Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in response to the needs of the time, the congregation of Carmelite Sisters, also known as Sisters of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, took its origin on 28th Match 1872 in Luxembourg. It started as an Association of Sr. Zitha for Christian maids by Mother Paula Bove with the help of Professor Nicholas Wies and Mother Josepha Niederprum.
The Association was established due to the situation in Luxembourg whereby many young women and girls were flocking to the city of Luxembourg from the villages in Luxembourg, France Germany and Belgium (since Luxembourg shares boundaries with the three countries) seeking employment. Many of them were employed as house maids while others were unemployed, but still remained in the city of Luxembourg. Their lives both spiritual and physical were at risk as they did not have reliable places to stay.
The Association was established in view of this to provide living quarters to the girls and women at the same time teaching them home craft like sewing and other hand work activities to help them earn their living as they waited for the chance of being employed. The Association also helped these girls and young women to find employment in different homes. The provision of the hostel by the Association of St. Zitha gave a great opportunity of imparting Christian values to the girls and young women. This helped them spiritually and improved their moral life.
From the beginning, this Association was a religious association with rules approved by the Bishop of Luxembourg and a Spiritual Director.
After having rented a house for the new association in the Phillip Street and having renovated it in 1873 and 1874, Anna Bove, Professor Wies and Luzia Niederprum thought of giving this association a permanent security for the future by founding a congregation. On 2nd February1875, a new congregation of sisters in Luxembourg was founded with its first apostolate as promoting well-being of domestic workers. It was on 2nd February 1875 when the Bishop of Luxembourg Nicolas Adames, gave an approbation of the founding of the congregation with diocesan rights under the name of Sisters of St. Zitha. Professor Wies presented the habit to Anna Bove and Luzia Niederprum. Thus Anna Bove became Sr. Maria Paula of the Holy Sacrament and Luzia Niederprum became Sr. Maria Josepha of Jesus and Mary. A translation of the constitutions of the Carmelite nuns of Brugges served as the first rules of the sisters who were first called Sisters of St. Zitha. The colour of the habit and half-long scapular showed their strong desire to become children of Our Lady of Carmel.
On 21st November 1880 the two sisters Sr. Maria Paula and Sr. Maria Josepha took their first vows. Dechant Haal took their request of annexation to the Carmelite Order, to the General of Carmelite Brothers (Discalced Carmelites). In 1885, the constitutions of the Carmelite nuns in Linz were adapted to suit the situation of Luxembourg.
The efforts of Dechant Haal and Fr. Etienne, General of the Carmelite Brothers in Belgium, on the issue of annexation were successful. In 1886, Bishop Koppes presented to the sisters two annexation documents and the CARMELITE RULE (Rule of Albert) was also given to them. On 29th January 1886, the aggregation with the Order of Discalced Carmelites was confirmed. From that time, the new congregation became a Carmelite congregation with all the rights and privileges as attributed to the Order of Discalced Carmelites, reformed by St. Teresa of Jesus and St. John of the Cross. Since then, the official name of this congregation is: The Congregation of the Third Order Regular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel-Luxembourg, in short, Sisters of Our lady of Mount Carmel
Then the sisters were given a brown habit of Our Lady of Mount Carmel with long scapular and with cape.
The sisters of Our lady of Mount Carmel know themselves to be committed to the spirituality of the Carmelite-Teresian Order and strive according to the keynote of the constitutions to be available selflessly and without reservation for the honour of the Father and well-being of their neighbour, in a life that is apostolic and contemplative in the following of Christ.
Charism: to be ready to serve selflessly in following Christ for the Glory of God and the well-being of His people.
Care of girls and young women has always been a concern in their service of the people of God.
The congregation grew and many communities were opened in Luxembourg, France, Germany and Belgium. Due to the needs of time, their apostolates were mainly in health services, Nursery Schools, homes of the aged and pastoral work.
The congregation was given a decree of approval on 8th February 1955 by Pope Pius Xll. On 31st May 1966, a papal approbation was given to become a pontifical congregation.
Invitation of the Congregation to Malawi by Bishop Faddy
Monsignor Faddy, that time, Bishop of Lilongwe Diocese, asked our congregation to establish a foundation in Malawi in the year 1957 while he was touring through Europe searching for sisters for his diocese. Our General Council with the help of the Holy Spirit promised him four sisters. In 1959, the first sisters came to Malawi and worked at Namitete in a small dispensary.
The sisters were working in the dispensary and they made it possible to support maternal mothers with proper health care, as one way of keeping the spirit of concern for women and girls. For the female hospital attendants, a hostel was built and the sisters took a chance of imparting Christian values on the girls and they were also taught handcraft activities at their free time. Now the small dispensary has become big under the name St. Gabriel’s Hospital.
Recruitment of Malawian girls
In 1964, after staying in Malawi for 6 years, the sisters thought of recruiting Malawian girls into the congregation. The first 5 girls went for their Carmelite formation to the common Novitiate in Luxembourg.
In 1966, two novices left the congregation whilst in Luxembourg. In 1967, three of them came back as young novices and continued their formation in a newly built novitiate at Namitete.
The diocese of Lilongwe asked the sisters to run an existing Health Centre in Madisi, Dowa district. On 2nd February 1965, three sisters went to Madisi to work in the hospital. The Health Centre became a hospital after some years due to increase in patients and different cases. After 22 years of working in this hospital, the sisters and the diocese decided to handover the hospital to the Franciscan sisters from Germany. This was because of shortage of personnel to run two hospitals, Namitete and Madisi. The handover was done in January 1987.
In 1971, two priests (Fr. Verenoy and his Brother) from Ganya Mission, in collaboration with Bishop Cornelius Chitsulo of Dedza Diocese asked for some sisters to help in the parish and running a small dispensary/Maternity. Following the first apostolate of the congregation which was care for women and girls, the sisters established Domestic Science schools for women throughout the area.
Women and girls were trained in sewing, knitting, cookery and other handcraft activities in order to improve their standard of living.
Due to developments in the country, the turn up for girls and women to Domestic Schools decreased in each year in the late 1990s. This led to the closure of the Domestic Schools in all the out stations where there were Domestic Centres. The closing of Domestic Schools gave an opportunity to the opening of a Nursery School for the families around Ganya area.
On 2nd January 2001, a Nursery School was opened at Ganya parish. The purpose was to prepare children from 3 to 5 years to primary school education. It was also a special chance to impart Christianity and good moral values to the children while they were still young.
St. Teresa Prayer House opened on 15th October 1987
For a long time, there was a vision to build a Prayer Centre. This idea was fulfilled when late Bishop Matthias Chimole give the sisters a place next to Msamba Pastoral Centre that could be used for this purpose. At the same time, there was a great need for a retreat house for the Association of Women Religious Institutes of Malawi. This quest was fulfilled by the opening of this centre on 15th October 1987, under the name St. Teresa Prayer House. This centre stands under the protection of St. Teresa of Jesus (St. Teresa of Avila) the great reformer of the Carmelite Order and a woman of deep prayer.
Since the opening of this house, many religious women have come and found strength and renewal for their personal/spiritual lives and ministries, in which they are engaged throughout Malawi and other countries. In close collaboration with “Association of Women Religious Institutes of Malawi” the purpose of the centre is fulfilled.
For some years now, the house has been open for sessions, workshops and many different activities in promoting men and women Religious in the country for their spiritual and psychological needs. Being Carmelites whereby prayer is part and parcel of our life and apostolate, this has been a great chance to create an appropriate environment that promotes spiritual nourishment and growth. It is very much in line with the Carmelite-Teresian Charism which we share.
Bethany Guest House
Three years later, after St. Teresa was opened, a guest house was also opened to offer accommodation to Religious, Laity and organisations that come in town for various purposes and need a quiet and comfortable place to spend a night/s.
As years passed, extensions were made to provide a hall for meetings, workshops, sessions and seminars. Various NGOs, religious institutions, government and church organisations book this centre for their meetings, workshops etc.
Establishment of Formation House in Zomba Diocese in 2011
The congregation felt the need to be present in the Southern Region of Malawi. A formation house was felt to be an ideal of this presence in order to target vocations from the Southern Region of Malawi. Zomba diocese was then chosen for its richness in resource persons to support the formation house. Zomba has a Major Seminary which means the lecturers can easily help. A Carmelite Spiritual Centre is near Zomba which can be very supportive in terms of spiritual animation.
The Bishop of Zomba accepted the idea with enthusiasm and gave a piece of land at St. Agnes Parish in Mlombozi area which is 3.5 kilometres from the main road at Namadzi. The formation house was opened in 2011 by Bishop Luke Msusa
Requirements for candidates who want to join our congregation
- A baptised and confirmed Catholic girl from 18 years of age and above, with a strong will to love and serve God
- A girl with good and moral Christian behaviours and with readiness to follow Christ
- Good Christian background-active in small Christian Communities
- A girl with MSCE with points not more than 36, and with at least a credit in English and science subjects
- Active and hardworking girl who is ready to serve.
Mlombozi-Zomba Diocese : +265 999 924 303
Ganya -Dedza Diocese : +265 882 574 229
Namitete -Lilongwe Archdiocese : +265 999 211 610
St. Teresa & Bethany-Lilongwe Archdiocese : +265 998 863 763