Sr. Lydia AC
Bayonne, July 26: The Congregation of Apostolic Carmel (AC) was founded by Venerable Mother Véronique de la Passion, an English lady, an Anglican convert to Catholicism, in Bayonne, France, on July 16, 1868. The foundation house in Bayonne had to be closed in 1873 but the sapling planted at St Ann’s Convent, Mangaluru in 1870 grew as the motherhouse and apostolic carmel flourished as a native congregation. When the foundation was closed, the AC Community of Trivandrum which was to be under the jurisdiction of the Carmelite Fathers became a separate congregation, the Congregation of Carmelite Religious (CCR). Therefore, Mother Veronica is hailed as the founder of two religious congregations. After the great joint sesquicentennial celebrations by the two congregations in Bangalore in May 2018, it was only fitting that we hold another joint celebration at the location of our Foundation in France.
After the Petit Carmel in Bayonne closed, Mother Véronique returned to the Cloîtré Carmel in Pau, France, about 35 km from Lourdes. She was called to her eternal reward in 1906 and was buried in the common Catholic cemetery of Pau as was then the custom. The Foundation’s house in Bayonne near the Carmel Cloîtré de Bayonne, about 95 km from Pau, no longer exists. Therefore, the place where our foundress had her last stay on earth and where a small CA community lives in this sacred land of Pau was the ideal place for the celebration of the sesquicentenary.
Together with the superiors general of the two congregations, thirty AC sisters from India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Kuwait, Bahrain, Italy and France and fourteen CCR sisters from India and Rome gathered for the celebration in Pau on July 13. The celebrations included a visit on July 15 to the Cloistered Carmel of Bayonne, headquarters of the AC Foundation. We touched and kissed the sacred ground and breathed in the spiritual presence of our foundress. The Cloistered Sisters welcomed us, offered us a snack and had warm interactions with us, thus three Carmelite groups met, sharing the joy of the occasion. The day ended with Solemn Vespers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel sung by the Carmelites gathered in French, the rest of us joining them in silent adoration.
The celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of July 16 began with morning prayer at the chapel of Pau where our foundress Mother Véronique lived and at the cloister where she had led the little Arab, Saint Mary of Jesus crucified, to be a cloistered nun. The actual Eucharistic celebration took place at the Sainte Thérèse de Pau church, the parish church, in the company of a hundred enthusiastic parishioners who even led the choir. Doctor Marc Aillet, Bishop of Bayonne was the main celebrant with nineteen priests from neighboring parishes, the superior general of Betharram, the provincial superior and the fathers.
The entrance procession included the carrying of traditional Indian lamps and umbrellas as the choir welcomed the Lord and his people to the eucharistic altar. The Eucharistic celebration in French interspersed with some prayers in English and the Aarathi by the sisters with a great Amen, added solemnity to the occasion. Sr. Vinaya, Superior of the AC Community of Pau enlightened the audience with a comment on the importance of the occasion and the vote of thanks from Sr. Susheela, AC Superior General. An aperitif (light refreshments) followed by a grand banquet with Indian cuisines was the highlight of the celebration.
We pray that our beloved foundress, the Venerable Mother Véronique de la Passion, may be elevated to the honors of the altars.