Mystic Cloistered Carmel Nun In Mangalore

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By Ivan Saldanha - Shet
Bellevision Media Network

Mangalore, Nov 21, 2013 : Christianity came to our Southern Coast of India soon after the death of Christ about 55 AD, much before it went to Europe. The Konkan and Kerala areas are rich in cultural and natural resources and devout people of all faiths, reputed for it’s harmony.The historical mosaic of cultures, languages and beliefs are in step with the human lives. The traditions point to a strong educational base and delicate life style. India since ancient times has been saturated with sages and saints. Kanara has a prime place in this scenario.

Several saintly who have lived and died in Mangalore are little known out side a narrow area of interest. Among few now in the race for sainthood in the church who are considered to have been to Mangalore are, Fr.Joseph Vaz, apostle of Sri Lanka (1651-1711), Mother Teresa of Kolkota and Pope John Paul II (to be Canonised early in 2014).

A small number of Catholics would be aware of a unique and enigmatic Arab Nun who is now on the threshold to sainthood having attained the ’Blessed’ church title, the final of the four steps to full sainthood. She lived in Mangalore for two years 1870-72 and is a French citizen of Lebanese origin. She is "Sr. MARIAM BAOURDY". In  1870 she came from France with a band of Pioneer ’Carmelites’ and lived in the present Carmel Convent premises now between ’State Bank’ in the center of the city and Rosario Cathedral the oldest church in the area. It is indeed a thrilling story! 



In recent times, on June 16,2008 to be exact one from the local Mangalorean community  has been declared ’Servant of God’ the first step towards being declared a saint by the Church. The saintly person Msgr.Raymond F C Mascarenhas (1875-1960)a priest of the Diocese of Mangalore and founder of the Bethany Sisters (at Bendur) in Mangalore.


This mystic MARIAM BAORDY, of Lebanese origin by birth was born on January 5,1846 in upper Galilee.  She was orphaned even before she was three and was adopted by relatives. She gladly embraced many sufferings in the orphan life and developed a special love for religion and holiness. The Carmelite nuns out of love and concern and admiration gave her work and shelter and whatever education that was possible. Her piousness compelled the prioress of the convent to admit her  as  a novice nun and she was sent to Pau in France in May 1867. The following year the then Bishop of Mangalore - Marie Ephrem OCD of France (Who died in 1873, and is buried in Rosario Cathedral Mangalore), on his visit there expressed his desire to have a group of nuns come over and start work on the West Coast of India. Obtaining permission from Vatican the head of the Carmelites mustered a pioneer group for the task. Strangely the fervent novice MARIAM BAOURDY  was the youngest chosen for this mission. Destiny thus directed her to India.



On November 19,1870 the courageous group after a gruelling journey of near 100 days landed at Mangalore port, via Madras and Calicut. The rough voyage took the lives of four of the group which was not too unusual in those times. Commencing their mission of prayer penance and work to call down God’s blessing on this region they took up temporary shelter with the newly started "Carmelite" or "Apostolic Carmel" convent still flourishing not  far from old port or ’Bundar’ in Mangalore city center. The room where the holy nun lived and prayed and the tiny old chapel where on November 21, 1871  she took her first vows is treated as sacred and preserved even today here.

Mariam took the name of "Sr Mary of Jesus Crucified" and was often referred to as the ’Little Arab’ among her community. Comparing her life with that of St (Sr) Alphonsa of Kerala; many similarities can be drawn. In keeping with her vows, she was called upon to return to France and left Mangalore on September 23,1972. After a few years of exemplary holy life in Pau,France; she was sent to her mother land where she laboured hard to establish a large convent in Bethlahem, the place of Christs birth. She died at the young age of 33 on August 26,1879. The important convent she founded in Bethlahem, today reflects her greatness.

Blessed Mariam’s miraculously preserved  remains life like are now venerated by many at the convent she founded in Bethlahem. She was declared "Blessed" , a the final step before sainthood, on November 13,1983 at the Vatican. It is understood that in this case the strict process of sainthood  may reach its logical conclusion and ’Canonozation’  materialize in the not too distant future! It may be noted that St (Sr) Alphonsa from a small town of Kerala gained the honours of sainthood in just 60 years a comparatively short time frame.




Time changes traditions and perspectives. For a time now not only the devout of the Mangalore belt, but particularly the young student groups appear to have reason to seek  the intercession of  Bl Mariam Baourdy. Since, 1882 the Cloistered Carmel Convent and Sacred Heart Chapel at the Kankanady Circle has been a veritable land mark with Fr.Muller’s Medical Center opposite. The majestic ’power house’ of prayer and meditation has become a solace to the region. A grotto like shrine, with a few spartan belongings used by Bl.Mariam, was opened here on August 28,2002. People come here with devotion for a prayerful visit throughout the day.  Presently, Eucharist and Novena is conducted every Wednesday at 5.30 pm here, for the devotees - many youth from Fr.Muller’s participate. Presently  the old crumbling Chapel here is being renovated and assistance from the generous is welcomed.

It is a credit to Mangalore that holiness of this caliber whatever the roots or creed, inspires people for upliftment. Even in these modern times, the prayerful contemplative nuns are shut out from the world voluntarily  to Glorify God.

The meaningful hymn that is sung here in honour of this saint-in-waiting plainly called Mariam Baourdy, translated from Konkani reads:

   "Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified - your name is beloved,
   Who once among us in Mangalore lived - Becoming for us a treasure"



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