January 2022 - July 2022

Humility The First Virtue

  • Jan
  • May

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APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

This month we shall reflect on the virtue of humility. Mother Veronica says she found it extremely difficult to practice this virtue because of her proud nature. She records that her English upbringing was a challenge to penetrate the grace of humility into her being. We glean through pages of her life, to understand how heroically she cooperated with God’s grace to imbibe this virtue. May her struggle inspires us to believe that all things are possible for those who strive after perfection in our spiritual life

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APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

We have the first instance of her childhood days where she relates about her proud English nature. This incident took place in England in her ancestral house where she saw her brother and her cousins riding on the balustrade of the staircase and sliding downwards to the bottom. This is not unusual among children. Why Sophie does gives importance? She says her ego, which bothered her you are nothing less than others. She writes, “I wanted also to do the same like a tomboy and I fell over the handrail on a landing, thirteen steps below, where I was picked up unconscious. Two of my front teeth remained on the landing and another clung only by a thread. My mouth was horribly cut; it was stitched and for a long time I could not eat anything solid.”

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APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

Mother Veronica admired in her father many a saintly quality. She calls him a man of virtue and prayer who prayed with the family as well as alone by himself in the secret of his room. The curious children looked through the key – hole and found their father praying aloud on his knees with joined hands .She says, “This was rare among the protestants… he had a depth of humility which astonished me; as for me I was proud of my pride which I believed necessary to be a well-bred young lady.”

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APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

When Sophie’s family lived in Athens, Sophie saw a great deal of social life at home, this developed in her vanity. She speaks of an evening party at home where according to her mother’s compliance, she dressed well in white muslin. She then looked into the mirror, which is not uncommon. Here she points out her proud disposition, “I became animated and excited and said to myself, but I am not as ugly as I always thought I was – it seems to me that I am pretty.” She admits venom entered her heart at the age of 16. “I was however very innocent of evil for my mother had brought us up with great care. “

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APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

Rev. Henry Daniel Leeves, the Pastor, was instrumental in building an Anglican church at Athens. At its completion, the Anglican Bishop of Gibraltar was invited for the consecration of the new church. They were many invitees for the inauguration. Sophie was 19 years old. Those days there was plenty of music, in the house, which was always open to guests and their mother always took great care that her daughters dressed in good taste, and vanity did encroach into their innocent lives. However, Rev. Leeves, their father, would not permit the least indecency for anything in the world.

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APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

The parents of Sophie Leeves brought up their daughters to fit into the English society. While they freely mixed with affluent society, parents diligently instilled values that went a long way in later life to face life with dignity and enduring courage. Sophie and her fiancé deeply loved each other. In spite it; Sophie felt the void in the depths of her heart. She searched for God. She felt she had a weight which she wished to get rid of.

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APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

Mary Anne and Catherine, who were familiar with Puseyism, introduced Sophie to the Puseyite minister for confession. When Sophie’s turn came, she fell to her knees as there was no confessional. She was hardly knowledgeable in the art of confessing and it did not help her at all. However, Sophie says, “I had so much good will to confess myself and to tell all my sins, that in spite of the shame that I felt in seeing myself opposite this stranger, I gave him the story of my life and of all that my conscience reproached me with. … I believe that the good God had regard for my good faith, and the humiliation that I had imposed on myself, for from that moment I felt quite changed.”

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APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

The Leeves sisters, Catherine, MaryAnn, and Sophie placed themselves in the spiritual care of this minister in order to lead wholly pious and devout lives. Sophie had no desire to wear beautiful dresses or jewels anymore. She gave everything to Margaret Chapel and began to wear the dresses of the devotees which was of such stark simplicity although the mother was offended and reproached them, it hardly mattered to them.”

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APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

Sophie and Mary Ann were baptized into the Catholic Church. They experienced abandonment from their Anglican Church members and society. She writes, “Everyone cast stones at us and we were excluded from all society.” Mrs. Leeves who was very proud of taking her daughters into society now restricted herself, for from that time all doors of the society were shut against them. Sophie’s mother decided to leave Malta and live in another city.

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APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

A transforming change came over Sophie after she was received into the Catholic Church. In gratitude and humility, she speaks of it. “A whole eternity will not suffice to render Him thanks for that inestimable unspeakable gift… and I trust to carry it intact before the throne of God for all eternity – after wavering and fluctuating and doubting and trembling; now I was firmly anchored on the rock of Peter. What a marvelous change came over me – Even my own sister and those who knew me best were astonished, and myself more than they.”

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APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

Sister Veronica made her profession as a sister of St. Joseph on 17 October 1852. Appreciating her superior at Syros, who was not so well disposed towards Sophie, Sister Veronica writes to the Superior General Mother Emilie de Vialar, “She is so good to me for some time at the beginning I did not know how to act. I think that many times I gave her trouble during the novitiate, because the English character finds it difficult to be submissive, and I in particular. The good God gives me greater graces not to offend her by failing in my vows… I am greatly blessed in being with such good Sisters who have so much charity towards me.”

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APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

Mother Veronica was richly blessed with human and divine qualities. Her life of authenticity stands out uniquely before God and man. She was straightforward in all her dealing with others and growing in humility. In her letter to Father Syndique OCD she writes, “I pray you, my very Rev. Father, to recommend me to our Lord and our good and merciful Mother Mary that God have pity on my misery and because of my sins may he not permit me to be a source of scandal to the souls entrusted to my care.

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APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

To Father Syndique her spiritual guide, Mother Veronica writes from Calicut, “… The reason that induces me not to desire or even ask for a change of mission, precisely because I fear that our Lord might chastise me for my failure in not making use of the graces, with which he is overwhelming me in the form of persecutions and calumnies. It is now that I am sure that he is thinking of his poor servant with a love of predilection, since he wills only the adverse in almost everything that befalls me, and I fear that I am worthless in the estimation of others. So much the better Rev. Father, our Lord has named me Veronica.”

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APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

In the same letter from Calicut dated December 22, 1863, she expresses her sentiments: “Our Lord has begun to chisel the rough block; must I restrain his hand? Pray rather that he deigns to strengthen my weakness and renew my courage in order that I may become in truth, and not merely be in the name Veronica of the Passion. This is my only desire, the goal of my life

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APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

Father Marie Ephrem confides in Mgr. Bernardino the unpleasant events rumors taking place because of the Superior of St. Joseph’s in Mangalore. She has a powerful influence on Mgr. Michael Anthony and she spreads suspicious and malicious gossips about Mother Veronica. It came as a blot on the noble personality of Mother Veronica from which she suffered. In this murky situation, Mother Veronica thanks Fr. Syndique for his consoling letter, “It is true dear Father, and I find myself without any support and without human consolation in a foreign land. Naturally, sometimes lassitude sets in, as one does not know on which side to turn to spiritual or temporal help. Then the thought of the Holy Passion of our Saviour and his Agony in the Garden, where he suffered all manner of dereliction much more than we can imagine , is a source of courage to rise up and continue the struggle.”

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APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

In the hour of misunderstanding, and tribulations, this is how Mother Veronica struggles to overcome the sadness: “My Lord and my Spouse has chosen for himself and for all his elect without exception, this way of humiliations, persecutions and crosses. How then can I think of a different way, I, who am a soul so specially privileged, and chosen from the midst of darkness to be his own? Is it not possible that he leads me by any other way, so what else should I desire? … I might follow him to the summit and die there, crucified with him and like him. However, how far I am still from this.”

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APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

We have another gesture of Mother Veronica’s virtue of humility. 1862. On arriving on the beach of Calicut, in 1862 for the first time, she prostrated there and kissed the earth in the spirit of St. Francis Xavier who had sanctified the Indies by his self-effacing zeal, sacrifice and humility.

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APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

Father Dominic of St. Joseph the Father General of the Carmelite Order wrote to Mother Veronica in November 1867 to start the work of the new foundation at Savoy. Mother Veronica says, “It is rather consoling for me, for in leaving this dear Carmel I feel I am acting under obedience, else I would be incapable of doing anything. I feel so utterly wretched and incapable of anything… I would wish to remain forever in this abyss of my nothingness.”

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APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

While exploring a place for the new foundation of Third Order Regular (AC) Mother Veronica stayed at La Roche. Mrs. Leeves visited her daughter, Mother Veronica. She had heard of her daughter’s poor state as she was not lodged respectably, and came with her housemaid, to know the plight of her daughter. Veronica could not receive the mother in her very poor apartment. She arranged with Mme de Polinge one of Mother Veronica’s friends to offer her hospitality and Mother Veronica spent a day with her there. The mother was so displeased with the poverty and the complete destitution in which she found her daughter that she went away very quickly to Geneva. “

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APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

Mother Veronica received rejection from every place that she visited to begin her work of the new foundation. In Bordeaux the Carmelite Fathers thought that she was, an adventuress because of the seal of the Order was lacking on Father General’s letter. Father Peter the Prior of the Carmel there received her rather coldly. She writes, “I waited so long in the parlour that I resolved to leave the next morning, and with this intention I returned very sad and discouraged to the chair-maker’s house where I lodged.”

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APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

In her most painful moments of disappointment and abandonment, she approached their extraordinary confessor who was on visit to the convent. She says. “I went to him to get a little courage and consolation. But alas, I left the confessional with a heavier heart than when I entered it. There was only dear Mother Elias who comforted me.”

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APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

Mother Veronica relates to the Carmelite General the difficulties she faced in the work of foundation. She speaks of the biting cold, the longing for the contemplative life; the disappointment at the hopeless situation in Savoy, the lack of money, intense loneliness; the humiliation; the rejection; the condemnation as a woman of loose character and a fraud. No priest would even hear her confession, and that by the Carmelite fathers, notwithstanding the handwritten letter of introduction from the Carmelite General himself for want of seal she was set aside as fake.

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APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

When Father Dominic OCD came to know of the difficulties that Mother Veronica was faced with, he wrote a letter to her full of assurance and much needed encouragement to go forward in her work of the foundation. In her letter from La Roche, March 1, 1868 she writes, “I was dejected and was like a wanderer, quite at a loss, out in the world without knowing to whom to write, more than once finding myself all alone, not knowing whom to turn to for aid, I thought of returning to my Carmel of Pau,.. What is painful is the thought that I am abandoned; that they leave me to do what is best.”

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APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

Mother Veronica finding no opening to start the foundation apparently a failure, rejected and dejected, she returned to the Carmel of Pau. Here the prioress did not take her inside the cloister until she explored the last opportunity. Mother Veronica was made to stay with Terriers, which deeply saddened her. She writes, “My God! I think that I wept all my tears during the few days I remained outside the turn of the Carmel of Pau.”

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APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

God’s providence had marked out that the foundation of the Apostolic Carmel was to be in Bayonne. While the repair work of the existing house was on, the Bishop of Bayonne told the Prioress of the Pau Carmel to permit Mother Veronica to the cloister. Mother Veronica, overwhelmed with joy and gratitude exclaims, “Here I am unworthy to be admitted to this holy and beloved paradise. Oh my God, what have I done to merit this great joy! I came here after having visited twelve or fourteen Carmels of men and woman religious, requesting them to help us, and I showed them the circular our Very Rev. General had written to me, recommending our work.”

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APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

Bishop Marie Ephrem writes to Mother Veronica from Trivandrum on 18 May 1869, ten months after the foundation of the Third Order Regular was begun, “How much I have desired, and still desire, that you should become a great saint… wait in silence and in hope; you remember those words of our rule, ‘In silence and in hope lies your strength’. Wait also in prayer and in the practice of those virtues which make a good religious.”

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APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

Bishop Marie Ephrem instructs Mother Veronica to form the religious in formation at the convent in Bayonne in obedience, in humility and mortification and to prepare them to become instruments of mercy and salvation. Father Dominic also appeals to her to inculcate in the trainees profound humility and blind obedience.

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APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

In September 1869, Bishop Marie Ephrem visited the Carmel of Bayonne. He was displeased, apparently annoyed with Mother Veronica, for some the practices like the habit, the fasts, the cloister, and left the little Camel without saying a word to Mother Veronica. This was the first time friction arose between the two. .

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APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

Mother Veronica, heartbroken at the insensitivity shown by Mgr. Marie Ephrem expressed her disappointment that he left the place without finalising or discussing the matters concerning the Third Order. This strange attitude of his brought pain and sorrow to Mother Veronica who was awaiting him to settle business concerning the third Order. She writes, “I am no more than an instrument. I could well have stayed on in my beloved Carmel of Pau. Father, were it not for you, and your mission.”

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APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

Every good work done for the glory and honour of God is tested and purified. After a long struggle of suffering misunderstanding rejection and humiliation Mother Veronica saw her cherished dream for the Indian mission being actualized. However, God permitted to purify her through Father Marie Ephrem her most trusted spiritual father. She writes to him, “I do not seek to be considered a foundress, as I abhor the very name. I am only a poor Carmelite who would like to go and hide herself in India, and there, devote herself wholeheartedly to those dear people. Were it not for this hope, I would never have left my Carmel of Pau, because I cannot do anything for which our Lord has neither given me an attraction, nor the ability.”

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APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

Mother Veronica with profound humility and conviction writes to Father Marie Ephrem, “I am not a St. Teresa, who felt drawn to and received the grace to reform an Order; and our Lord expressly made that known to her On the contrary, I dislike anything that might give me prominence or make me singular. I am strongly inclined to remain hidden and follow the old customs and practices, to obey the rules and constitutions as I have found them and not draw up new ones.”

Love for the poor and marginalised

APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

The ‘Autobiography’ and ‘A Life in letters Volume I and II’ give us a deep insight into the versatile personality of our dear Foundress, Mother Veronica of the Passion. A glimpse into her early years reveals that her parents nurtured their children with good values of the Kingdom. Sophie’s parents - the Anglican Pastor Mr. Henry Daniel Leeves and his wife Maria Haultain were sensitive to the pain and sufferings of the poor and downtrodden. They by their passionate hearts and charitable hands left an imprint on their children to be caring and generous in their service to uplift the struggling to live a meaningful life. Sophie their eldest daughter learnt much from her parents’ exemplary life. Later in life as Mother Veronica, we see how this caring heart prompted her to give a better future to millions of children and youth. “She felt pity on children wandering aimlessly on the seashore of Calicut without a good future.” We glance through a few instances that will divulge her sensitivity and compassion for the underprivileged.

Love for the Poor and Marginalized

APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

Sophie calls Mary Anne as her ‘soul mate’. Both sisters now grown up, once again took up their old habits of visiting the poor. Sophie says, “My mother herself being very charitable was very glad that we were thus occupied.” She even permitted her two young daughters to join a society of ladies consisting of Catholics and Protestants, whose aim was to give clothes to the poor. (Autobiography p.24)

Love for the Poor and Marginalized

APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

Mother Veronica while reminiscing her early life says, “My mother had from childhood taught us to visit and work for the poor.” Mrs. Leeves came to know of an established society at Valetta for giving clothing to the poor and helping the needy. A Catholic lady Madame Demech was the president of this society. Sophie describes her as a charming person. Mrs. Leeves was delighted that her daughters Sophie and Mary Anne become its members. The two sisters visited a number of poor families to distribute clothing made by the ladies. Sophie says, “We used to take the man- servant with us to speak Maltese and find out the garrets and cellars of which we were given the addresses” (A Life in letters Volume 1 p.31)

LLove for the Poor and Marginalized

APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

At Syra or Syros Sister Veronica, although she was appointed to teach in school, on several occasions nursed some sick people and helped them to receive the sacraments, who would have died deprived of the helps and sacraments provided by the Catholic Church. She states, “I passed over silently many other episodes in my life as a sister of charity which would be very interesting, but too long to relate. Suffice it to say that it was my happiness to look after the sick poor and rich, and God blesses those who do so with love. (Autobiography p.43)

Love for teh Poor and Marginalized

APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

At Syra or Syros Sister Veronica, although she was appointed to teach in school, on several occasions nursed some sick people and helped them to receive the sacraments, who would have died deprived of the helps and sacraments provided by the Catholic Church. She states, “I passed over silently many other episodes in my life as a sister of charity which would be very interesting, but too long to relate. Suffice it to say that it was my happiness to look after the sick poor and rich, and God blesses those who do so with love. (Autobiography p.43)

Love for the Poor and Marginalized

APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

At Piraeus Sister Veronica as a superior along with two sisters were to found an orphanage. She recollects, “There were no crosses wanting to me for the beginnings are always painful. I cannot pass over in silence all the kindness, the charity that I received for ourselves and for our orphans.” A certain Baron de la Ronciere le Noury, Admiral of the French frigate, which was stationed at Piraeus, supplied from his ship, bread for the small community every morning and many other alms they needed. Subsequently, this excellent Admiral and the Baroness de la Ronciere became her very devoted friends (Autobiography p.44)

Love for the Poor and Marginalized

APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

Sister Veronica worked hard to get the monetary support from government and other sources for the new foundation. They were to be self-supportive. The government gave them a pittance in the form of aid to run the school and orphanage. While she tapped the human resources, she strongly knocked at God’s door for his providence. Both in Piraeus and Tremorel Sister Veronica faced severe health problems, lack of sufficient personnel and great economic crises to look after the children. (A Life in letters Volume 1 p.67)

Love for the Poor and Marginalized

APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

As late as 1860’s the schools received no aid from government. To understand her struggles I cite one of the many instances of the difficulty she faced to maintain schools and orphanages. Sister Veronica states: “The work of the Schools of the Orient has yet not been funded. I have six children who pay a little. What they give amounts to 48 drachmas per month. I get 30 drachmas from my mother, and the superior gives me the balance that is needed. It is not possible to do with less than 200 drachmas per month, with our six orphans. The good captain of the ship sends us so many little things. While she used all her resourcefulness to tap human resources, she trustingly implored Divine Providence. She writes to her Superior General, “But the good God inspires those good souls to take care of us and I am fully confident that we shall lack nothing.” (A Life in letters Volume 1 p.67).

Love for the Poor and Marginalized

APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

In Brittany, Sister Veronica remained only for a year. The cold and wet climate of the place did not suit her. It made her spit blood that caused her a great deal of fatigue. She says, “I had to look after the sick of the parish and prepare medicines for them from our small pharmacy, in such a way that I was doctor and pharmacist to all those good people who thought that I had an extraordinary gift to treat them when they were ill.” She continues, “Sometimes the good God rewarded their faith and their trust by the cure of their ills. (Autobiography p.46)

Love for the Poor and Marginalized

APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

At Piraeus she writes to Mother Emily Julien, “My little family is well- those who made their First Communion will perform their Easter duty tomorrow. I love the poor children, for they are very sweet. In another letter she writes, “We have been at peace, going about our work, keeping busy in school, with the poor, and in taking care of the sick who come here. (Letters Piraeus April 6 &19,1860. Life in Letters pp72-73)

Love for the Poor and Marginalized

APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

Sister Veronica faced bravely all challenges in giving her best service to the mission. She was very devoted to those who were in her charge and loyal to her congregation. All her letters speak volumes of her clarity in communicating and transparency in relating the facts. She writes from Piraeus a letter dated May 10, 1860: “I have told you everything in great sincerity, and now I remain indifferent to whatever may happen to me… I shall be happy to get a reply to everything I have written to you. We are going on quietly with our round of duties. My little daughters are all right. With our little children, we try to honour our blessed Mother doing our best during this beautiful month of May, singing canticles of praise to her to the delight of the children, because it is the first time this devotion is being held in Piraeus." (A Life in Letters p.76).

Love for the Poor and Marginalized

APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

It seems sometimes God tests his children’s faith. Sister Veronica tells Mother Emilie Julien, “I think God loves us very much dear Mother, as we are not spared crosses and sacrifices – gifts he sends us so that we may have something to offer him in return. Last month I had a hard time finding means to feed my poor sisters and my children. The Frigate (ship) has left last Sunday for Syria and with it went our daily bread, coffee and many other things, these wonderful friends and benefactors used to send us.” (Piraeus June 10 1860 p.81)

Love for teh Poor and Marginalized

APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

God never abandons his creation. If he could feed all the birds of the air how much more his children. In a sigh of relief, Sister Veronica thanks the Good Lord saying to her superior general, “The day after The Frigate left, the purveyor of the French ship, came to pay me a visit (his daughter is in our school). He gave me sufficient provision of sugar, rice, soap, salt, candles and coffee to last all the time they will be away.” Later she says, “I was so poor, Mother, my purse was empty, and thus more than half of our expenses were met. They are good souls indeed.” (Letters p81)

Love for teh Poor and Marginalized

APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

Persons of influence came forward to help the sisters. Some showed interest in helping the orphanage than the boarding house. Sister Veronica speaks of a French gentleman who took much interest in the sisters and their work. She also makes a special reference to good M. De la Bonnere, who she says, “always stands by us and who has been so kind as to show me more consideration than for the others, because he sees that I am so short of resources.” (A life in Letters p.83)

Love for teh Poor and Marginalized

APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

In her letters to the superior general, Sr. Veronica on and off speaks of visits to the poor and sick. She availed every opportunity to show solidarity with the suffering. On one occasion she writes, “I had an opportunity to exercise my office as a sister of charity to a poor man who died of an apoplectic stroke.” He was the servant of a retired colonel. On returning from church, they found the man unconscious and he was being given the last rites. Sister Veronica saw his poor wife in distress. So, she remained beside them for a few hours on that day and on the following day. He died without regaining consciousness. (A life in Letters p.105)

Love for the Poor and Marginalized

APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

At Tremorel, the community of three or four sisters had to work hard in the mixed school of boys and girls. She had one hundred and twenty children – sixty boys and sixty girls. Some of them were grown up- two or three were twenty years old and several boys when they left their school entered the little Seminary to study for priesthood. She says, “I loved my ‘enfants Bretons’, there was so much an innocence and purity of morals, such respect and veneration for the nuns, that there was no inconvenience in having a mixed school.” (Letter to Trivandrum daughters on 23 January 1893 from Pau p.118)

Love for the Poor and Marginalized

APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

The sisters at Tremorel, had a little pharmacy, but no doctor was available within several miles round. The people of the place used to come and fetch Sister Veronica when anyone was ill. She recalls the difficulty of going to far-off places. “Sometimes the patient was several miles off and I could not walk so far. So, they would bring me a horse to ride on; but there were no saddles in that country, only a truss of straw, in a sack fastened over the back of the animal, and I had to perch myself on the top of this baggage as best I could”. (Letter to Trivandrum daughters on 23 January 1893 from Pau p.119)

Love for teh Poor and Marginalized

APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

The workload at Tremorel was excessive for four sisters to handle. She makes an earnest request to the superior general for the fifth sister, for the care of the sick, which she considers, as something important that could not be neglected. She says, “It takes two or three hours to visit one. I went to see two sick persons today, to give them injections; I had such difficulty that they brought me back on horseback. The distance is so great it takes half a day. So, you see, good mother, that I cannot be in class and take care of the sick as well as I do not have sisters on whom I can rely.” (Tremorel, January 14, 1861. A Life in Letters p.121)

Love for teh Poor and Marginalized

APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

The help required in terms of personnel or money was not coming in. In all distress, Sister Veronica writes to her superior general on February 24, 1861. “When I actually felt the pinch of poverty and I scarcely knew where to get on the morrow what was needed for our poor children and orphans, God always provided enough, and I was never afraid. I should not complain about that, nor about anything, for I am content and happy. I have many expenses to meet, for we have nothing, or practically nothing. I had never seen anything like that. The sick are neglected now for no one is free to go and visit them.” (A Life in Letters p.136)

Love for the Poor and Marginalized

APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

The life of poverty and hardships continued in spite of many a representation to the lawful authority. Yet Sr. Veronica with due respect to the superior and concern for the mission kept asking like the Canaanite woman of the gospel. She writes to Emilie Julien, “I am expecting Mamma tomorrow. I am preparing to receive her as well as I can, but we are so poor! I scarcely know how to manage.…. Mamma told me that she sent my board for January to May to Rome…I do not know where to turn. I beg you Mother, if possible, permit me to use the money, which is in Rome, or else I will not have the means to buy what I need to keep myself alive. Our poor sisters’ clothes are tattered and I cannot buy them anything.” (A Life in Letters p.150 - 52).

Love for the Poor and Marginalized

APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

At Tremorel, Sister Veronica’s health was deteriorating. The responsibilities of the school, faith formation of children and care of the sick, visits to the poor and neglected, all of it was much for few hands. Yet she says, “We thank God for the confirmation, the First communion, the mission and the bishop’s visit to Tremorel. We are exhausted with fatigue and worries, but the worst is over. They speak of the missions but certainly, in no other mission the poor sisters are more tired than here. All that I am afraid of is Sister Marie Ange’s health, for I can count only on her to help me a little in class, with the church, with the sick whose care overwhelms us.” (A Life in Letters p.155)

Love for the Poor and Marginalized

APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

The episode of Europe is over for now. Sister Veronica kissed the Indian soil sanctified by St. Francis. She stayed few days in Cannanore, and on 7 March 1862 she reached Mangalore. She started the new foundation of a convent of St. Joseph at Calicut on 27 April 1862. She was appointed as the superior of the convent and since then came to be known as Mother Veronica. In her letter to the superior general of May 11, 1862 from Calicut she says, “It is almost six months since I left you, and I have not received a line. I prayed much for you, Mother and for our entire congregation.” What a wonderful spirit of faith and love to the superior general and loyalty for the congregation. Her disposition is an inspiration. Only those who have gone to far-off lands with unknown people language and culture will understand the anguish she expresses in her letter. (A Life in Letters p.202).

Love for the Poor and Marginalized

APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

Mother Veronica gives all details of the beginning of the new foundation at Calicut. She highlights the importance of having good sisters in the mission. She expresses her heartwarming joy to see 15 prayerful and happy little children who were there then. She takes note of all the tremendous good work missionary fathers have done with children. She informs the superior general of the dire need to begin an orphanage, which the monsignor is intending to start immediately. On her part, she shows determination to learn Malayalam, the local language. What a wonderful missionary spirit! ( A Life in Letters p.202)

Love for the Poor and Marginalzied

APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

Language is one of the most important factors in communication. Mother Veronica soon after her arrival to India begins to learn Malayalam to communicate with local people and children of Calicut. She finds the language sweet and learning is a pleasure, she expresses her happiness and relies on God’s grace to be devoted missionaries in a distant land. She experiences the holy presence and interior peace and joy in a wonderful way that dispels all her fears. Finally, she states her greatest happiness of receiving Holy Communion every day. (A Life in Letters p.202-3).

Love for the Poor and Marginalized

APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

The following incident given below speaks of the poverty hardships and plight of the poor in 1860’s. To protect, care for and give a future to neglected children it was necessary to have an orphanage, the work that was immediately taken up. Mother Veronica relates of a mother who handed over her little daughter to her for 6 annas with a declaration stating that she belongs to Mother Veronica. She states, “Our work is so beautiful here, but one must understand it and give oneself to it heart and soul.” (A Life in Letters p.215)

Love for the Poor and Marginalzied

APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

Almost six months later in September 1862, Mother Veronica tells Mother Emilie Julien, “We lack nothing here dear Mother, in order to be happy and saints- great saints”. We can read between the lines what she meant. She goes on, “If India is a torture for some, I tell you that for me I find it a Paradise – I shall willingly live and die here… If you knew what feast it is for us on the days when we have the Blessed Sacrament exposed the whole day in our chapel …It is so conducive to devotion and recollection and our dear sisters are so inflamed with love of this Eucharistic Lord; our children, even the smallest ones are so eager to keep sweet company with him. I baptized three little children who came before the feast of the Assumption. … If you only knew, how I love these dear little ones.” (A Life in Letters. p. 218-19)

Love for teh Poor and Marginalized

APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

Mother Veronica shares her joys and concerns of the Calicut mission with Fr. Syndique OCD. She expresses her deep satisfaction of the marvelous progress. Their community had 24 members of which eight were orphans. Most of them were newly baptized locals and many more were coming forward to embrace Christianity. A mother from the forest came and asked for baptism of her three children, and she herself was being instructed in the faith – that is the beginning of their Catechumenate. She says, “The joy that one feels in presenting to our Lord these dear souls, all radiant in their white baptismal robes.” Mother Veronica in a short time picked up Malayalam, and was anxious to master the language in order to teach catechism to the catechumens they received. She states that though Malayalam is a beautiful language it is difficult. (Calicut, October 1st 1862 p.221-22)

Love for the Poor and Marginaized

APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

Catechumens were steadily on the rise. School children, day scholars numbered 70 besides the orphans. Although the life was not easy for sisters at Calicut there was joy in selfless service. Mother Veronica writes to her superior general, “I think that all my life I have not tasted sweeter consolations than at Calicut. God was blessing our efforts. I loved all these dear Christians big and small as my children and they treated me as their mother. It was touching to see with what respect, with what deference they come to ask me for advice and obey like children." (A Life in Letters p.223-24)

Love for the Poor and Marginalized

APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

The people recognized the good work done by the missionaries and began to approach them for their various needs. Mother Veronica speaks of a young lady who on a Friday evening to the convent and spent the night there to enjoy the privilege of taking the discipline with them after matins. Another young man, a good friend of the Father Marie Ephrem, seeing the piety and modesty of the convent young girls wanted to marry one of them. (Autobiography God alone suffices p.56-57)

Love for the Poor and Marginalized

APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

Mother Veronica was beginning to cherish the fruit of their hard labour, and there she receives the obedience to Rangoon in Burma. She was appointed to replace the Superior there who had just left. Mother Veronica shares her feelings, “I set out therefore with some anguish of heart on my side and on that of all these dear Christians, who accompanied me as far as the waterside to begin my journey of a thousand leagues further. I was alone and it was the season of monsoon.” (Autobiography p.58)

Love for the Poor and Marginalzied

APOSTOLIC CARMEL CONGREGATION

In Rangoon, too Mother Veronica worked with schoolchildren, boarding school and orphanage. Poor had become part of her life. She speaks of a stranger, a poor coolie who came from interior of the country. This poor man was misused by poonghies – (the priests of the idols) and then thrown away to die. When she came to know of it, she picked him from his miserable condition. She fed and nursed him, and got him treated by a physician. Some days later when he regained his senses, she spoke to him about Christianity. Touched by their kindness the man showed great desire to be baptized and go to heaven. He said, “I wish to be like you… You have been good and charitable to me when the poonghies threw me to the jackals. I want to go where you are going after death.” (Autobiography p. 59-60)

Jun 2021 - Dec 2021 (7 months)

Virtues of Mother Veronica

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Strange Destiny

1st Dec 2019 - 31st May 2020 (6 months)

Life of letters