Mother Mary Elias, Co-Foundress

Teresa Devine, Sr.M. Elias, was born in Tipperary, Ireland, on 15th April, 1839. Mother Veronica in her letter of 23rd September, 1888, gives us the following interesting in the unfortunate persecution of catholics in Ireland which obliged her to leave her country and get a teacher’s job at Bayonne when I had known her” As we have already noted she was one of the first Postulants to enter the Novitiate at Bayonne. She received the name of Sr.Mary Elais of Jesus. Later two more Postulants arrived from Bordeaux- Marie Francoise Duchen (Sr.Marie Des Agnes) and Justine Juge (Sr.St.Joesph).

Sr.M.Elias did not remain long at Mangalore as her services were required at Cannonore. This school at cannanore, which was run by the sisters of St.Joseph, Sr.M.Elias did not remain long at Mangalore as her services were required at cannanore, This school at cannanore, which was run by the Sisters of St.Joseph, was flourishing under Mother Magdalen Lubis who was an excellent administrator. She had entered the Carmelite Order by donning the habit and changing her name without going through the Novitiate, which is imperative in the life of a religious. How could a person who had not been formed to the life and spirit of Carmel, be given authority over a community of Carmelite sisters? At this stage Mother Veronica wrote to her “I Should like to know how you are getting on and whether you are going to Cannanore under Sr.Magdalen. I hardly think this would be a good plan to mix you up with the Sisters of St.Joseph without their making a proper Novitiate......" This fusion of Congregations caused untold havoc in the Communities. Mother Agnes resigned and was sent back to France, and Sr. M. Cecilia soon followed her. Sr. St. Joseph died at Cannanore. Only two of the Carmelites from Bayonne were left.


The Rt. Rev Dr. Ildephonse Borgna, Bishop of Quilon, founded the Convent of the Holy Angels at Trivandrum on 10th November, 1880, with the express purpose of educating the catholic girls of the locality. He placed it under the direction of Rev.Mother M.Elaias (a highly cultured Irish lady) the ex-Superior of St. Joseph's Convent at Cannanore,the other pioneers were Sr. M. Teresa of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Miss Matilda Rego an Aspirant from Cannanore, was also one of the group.

The School, Which was opened on 22nd of the same month and year, was begun on a small scale. it was divided into two branches - English and Vernacular. The initial strength being 47 small children. The first residence of the Sisters was cosy little mission house on the main street near the Huzur Cutcherry. Very Rev. Father Ambrose, the Vicar General, and Rev. Fr. Ferdinand, the Convent chaplain and Director, comfortably fitted it up for them.

Very early in 1881, two Miss Matilda Rego's sisters, Seraphine and Clara, also joined. From the very start Mother M. Elias had to face several difficulties and opposition. She put her little Community under the protection of the Holy Angelsand these Angelic guardians have always been our special helpers. She promised them that the first Sisters who joined the Community should bear their names.

In consequence the first three Postulants who had received the Scapular on the 4th october,1885, were vested in the Holy Habit of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in St.Joseph's Church, Trivandrum on the 20th July 1886. They received the names Sr.M Gabriel (Julia Rodrigues). Sr. M. Michael (Matilda Rego), and Sr. M. Raphael Rev Fr. Mary Victor, assisted by Fr. Martin of the Holy Family performed the ceremonies. The following year, on 8th December, the three white veiled novices made their holy Profession into the hands of the Rt. Rev. Dr. Ferdinand OSSi, in the presence of the Rev. Fathers Mary Victor, Joseph Gomez, David and a large congrgation. The next morning the 9th December, Miss Clara Rego and Miss Isabel Ariyanayagam,daughter of Judge S Ariyanayagam received the Holy Habit of our Lady of Mt.Carmel, taking the names of Sr. M. Bernard and Sr. M. Angela of the Blessed sacrament With the increase in numbers both in the Community and School, the house proved to be too small. A Boarding House had to be opened; this was done in July 1882. Then first boarders were Sybil Gunther and Frederick Cartner.Bishop Ferdinand Maria Ossi succeeded Bishop Ildephonse Borgna O.C. D. who died in 1883.

Success in the Government Examinations, Middle School and Higher Examinations for women came in cent percent every year. The School improved so rapidly that in 1885 the Madras University for the Matriculation Examination granted it recognition. Three years later four pupils appeared for the Matriculation and all four passed. Holy Angel's Convent was the first school in the Presidency to present young ladies for this Examination and to secure passes.

In 1885, the foundation stone of the new convent building in Vanjour (Now Vanchiyoor) near the General Hospital was blessed and laid by Rt.Rev.Dr.Ferdinand Ossi assisted by Rev Father Mary Victor, and Rev.Father John of the cross and attended by the sisters, children and several parishioners. Construction work went on and the convent was completed in 1890. The 27th august, 1890, is a day to be remembered, for on that day the inmates of the Holy Angels Convent Shifted into new building, which was blessed with great solemnity and grandeur by the Rt.REv. Dr.Ferdinand Ossi, assisted by the Very Rev.Fr.Mary Victor and five other priests. The ceremony was witnessed bya large number of the parishioners.

On 4th April 1891, Rev Mother M. Elias, left for Europe to try for vocations, leaving her Community under the care of the Rev. Mother Mary of the Incarnation,the then Superioress of Quilon. While in Europe she met Mother Veronica and discussed the question of founding a Novitiate house in England or Ireland to prepare subjects for the Indian Mission. After meeting the Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda at Rome. Mother M. Elias made a trip to Ireland and England. While in London, she spoke about the novitiate house to Cardinal Manning, who was in favor of it. When negotiating affairs with the ecclesiastical authorities, Mother M. Elias received pressing orders from Bishop Ferdinand to return immediately to her post at Trivandrum. Always obedient to her Superiors she left at once for India and was received with great pomp and show when she arrived at Trivandrum in January 1892. Parents and children gave her a royal reception. Revived and refreshed Mother M. Elias was back at her work.

The number of pupils in the School had increased considerably and the orphans too but the Sisters were very few. To make matter worse, Mother M. Elias had an attack of typhoid and was in a very critical condition, but the prayers of the school children, the orphans and the whole population of Trivandrum brought about her speedy recovery. She was weak and needed rest and exemption from teaching- but this rest did not last long as she had up a new enterprise.

In 1894 Mother M. Elias succeeded in establishing a Normal class in the School, Which was recognized by the Government of Travancore as well as by that of Madras. The great necessity for this Normal was because the Travancore government was building a splendid Ladies' College in which no religious instruction would be give. Even in the first year of their training the students achieved wonderful success. Five young ladies were presented for the Examination of the Madras Presidency in which five hundred candidates took part. The first, third, fourteenth and fifteenth places were awarded to four of the pupils of Holy Angels' School. The fifth pupil fainted in the Examination Hall on the second day and was unable to complete the examination. What is most remarkable is that this young lady had more marks than those who succeeded on the following days. The opening of this Normal class.

Fulfilled a long hoped-for wish of the people of Trivandrum. However, funds were needed for the construction of new buildings, laying out of tennis courts and fulfilling all the conditions as required by the New Education Code in India. Besides, qualified teachers had to be employed and they had to be paid high salaries. The fees collected from the pupils were just enough to pay the teachers. Consequently, the Sisters had to make many sacrifices and to work hard. Proper food, even the minimum rest and other conveniences were sacrificed to help the Community. Mother M. Elias and the Sisters were worn down to skin and bone but their love of God and will power kept them going.

Mother M. Elias labored so selflessly and sincerely that in his letter to Mother Veronica in 1890, Bishop Ferdinand Ossi expressed his satisfaction with the zeal and dedication of the Sisters of Quilon, Trivandrum and Tangacherry. He called Mother M. Elias his "eldest daughter and the life of his establishment." A small building to harbor destitute and orphan children was required; a friend willingly helped in the carrying out of this good work, and on lst November, 1890, the foundation stone, was laid by Rev. Fr. Mary Victor. Mr. R. Purificacio undertook to conduct the work. This two-storied building facing the Convent on the eastern side was completed and occupied by the orphans exactly a year later.

The accommodation for boarders and day scholars being insufficient, Rev Mother M. Elias of Jesus added a two-storied verandah hall adjoining the main school hall. This portion of the school was destined for the Primary Classes and it was begun to be used on 16thJanuary, 1892. Mr. T. B. Marse and Mr. Pur supervised.

Mother Veronica, always interested in the progress and development Angels' Convent, proudly preserved an account of the prize distribution, which was published in "The Western Star" a Trivandrum Protestant newspaper November of 28th November, 1894. This account as well as other achievements of the School has been included in our Centenary Souvenir.

An application for permission to raise the High School to a Second grade College, affiliated to the Madras University was made in May, 1898. The Institution was recommended for affiliation in August, 1898, and was recognized as Secondary Grade College with effect from January, 1899.

On 20th September, 1899, Mother Veronica writes to Rev. Fr. Lazare - it is very difficult for Mother Elias' character to be always battling and fighting, specially with those who are her Superiors, but I tell her, God is on her side and she must act prudently and firmly, and to take counsel of You Reverence and not talk of abandoning the great and beautiful work she has accomplished at Trivandrum, which is only what Satan would be delighted at. This is only temptation of course, but the poor Mother is utterly disgusted with the conduct of certain ---- I speak in confidence to you, dear Father, as I am sure you are well acquainted with all her difficulties and will do your utmost to help and relieve her.

Year by year the orphanage and school were increasing in numbers and for the purpose of procuring suitable accommodation. Mr. C. R Arasratnam Pillai who is best known for his benevolence and zeal in the cause of God's work, left no stone unturned to get Govt sanction for a lottery in aid of the Convent and orphanage, This lottery brought in a handsome sum though not the amount for which it was started. With the proceeds a compound behind the Convent was purchased with the assistance of Mr. John Gomez, the Apothecary, and a fine airy building erected towards the south side of the Convent. Rev. Fr. John of the Cross laid the foundation on the 15th October, 1899. The work was superintended by Mr. Purificacio- completed and occupied by the orphans on 20thJuly, 1902. The orphanage building cost nearly six thousand Rupees; it was placed under patronage of St. Joseph. Some of the orphans were big girls, who were taught to work and gain their livelihood, and when the occasion presented itself, Mother Elias got them married to respectable young men brought up in the Mission; but most were small children and some even little babies, brought by unwed mothers or otherwise picked up. They were baptized and taken tender care of, as treasures of the Convent, and being often diseased when they came, God soon removed them, fresh from the waters of Baptism, to pray for those who had opened to them the gates of Paradise. The hard work of Mother Elias and her Sisters told on the health of all. Mother Elias was not able to stomach solid food and for six months lived on a little rice broth and tea, with a slice or two of bread. In this weak state of health the work was becoming too much for her; it was evident that she might break down. The Carmelite missionaries feared that if anything happened to her, her loss would be more felt than that of four missionaries. Early in March, 1900, a Bake house was opened. It was given the name of St. Anthony's Bakery and the profits were utilized for the support of the orphans.

After having placed the Holy Angels' Convent on a firm footing, well established and well-known, Mother M. Elias left again for Europe on 4th March,1900. She still felt the need of getting English Sisters for the work in the Missions and once more endeavored to establish a novitiate house in Europe. After many trails and refusals, she succeeded in founding a house at Ypres, Belgium on the 16th rJune, 1900, under the title of "Convent of Our Lady of the Missions." Mother Veronica's wish was realized. The first batch of Sisters from Ypres - Sister M.Denis of Jesus, Sister M. Archange of the Sacred Heart, Sr. M. Elisee of the Sacred Heart and Sister Teresa Mary of Jesus, arrived at Trivandrum on the 20th April, 1904. On the 8th November, 1906, Sr. M. Gerard the fifth missionary nun came out.

In speaking of Mother M. Elias, it is important to remember that a very close and intimate contact was maintained between Mother M. Elias and Mother Veronica by constant correspondence. Be it said to her credit that she steadfastly adhered to preserved with filial fidelity the true Carmelite spirit. Mother Veronica's daughters in India and especially at Trivandrum were ever in her thoughts and received her wholehearted support. Mother veronica guided, directed, advised commended and supported mother M.Elias even in the minutest details in matters relating to the religious, social and cultural formation of the sister’s and the children entrusted to their care. Mother M.Elias the simple and obedient daughter carried out all her instructions to the letter. We the CCR Sisters can therefore claim that we are the true daughters of Mother Veronica who fad founded the Third Order Apostolic of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Mother M.Elias had accomplished her work in India-the “Lily’ from the Emerald Isle;, which was planted on the shores of the Arabian Sea, had sprouted, blossomed, faded and nearly died, but the Divine Gardener revived and Strengthened her with new life-giving sap and transplanted her. From Ypres Mother M.Elias proceeded to Friburg in Switzerland. We finally hear of her having migrated to Australia, where she continued to bloom and bear fruit in abundance until her holy death on 20th October 1933.


“The little town of Tangachery had been awaiting the budding and opening of the beautiful rose of Carmel ever since this foundation had been proposed in 1875. All good things come in God's own time. So it was that five years after the foundation of Holy Angels' Convent, the untiring and unbounded zeal of Rt. Rev. Dr. Ferdinand ossi found means to establish a third Carmelite Convent for the education of girls having the same departments as the first two Convents. It was time for the rose to bloom and to spread its fragrance. The Convent was dedicated to Our Lady of Mt.Carmel and entrusted to the care of the Carmelite Sisters, with Mother Anne Teresa the Superior. Here too through Mary's powerful intercession, spiritual blessings and id to m continued success in School examinations have rewarded the efforts of the Sisters. that m'phis Convent was to be opened on the 16th July, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, but on account of some inconvenience it was established only on the 22nd July.   The pioneers were Sisters Anne Teresa, Mary Catherine, Mary Francisca Regis and Mary Rose. The School was opened a month later on the 21st August, 1885.


Mother M. Elias claimed for her little Community the protection of the Holy Angels and it has been proved beyond doubt that God put His seal on all her undertakings. Is it just a coincidence or have we the insight to discern beyond externals the unfolding and fulfilment of God's eternal plan? Our first four Mothers General all bore the names of the Archangels and Angels; Mother M. Michael of the Redemption, Mother M. Archange of the Sacred Heart, Mother M. Louise of the Holy Angels whose patron St. Aloysius was also called the Angelic youth and Mother M. Angela of the Resurrection.

These were not just Architects but visible Guardian Angels to whose care our Congregation was confided. How each of them laboured to fulfil her duties may be seen from the growth and progress of our Congregation down the years.

Rev. Mother M. Michael was our 1st Mother General; she was chosen by God as the very first Architect of our Congregation. With this in mind we would do well to recall the words of the Psalmist Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain, who build it. (Ps. 127: 1) We therefore recognize behind Mother M. Michael's labours the strong and steady hand of the Master Architect, Our Lord Himself

After taking charge Mother M. Michael proved herself a skilled captain capable of steering the ship of our infant Congregation through stormy waters and bringing if safely to harbour, with firm faith and confidence in God. As a result she had the satisfaction of seeing the Congregation firmly established. In Dec. 1910 Mother M. Michael informed, by telegram, Mother M. Angela who was at Quilon, of her election as Superior of Holy Angels' Convent Community. While the Archangel guided the Congregation, an angel was to lead the Community fulfilling-the wishes of our good Mother M. Elias.

A small grotto was first erected in 1911 and a month later the shrine of St. Anthony! was set up just outside the Chapel, where he is still venerated and his intercession sought. The blessing of these gave great joy to the Sisters. The celebration of Mother M. Michael's Feast in 1911 was marked by the installation of a large and beautiful statue of St. Michael, a gift from the Muthunayagam family. It was blessed and carried; in procession from the Chapel to the High School where it was placed in a niche above the main entrance to the School, at present the library hall. To this day St. Michael holds pride of place as a valiant defender of God's honour and the safety of the School.