Mangalore: The Unfading Profundity of the Cloistered Carmels

August 24, 2011

Pics: Stanley Bantwal
Daijiworld Media Network - Mangalore

It was on August 1870 six discalced Carmelites (nuns) along with two Carmelite priests and three other nuns of the Third Religious order, had embarked on a journey to India from Pau in France. After 3 months of travails of the six discalced (barefoot) only three could reach Mangalore on November 19, 1870 whereas the other three died on the way succumbing to the various vicissitudes of crossing the Mediterranean. It was due to the efforts of the last Carmelite Bishop of Mangalore Mgr. Marie Ephrem, appointed as Vicar Apostolic of Mangalore then, which resulted in the foundation of Cloistered Carmels being planned in Mangalore.

On their arrival in Mangalore the discalced nuns were accommodated at St. Ann's Convent near Holy Rosary Cathedral Mangalore where they lived for nearly twelve years. In 1879 the site at Kankanady was purchased and foundation stone was laid for setting up the Sacred Heart Cloistered Carmel Convent at Kankanady. The new Carmel was inaugurated on March 19, 1882 to coincide with the feast of St Joseph. This Cloistered Carmel at Kankanady, Mangalore has the distinction of being the first Teresian Cloistered Carmel on Indian soil. Mariam Bouardy, who is better known as Sr Mary of Jesus Crucified, became the first novice of the cloistered nuns on the Indian soil. The Cloistered Carmel of Mangalore dedicated to the sacred heart of Jesus, has been responsible for establishing the convents of Carmel of Shembaganur, Carmel of Triruchinapally and Carmel of Hassan.

A Life of Severity

The Carmel monastery of Mangalore is celebrating its feast every year on August 25 but this year the celebrations will be held on August 24, 2011. The feast is celebrated to mark the death of Mariam Baouardy, who became “Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified’ and popularly known to the cloistered carmels as the ‘little Arab’. She was also the first Carmelite to take her religious profession on Indian soil and that too in Mangalore. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II and she is held in high veneration by the Cloistered Carmels the world over.

The Order of Discalced Carmelites was established by St Teresa of Avila and St John of the cross. The first convent of Discalced Brethren was formed in 1568 in Duruelo by John of the Cross. Among the several order of Carmelite nuns the Order of the Discalced Carmelites is the best known.

“The discalced Carmelites go without shoes as a sign of severity. The main objective of this order is contemplation that involves prayer, penance, hard work and silence” says Sr Marie Celine of the Holy Face, the Mother Prioress of the Sacred Heart Monastery, Kankanady. Sr Marie Celine hails from Bendore parish, Mangalore has spent 51 years in the cloistered monastery and is one among the 12 discalced nuns staying in the convent. There are two extern nuns who are the public face of the monastery and they attend to people and carry out the various works related to the monastery. Their number was 16 and with the recent death of two nuns it has come down to the present 14.

The other nuns of the convent are strictly cloistered and spend their time in prayer and contemplation inspired by the life of Prophet Elias and his followers. Their entire life is spent within the confined walls of the convent away from the outside world. They don’t consume meat and observe silence and spend a minimum of 7 hours every day in prayers.

“Our main motto is that we pray for the wellness of the church, priests, conversion of sinners and for the needs of the people who put their needs in the form of Intentions during the weekly mass”, Sr Marie Celine states. On joining the cloistered monastery the nuns don’t visit their homes but their family and relatives can meet them once a month from within the confines of the convent. For those who wonder who are the inmates of the cloistered Carmel will be surprised to know that most of them are from undivided Dakshina Kannada District and some of them are from Bejai, Kulshekar and Bendore. Congress leader Late Blasius D Souza’s three sisters were cloistered Carmels.

Distinct Approach

Their dwindling number is no doubt a matter of concern considering that these days single child has become a norm than an exception and people are nescient about the monastery and their way of functioning. But the nuns are not ready of compromise just for the sake of filling the monastery with numbers. Those intending to join the monastery are not taken in immediately says Sr Marie Celine. “Some don’t get accustomed easily to our way of life easily. They may feel lost and confused and may find it difficult to continue here. That is why we keep the minimum age of entry to the convent at 20 so that those who intend to join are mature enough to know what they are getting into”, Sr Marie Celine avers.

The cloistered nuns are not flustered by the diminishing or lack of interest shown by the present generation youngsters to join the monastery because they feel a period of lull is followed by a sudden surge. Just a few years back 4 young women joined the monastery in a single year which meant there was infusion of young blood in the monastery. The youngest nun of this monastery is 26 years old and will receive her final vows within a year.

For those who want to join or just get a feel of how life inside the cloistered walls of the convent there is a facility which allows probable girls to come and stay inside the convent for 3 months. After three months they can go back and if they are convinced that they are sure of joining the monastery they can come back. The three month stay within a monastery helps them to gauge the atmosphere within and also to know whether they fit in the system. The stay inside the monastery gives them sufficient time and exposure so that they can sit and assay in a cool mind before taking the final plunge. During these 3 months they can be in lay clothes but once they come into the period of postulancy they have to wear the brown robe or habit. They wear a white toque and a white veil but the colour of the veil will become black once they take their final vows.

Minimum qualification for joining the monastery is PUC and upon joining there is one year of Postulancy, two years of novitiate and 4 to 5 years of temporary vows. The nuns renew their vows every year and during this period those who wish to leave and go back home can do so without any quandary. 7th and 8th year is the period of formation and finally they get permanent vows in a public ceremony.

Focus on Prayer and Contemplation

Their typical day at the monastery starts at 4.30 am. From 5 to 5.45 am is prayer time followed by lords cum Morning Prayer. At 6.10 am is the morning mass followed by terse. There is a two hour rosary which is followed by spiritual reading. In between they attend to their numerous household chores. They use sign language so as to talk minimal and silence is observed to create a proper milieu for a house of prayer. In addition to the daily observance of full liturgy of the hours, two hours every day are set aside for uninterrupted silent prayer. At 6 pm again it is prayer time that includes office of reading. This is followed by supper and after supper they have 2 hours of recreation. It can be said their life is well balanced with a prayer and hours of laughter at the meal table and during recreation. Their recreation time is characterized by breathy melismatic singing and fun time. They watch television to keep abreast of the happenings around the world and discuss about various developments and issues. By 10 or 10.30 pm they retire to bed.

Their activities are not confined to prayers alone. The nuns do their own household chores including washing, cleaning, gardening, cooking and they also stitch their own clothes They have a 6 acre of land out of which 3 ½ is cultivated. They grow vegetables and have some plantation crops. It is these cloistered carmels who prepare the host also called Sacramental bread or communion bread required for the entire diocese of Mangalore. They also have shouldered the responsibility of preparing the liturgical vestments and scapulars required for the diocese. Despite working hard to be independent they are not self sufficient and are able to sustain due to the generosity of the people who donate generously to the monastery.

Being cosseted within the walls of the monastery does not mean they are completely shut from the happenings around the world. They are techno-savvy and use computer, internet and other means of communication. There are 3 associations of the Cloistered Carmels – the South East, South West and the North and the Sacred Heart Monastery belongs to the South West association. Three are altogether 33 monasteries of the cloistered carmels in India. One or two members of each Carmel attend the meet once in three years where they discuss the challenges, problems and seek and suggest solutions. But each Carmel is autonomous and independent of the other.

The Cloistered Carmels of the Sacred Heart Monastery of Kankanady, Mangaore and their Order represents the true beauty and power of prayer. Their life of contemplation is basically a service aimed at the betterment of the church. They are not swayed by the consumerist psyche of the people which is manifesting in all its ugly form in the past few years. They do penance and lead an austere life and they bear the privation with stoicism and with smiling face which is an outward sign of the happiness they feel within. Moreover they cherish it knowing that their sacrifice, prayer and penance will mundify the world of its ills. Needless to say it is a sanctuary of peace and beatitude.

Founded: 1870

Patron: Sacred Heart

Diocese: Mangalore


Sacred Heart Monastery
Cloistered Carmel, Kankanady, Mangalore
DK, 575 002 INDIA

Tel: 0824 - 2437552



Florine Roche Recent Archives:

By Florine Roche
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Comment on this article

  • Dora Rego[nee Pais], Nirkan, Bantwal/amboli, andheri west

    Mon, Aug 29 2011

    Good article Florine giving all the information about their life, which is very helpful. I have seen the ad of Maria Bourdi in raknno and i sent an email to them to pray for my families need where there was lot of frustration. Within 2 days the wish was granted and i thought it was the miracle of their prayer. Thanks once again for the article and also to daiji world.

  • Peter D'Silva, Mangalore/U.S.A.

    Thu, Aug 25 2011

    A great article, nicely written.
    God bless the cloistered nuns.

  • joegonsalves, Mangalore

    Wed, Aug 24 2011

    I have great admiration for the Cloistered Carmel. This convent is The Lord's gift to the people of Mangalore. The sisters lead a life of penance, prayer and contemplation. It is edifying to see these sisters behind the iron bars. As the saying goes - Mangalore is spared from calamities because of the powerful prayers of these wonderful sisters. They do their own work, ... cooking. laundering, cleaning, sweeping, washing and taking care of the sick. My sister was a nun at this convent several decades ago before she went to Shemgaganur on a transfer where she lead a life of prayer and contemplation until her death in the 1990"s.

    People of Mangalore - if you have any problems please do not hesitate to go to The Cloistered Carmel and seek the intervention of the holy sisters and God will certainly listen to them. Please do see the Mother Superior behind the grill and you will know for for yourselves the kind of sisters they are. They live from day to day depending on the good will of the people.....not knowing what the next day would be like. Let us be generous to them.

    Humbly submitted by:

    Joe Gonsalves

  • Matilda Pais, M'lore / Jeddah

    Wed, Aug 24 2011

    Good article, Nuns are Godly friends, one should choose friends dear to God who will help and pray for you.
    May God Bless all our nuns and the writer of this article.

  • Louis D'Souza, Udupi/Kuwait

    Wed, Aug 24 2011

    Beautiful article, God bless Florine. We have Carmel nuns in Kuwait running a Carmel school. Its the best Indian school in Kuwait I should say.

  • Kurt Waschnig, Oldenburg Germany

    Wed, Aug 24 2011

    Dear Florine, thank you for writing this wonderful and inspiring article.

    You give readers a deep insight into a world most do not know anything about.

    Especially nowadays in our globalised world we should express our gratitude to the cloistered Carmelites in Mangalore.

    The nuns meditate, pray and worship for the betterment of the Church.
    They lead a life of contemplation, silence and hard work.
    Their activities are not confined to prayers alone. The nuns do their own household chores including washing, cleaning, gardening, cooking and they also stitch their own clothes.

    The nuns not only pray they do a lot of work and they are techno-savvy and use computer, internet and other means of communication.

    They are educated and skilled but they were called by GOD to lead a special life of silence, prayers and contemplation.

    The cloistered Carmelites have been doing a fantastic work for our world and for human beings.

    Penance, going to church, reading the Bible, prayers, worship changes human beings and the environment.

    Believers know there is a convent in Mangalore, they can go, attending mass and they know there are nuns who pray many hours every day.

    We as believers shall support religious orders in our own way.

    Young women are called by God to lead a life as a cloistered nun, a life focussed on prayer and contemplation.
    It shows our Church is full of life.

    Best regards

    Kurt Waschnig Oldenburg Germany

  • vsevolod nestor Dcosta, kadri

    Wed, Aug 24 2011

    Beautiful eye opener on the life of the cloistered Nuns, A well written article.

  • Max & Jessie Rasquinha, Mangalore, Houston/Dallas

    Tue, Aug 23 2011

    What an inspiring story from the inception until now of the cloistered Carmels. The beautiful church, the tall walled compound and the centrally located site of the Cloistered nuns will always remain as a landmark of our identitity in Mangalore.

    The prayers of the cloistered nuns have helped us as a family all our life not only in our daily needs but also in so many of our emergencies, sicknesses and tragedies.

    On our next visit to Mangalore we shall certainly make it a point to visit the church and extend our grateful thanks for all that has been bestowed upon us thru the prayers of the cloistered carmels.

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