Carmelites concluded week-long celebrations of their 400 years of existence in Asia with a solemn Mass in Old Goa, the former capital of colonial Portuguese India, where the order began its journey. More than 200 priests of the international Discalced Carmelite Order including leaders from across the globe attended a Mass on Feb. 10 at Se Cathedral in the western Indian coastal city, remembering their pioneers in the region. Wreaths were laid on the tombs of Carmelite priests and missionaries whose tombs were discovered during an excavation in 1985. The Discalced or barefoot Carmelites landed in Goa in 1619 after Pope Clement VIII
delegated them to Asia in 1604. A week-long extraordinary general definitory — a gathering of the Carmelites’ decision-making team — was part of the celebrations. Father Saverio Cannistra, superior general of the order, presented the theme of a conference titled “Aim, method and topics for a declaration on the charism.” Some 73 senior members of the Carmelites discussed the path ahead in a variety of languages. The definitory voted against modification of the text of the order’s constitution but agreed to undertake drafting of a declaration on the charism. “This work has emerged as extremely necessary to regain awareness of the inalienable elements of the charism we have received for the good of the whole Church, and to express them adequately in our time,” said an official note on the order’s website. The celebrations also included a seminar on the Carmelites’ arrival in India, its spread, spirituality, its contribution to spiritual apostleship and a discussion on the challenges facing the society. At the Mass on Feb. 10, Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao of Goa and Damao called for deepening the faith in Jesus through humility, selflessness and sensitivity toward the suffering and underprivileged. Following Eucharistic celebrations, Cardinal George Alencherry
, head of the Syro-Malabar Church
based in Kerala, released a book titled The first foundation of Carmel in India
. A coffee table book was released by Father Paul Anchandy, superior general of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, India’s first indigenous religious congregation of men. The event concluded with a light and sound program focusing on the history and mission of the Carmelites in India. On Feb. 8, Father Cannistra led a memorial Mass for Blessed Dionysius and Blessed Redemptus, the first martyrs of the society, amid the ruins of the first Carmelite convent in Old Goa.
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He said the strength of the religious lies not in numbers but “in the power of the spirit, the abundance of his gifts, which transforms our weakness and our fears into the courage and joy of the disciples and apostles of Jesus Christ.” India has seven Carmelite provinces with 1,000 friars and 34 cloistered Carmel convents with 500 nuns.