St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara is our inspiration who founded the now-existing first Indian indigenous religious Congregation the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate. Kuriakose (Cyriac) Chavara was born in 1805, of pious and devout Catholic parents, in Kainakary, Kerala, India. He was ordained priest in 1829. Fr. Chavara was the first Indian Catholic who made the Profession of Religious Vows in the Church. It was on 8th December 1855. The religious community started at Mannanam in 1831 became a canonical religious society on that day. Fr. Chavara was also the first Prior General of that Congregation (CMI). Under his leadership the congregation has made a tremendous impact on the socio-cultural scenario of Kerala. He is the visionary, who along with his confreres, initiated a great process for the renewal of the Church, both Syrian and Latin, in Kerala, through systematic faith formation, retreat preaching, Sunday Homilies, and sacramental re-vitalization of the laity, during the 19th century at a decisive era of the Church, thus becoming a great reformer and defender of the Church.
St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara with a prophetic vision, systematized the priestly training and visualized a company of Clerics filled with ardent love and total commitment to Jesus and to his Gospel values, deep-rooted in the faith, well-versed in the official teachings of the Church, capable to strengthen the sacramental life of the people, morally upright, intellectually erudite, emotionally mature, and well-trained in communication skills in order to preach the message of Jesus vigorously. He introduced a process of renewal of the life of the clergy through annual retreat and systematization of the Canonical Prayers.
He took the initiative to start the first educational institution in the Syro-Malabar Church. That was a Sanskrit School established in Mannanam in 1846 and it was open to all irrespective of caste and creed. In the same year he established the first printing press of the Syro-Malabar Church at Mannanam. His vision was that our people should expand the horizons of their knowledge and establish their faith in deep-rooted convictions.
After the times of the Archdeacons, and after a gap of 3 centuries, it was Fr. Chavara who was appointed the Head of the Syrian Catholic community for the whole of Kerala in the capacity as its Vicar General. He received that appointment in 1861 from the Bishop of Verapoly, the only diocese in Kerala at that time. Fr. Chavara is considered a great defender of the faith and protector of the Church. In 1861, when the powerful schismatic onslaught of Roccos from Bagdad began shattering the Syrian Catholic Church, it was Blessed Chavara, who with his efficient and charismatic leadership, along with the then members of the CMI Congregation, who defeated the schism and protected the Church from a disaster.
In 1864, he issued the historic circular on education that every Church should start a school also adjacent to it. This order triggered a great revolution in the field of education in the history of the Kerala Church, and later for the whole society in Kerala. In 1866, with the co-operation of Fr. Leopold Beccaro OCD, Cavara started the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel (C.M.C.) for women. Blessed Chavara was also the pioneer in visualizing the need of caring for the poor and the aged in the society. The charitable institution established by him at Kainakari in 1869 was the first of its kind in Kerala.
Being a man of prayer and intense charity, he was in close communion with the Lord amidst his several religious and social activities defusing his spirituality all around. In 1871, on January 3rd, Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara was called to eternal bliss and his mortal remains are piously kept in St. Joseph's Monastery Church, Mannanam, Kerala. On February 8, 1986 during his historic visit to Kottayam, Kerala, Pope John Paul II raised Venerable Kuriakose Elias Chavara to the honours of the Altar declaring him 'BLESSED'. On November 21, 2014 he was canonized saint by Pope Francis I.