Monday, March 26, 2007

THE ACTIVITIES OF THE CMI CONGREGATION

Having been rooted in the charism of an intense spiritual experience and the resultant commitment to the cause of the people, the CMI founding fathers shaped the vision and mission of this young religious society in the following spheres: Pastoral Ministry, Formation of Priests, Evangelization, Education, Communication Media and Social Apostolate.

Pastoral Ministry: The very first activity the founding fathers was in the field of pastoral ministry. They assisted the Church authorities for a radical renewal of the Church. They became the pioneers in the Church of Kerala in initiating various practical steps for imparting life and vibrancy to the laity and the clergy alike. They went around all the Churches and triggered an intense movement of the faith-formation of the people. The pioneering steps they introduced were: retreats to the laity and the clergy, systematizing the celebration of the Holy Mass and the Divine Office, inspiring the Clergy for personal sanctification, re-vitalization of the sacramental life of the laity by instructing them through personal visits to their families, introducing Sunday homilies, and adopting from the global Church devotional practices like the Rosary, Way of the Cross and the Eucharistic Devotion. Their intense activity in this field brought about marvelous results in the 19-century-old Kerala Church within a short span of time. The Syro-Malabar Church became so active and vibrant that, for the first time in its history, it was able to produce, within a span of one century, 5 Blesseds and 5 Servants of God. It is to be specially observed that incidentally Blessed Chavara himself became the first among those spiritual blossoms. The above 5 Beatifications took place with in a span of 20 years from 1986 to 2006. It is also to be noted that the pastoral activities resulted also in the promotion of vocations and initiating a great increase in the number of priests and religious in the Church. Today, among all priests and religious in the Indian Church, working even in the Latin dioceses in North India, 60% of them hail from the Syro-Malabar Church.

Today, 311 CMI Priests are engaged in pastoral activities in 22 Countries around the globe apart from those working in India.

Formation of the Clergy: The CMI Congregation was active from the very beginning in giving training to the clergy. Through their visits and preaching of retreats to all the parishes in Kerala, the founding fathers realized the exigency of holy, efficient and well-trained clergy to lead the Church. With that intention, a Major Seminary was started at the Mother House in Mannanam in the year 1833, that is, within two years of the starting of the first Monastery there. It was the main Seminary of that time for the whole of Kerala Church. There was a time when about 150 Seminarians were inmates there. This Seminary continued there till 1894.

Today, the CMI Congregation runs 6 Major Study Houses for the training of the leaders of the Church. One of them is in Namibia, Africa. The Pontifical Athenaeum in Bangalore, by name, Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram, gives training in Philosophy, Theology and Oriental Canon Law to students from 17 dioceses and 75 religious Congregations.

The Congregation has also 11 Novitiates and 31 Minor Seminaries. There are 1300 young religious undergoing formation to be priests and missionaries.

Evangelization: The CMI founding fathers were pioneers in the field of evangelization in the Syro-Malabar Church. Their intense spiritual experience animated them to share their vibrant faith-experience with others too. They gave great priority to propagate the message of Jesus especially to the lower strata of the society. They established Catechumenates attached to all the then existed Monasteries. Within a few years’ time, thousands of people joined the Church.

Today, about 400 of its members are engaged in the works of evangelization especially in North India. The new enthusiasm started in the year 1962 when the historic event of commissioning the Chanda Mission to the care of the CMI Congregation by the Holy See. This was also the first ecclesiastical territory of the Syro-Malabar Church outside Kerala. Now, there are 5 Mission Provinces for the Congregation and 5 dioceses headed by CMI Bishops.

The CMIs are engaged in the works of evangelization in Africa and South America. There are 42 priests serving the African missions and 14 in South America.

In the field of Education: The contributions made by the CMI Congregation in the educational field in Kerala were pioneering and revolutionary. Blessed Chavara founded the first Catholic School of Kerala at Mannanam in1846. All the other Monasteries also followed that movement. In the year 1864, Blessed Chavara, in his capacity as the Vicar General of the Syro-Malabar Church, ordered all the parishes to start schools adjacent to them. This historic order triggered the emergence of a galaxy of educational institutions all over the State. It also became the basis of the socio-economic development of the whole State. The main aim of the entire educational endeavour of the Congregation is to bring about a social transformation with emphasis on an option for the poor coupled with a target of a moral reconstruction of the society. In many Provinces, scholarships are awarded to economically poor students.

Today, the CMIs run about 400 Schools, 17 Colleges, 1 Engineering College, and 1 Medical College.

In the field of media of Communication: It was also Blessed Chavara who founded the first printing press. This event also took place in Mannanam in the year 1846. It was the first printing press in the Syro-Malabar Church. It was from this press, the Deepika, the first Newspaper of Kerala and the first of its kind from the Indian Church, started its publication in the year 1887.

Today, the CMIs run 11 printing presses and 10 publications.

CMIs and the Social Apostolate: Blessed Chavara was also the pioneer in the field of the Apostolate of social and charitable activities in the Kerala Church. He founded a charitable institution in Kainakari in the year 1869. It was for the care of the aged, the poor and the marginalized people.

Today, the CMIs are engaged in social services in various fields such as care of the sick, mentally retarded, physically challenged, and in various job-oriented and self-help programmes. In the North Indian CMI Missions, hundreds of poor villagers are on the path of integral progress by the services of the CMI Missionaries. All our social services aim at building up an ideal community of people with the kingdom values of mutual love, truth, freedom, equality, justice, fraternity, solidarity and peaceful coexistence.

THE CHARISM OF THE CMI CONGREGATION

The CMI Congregation started and grew out of an intense God-experience of three zealous diocesan priests of the Syro-Malabar Church in Kerala, India. It started as a spiritual movement with the special aims of a deep-rooted ecclesial vision, down-to-earth people orientation and a far-reaching prophetic outlook.

At the time of the emergence of this spiritual movement, there was not even a single religious society existing in the 19-century-old Christianity in India. Hence, the initiative the above trio took was unique and prophetic. The founding fathers were zealous priests with a vision and a mission. The motivating factor for them to initiate this movement was basically to bring a spiritual renewal and vibrancy to the local Church. And the inspiration came from their awareness of the enormous services rendered by religious societies in the global Church.

The two supporting factors for this new spiritual movement were the following: the patrimony of the Syro-Malabar Church and the rich and age-old heritage of the Indian spiritual traditions. The spiritual power point of the Syro-Malabar Church can be traced back to the intense Jesus-experience of St. Thomas the Apostle who brought the Christian message to India in the very first century of its emergence. It was the direct encounter of St. Thomas with the Risen Lord and the resulting faith-proclamation My Lord and My God that urged him to bring Jesus and his message to India in A.D. 52. Similarly, our founding fathers were well versed in the spiritual classics of India, which had a long tradition of craving and longing for God-realization. We see a confluence of the above two traditions in the very naming of the first House at Mannanam, namely, a House of Darsan, which means an abode craving for intense spiritual experience. Hence, in this concept of an “intense spiritual experience” can we trace the first roots of the charism of our CMI Congregation. After quarter of a century of its inception, there comes a third supporting factor, which enriched its charism further. That was the Carmelite tradition. When Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara made his first religious profession in the year 1855, he did so accepting the rules of the Carmelite family. He accepted it as a providence of God. The second name he took, as customary in accordance with the Carmelite rules, was the name of Prophet Elijah. He cherished the great spirit of that prophet who was burning with zeal for God and his people. Blessed Chavara was also inspired by the spiritual vision of two other great Carmelite saints namely, St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. Thus, in the shaping of the basic charism of the CMI Congregation, we can discover a confluence of three currents: Syro-Malabar, Indian and Carmelite.