The 8th of February stood out because of meaningful events of a deeply Carmelite flavour.
At 7:30 in the morning, the group met to celebrate the Eucharist in the place where our first monastery was established in India, built in 1622 by Fr Leander of the Annunciation and his first companions who had just arrived in Goa. The decision to establish a presence of Teresian Carmelites in this far-away land was not accidental. At that time, Goa was the Capital of the Portuguese Indies with about 200,000 inhabitants and 50 religious foundations, including convents, monasteries and churches. As well, Goa had been established by the Pope as the sole diocese of the East, with jurisdiction spreading to Japan (which helps to understand better the immense extent of St Francis Xavier’s missionary effort). At present, what is left of our first foundation, the “Convento do Carmo”, is just some ruins surrounded by vegetation, even though the friars of the Karnataka-Goa Province have been preoccupied in cleaning up and restoring the place. In the area of the original church they discovered some important tombstones, among which stands out that of the five martyrs of Persia.
For the solemn celebration ─which was transmitted directly by the regional television─ many of our friars and students arrived in Goa from other Provinces of our Order in India. In actual fact, we were pleased to welcome 140 students, one-half of our students in formation in the country. In his homily, Fr General recalled in a special manner Blessed Denis and Redemptus, who made their profession precisely in this place and lived here afterwards until they were sent to the Sumatra mission in 1638, where they suffered martyrdom.
After the morning Mass, the members of the Extraordinary Definitory had the possibility of visiting the great Hindu temple Manguishi (much frequented by the people of the region, particularly by families) and the old Capuchin monastery dedicated to Our Lady “del Pilar” in the nearby city of Panji, Capital of the State of Goa. There also existed here, just for a few years in the XIXth century, a small foundation of Discalced Carmelite friars. A few kilometres away, we were joyfully welcomed with extraordinary generosity, typical of the daughters of Saint Teresa, to the Carmel of Chicalim, founded exactly on the 9th of February, 1947, which is to say, 72 years ago to the day. At present our sisters number 17, with two novices and one sister in temporary vows.
The day of celebrations for the 400th anniversary of Carmel in India concluded solemnly, just as it had begun. In our monastery in Margao, some 25 kilometres from Old Goa, a good number of the faithful and a large group of students, who had been with us in the morning, sang Vespers with us in the church, totally renovated, and dedicated precisely to Blessed Denis and Redemptus. Fr General blessed the work just finished, after which all the guests were invited to enter the most beautiful monastery garden to continue the feast, accompanied by music and a folk group of dancers.