The former St. Ann’s High School Building, the first school of ‘The Apostolic Carmel’ had these lines etched on the wall next to the garden - ‘The kiss of the sun for pardon, the song of the bird for mirth, you are closer to God’s heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth’. If a garden is where you felt the closeness of God, then Mother Veronica, a Sister of St. Joseph of the Apparition found it on the seashore of Calicut as she stepped out of the little canoe, alone, to venture into the unknown new world. India, would be the ‘Carmel Garden’, she knelt and kissed the ground for she found her God there, her mission there, her vision there, her dream there and her song there.

While St. Francis Xavier was her inspiration for her zeal for the mission, the poverty, illiteracy, plight of women, drunkenness, touched her humane heart, to be the torch bearer to alleviate the plight of women and the downtrodden. Our Lord who saw the aspiration, the dream and the deep desire along with a strong determination whispered in a gentle voice that calls: ‘I want you in Carmel’. He held out to her a project, a mission, a vision, a dream, a song - a mission for development. Development of the whole person – both spiritual and intellectual. The best way to transform any place, any family is through education. Hence she chose Education as the tool for progress, and the way would be to have a ‘Carmel’ with a difference.

While ‘Carmel’ was supposed to be a Congregation for prayer and silence to which the aspect of ‘apostolic’ was to be added so that those who follow her vision and mission would move out of the four walls, be with the people and work for the people. It was a strange destiny – she was in a strange land, strange people, strange language, strange environment, and strange circumstances except for her God, everything else was strange.

Truly great people are humane. Her humane heart was also vibrant even when she was at home, right from her childhood, felt for the people. She deprived herself of sugar in order to save for the poor, stitched clothes and distributed to the needy. The poor and the needy always had a place in her heart. Mother Veronica’s life was a life of trust, a life of surrender to those ‘Higher Hands’ that held all her tomorrows. Her ‘tomorrows’ were filled with risks, difficulties, crucible of sufferings of all sorts. But her ability, zeal, resignation, letting God have His way in her life was sublime. Her ‘yesterdays’ were filled with fun, security, contentment, success at home and in the Congregation. She love ‘St. Joseph of the Apparition’ but her ‘todays’ were accompanied with plenty of challenges, risks and leaps into the unknown. What mattered most for her, was to resign, surrender and let God have His way in her life, come what may!

‘Forgiveness’ is the beauty of Saints! Indeed Mother Veronica has been exemplary in this costly virtue. Her forgiveness reached beyond boundaries when the very dear father of her soul, of her dream distrusted her, was indignant with her and would not accept her representation that on account of her not receiving his letter requesting to keep ready Sister Agnes for Mangalore, she could not comply with his request. She had to suffer silently all the rebuff from a friend, from the ‘Father of her Soul’. But Mother Veronica silently surrendered and accepted it as planned by God in her calendar of life. Heroic faith! Heroic surrender!

Mother Veronica had the ability to see beyond the exterior and sense the beauty of the soul. Hence she could intervene when Mary the Arab was refused admittance into the Novitiate of St. Joseph of the Apparition. But for Mother Veronica, ‘Carmel would not have merited a Saint in the person of St. Mary of Jesus Crucified, nor would we have the holy grounds where the Saint toiled, prayed and hallowed – St. Ann’s, our first house of the Apostolic Carmel. Indeed a strange destiny!

As per the*1Annals of St. Ann’s Convent the thirteen Tertiaries of Bishop Michael Antony’s foundation who were still in Mangalore were admitted into the Third Order Regular and made their profession of vows. A remarkable feature of this profession was that the formula of vows was changed to “I make these vows in the hands of, and promise to obey His Lordship Bishop Marie Ephrem of the Sacred Heart”. There was no mention of the Superior, the Foundress. Doesn’t this surmise why Mother Veronica was relegated to the background, sidetracked and was never allowed to come to India? I wonder whether this situation of events led to the understanding and belief that Bishop Marie Ephrem was initially considered as the Founder and Mother Veronica only as his instrument and even later he was given the place as the Co-Founder of The Apostolic Carmel. Thanks be to God that the Vatican II Council forcefully suggested all the congregations, to go back and study the roots. Indeed this has borne fruit and we are happy that Mother Veronica has been accorded the rightful place in The Apostolic Carmel. Well, I believe that God permitted it to happen and that there are no accidents in God’s plan. He plans it all; He permits it all for things to take shape at His own time and in His own way!

The strange turn of events at Mangalore led to the closure of the Little Carmel in Bayonne and Mother Veronica had to re-enter Carmel of Pau – empty handed, bereft of all her dreams and achievements, to begin the journey of a novice once again. Very strange developments in the Carmel in India under the guidance and direction of Bishop Marie Ephrem, the trusted friend of her soul, Mother Veronica’s role as a foundress was disregarded and was hijacked. The little Apostolic Carmel lost the privilege of being the ‘Mother’ of her won congregation. Even her beloved daughter Mother Marie Des Agnes stopped communication with Mother Veronica.(possibly under obedience)

Twenty seven years passed by and no communication, long silences! God ordained that Mother Marie Des Agnes was forced to visit the Pasteur Institute in France on account of being bitten by a mad dog. This facilitated the meeting of the estranged ‘Mother and Daughter’ in the Lord. The humane heart of Mother Veronica *2 for a long time could only look at her, speechless but mingled with delight and with silent grief. After listening to every detail of the little sapling’s growth, development and progress, above all the spirit of Carmel preserved and held in great veneration, Mother Veronica heaved a sigh of relief and said ‘I am now in complete peace’. It brought about a complete reconciliation between the Foundress and the Congregation she had founded. On a note of happiness Mother Veronica kissed Mother Marie Des Agnes on her forehead, held her for a moment with a murmured blessing and they parted.
2 ibid, p280

That was the kiss of completion, the kiss of fulfillment. Between the kiss of the seashore at Calicut and the last kiss of peace on the forehead of Mother Marie Des Agnes a lot had taken place…a song discovered, set to music, the master played several tunes of melody of both concord and discord, all heading towards a symphony, through silent surrender. The keepers of the flame of The Apostolic Carmel today are fed constantly through her intercession before the throne of God. Her humane heart that kept beating with silent surrender for God’s plan to be fulfilled, every breath for the growth of God’s Kingdom was at peace for having accomplished the task, having sung the song discovered in her heart.

Today I am sure she offers a challenge even as we storm heaven to grant her the honours of the altar, to discover the song in our hearts, the purpose of our lives and be humane in our approach, in our words, deeds and actions. The world of today requires humane role models as is seen in the person of our Holy Father ‘Pope Francis’. Truly The Apostolic Carmel has the spirituality of both Mary and Martha of the Gospel– ‘to have the heart of Mary in the world of Martha’. – May this spirituality of humanity, be a reality in my life is my prayer.

*1 The Turn of the Road – page 229
*2 ibid – P. 280.








Sister Rose Agnes A.C.
Provincial House, Mangaluru



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