed. She occupied a room very next to the sanctuary and was a victim soul who had The gift of prophecy and mysterious knowledge. There took place a lot of misunderstanding within the Cloister and so the Bishop influenced by the report, decided to send her back to Pau.

Mary left Mangalore on 23 September 1872 and reached her dear Carmel of Pau on 5 November. In spite of the turmoil and humiliations suffered in the recent past, her soul was in peace back in Pau amidst warmth and welcome by the Community and the Bishop of Bayonne. Now she desired nothing but Jesus, His will and silence. Mother Veronica too according to God’s mysterious plan, after founding the Apostolic Carmel for the Missions of India, was not to come to India, but returned to Pau and the two ‘soul-mates’ continued to soar high and live the contemplative life of grace and sacrifice. Jesus spoke to Mary in visions and spoke to her about the foundation of a Carmel in Bethlehem and later that in Nazareth. Though she was not the prioress, the sisters regarded her holiness and humility and respected her revelations and supported the project.

There were many obstacles, and finally Rome gave and on 20 August 1875 a small group of nuns along with Mary and Mother Veronica set out on this adventure. The Lord guided Mary in choosing the location and the design of the buildings. Assisted by Mother Veronica in the paper work, Mary as the only Arabic speaker oversaw the works “diving into the sand and lime”. The community began to live in the convent from 21 November 1876, as some works continued. She also prepared for the foundation of a Carmel in Nazareth. She went there to buy a site in August 1878. During the journey she had a vision of the location of Emmaus, which was then purchased for the Carmel by Bertha Dartigaux.

Upon returning to Bethlehem she watched over the works, the heat was unbearable. She fell down the stairs while bringing drinks to the workers and broke her arm, gangrene soon set in and May died a few days later, on 26 August 1878 in the 33rd year of her earthly life. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 13 November 1983. Mary was a mystic from her early years of childhood. She is known as the ‘Patron of Peace’ for the Holy Land. She was enamoured by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who was moving over the waters at the beginning of Creation, bringing harmony from chaos. She leaves us this Spirit as our inheritance, because when he comes to take the place of our selfish selves, he transfigures all things and is ‘creating anew’ (Is 43)

“Address yourselves to the Holy Spirit who inspires all things…The people who have the ‘self’ bring sorrow and anger with them. Those who do not have the ‘self’ have all the virtues, peace and joy; With the Holy Spirit all things are possible. “Source of peace and light, come to enlighten me. I am ignorant, come and teach me…The disciples were ignorant. They were with Jesus and they didn’t understand Jesus…When you gave them a ray of light, they were no longer as they were, their power was renewed…Holy Spirit, I abandon myself to you” ( The story of Sr Mary of Jesus Crucified was compiled by Sr Olivia AC)

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