St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara, Our Founder
Our lodestar is Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara (1805-1871), the founder of the CMI, the first indigenous religious congregation in India.
Kuriakose (Cyriac) Chavara was born on 10th February 1805 of pious and devout Catholic parents of the Syro-Malabar Church, at Kainakary, Kerala, India. After his early schooling in the native village and priestly studies under Fr. Thomas Palackal at Pallippuram, he was ordained priest on 29th November 1829. In 1831, co-operating with Fr. Thomas Palackal and Fr. Thomas Porukara, he founded the first indigenous religious congregation for men, now known as the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI). It was after the death of his senior companions in the foundation that Fr. Kuriakose, together with the first members, made the religious commitment on 8th December 1855. In religious Congregation he took the name, Kuriakose Elias of the Holy Family. Fr. Chavara has written a number of books in prose as well as in verse with unique spiritual vision. His counsel to the Christian families given in the form of the “Testament of a Loving Father” is applicable and relevant to this day. Essentially a man of prayer and intense charity, he lived in close communion with the Lord amidst his several religious and social activities. Owing to his deep spirituality that permeated all his actions, he was accepted and referred to as a man of God, from his early years. In 1871, on January 3rd, Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara, after a short but painful illness, passed away at Koonammavu preserving his baptismal innocence unto death. His mortal remains were transferred from Koonammavu to Mannanam in 1889 and interred in St. Joseph’s Monastery Church.
He was indefatigable. What was the source of his boundless energy? Referring to the the secret of Chavara’s success, Pope John Paul II on the occasion of his beatification ceremony at Kottayam on February 08, 1986, observed that his success in all that he did was undoubtedly due to the intense charity and prayer which permeated his daily life. Former President of India Sri.R.Venkataraman on the occasion of the release of the commemorative stamp on December 20, 1987 described Father Chavara as the “epitome of Indian Christianity at its best and the Malabar church at its most resplendent”.
It is more than a century and a half since Father Chavara left us. We have moved on. Society has changed a lot. Yet, he continues to inspire all those who yearn to make the world a better place to live in.