The ‘Apostolic Carmel’ is an Indian Congregation of Sisters which was established in India on 19th November 1870. It was founded in Bayonne, France on 16th July, 1868 by Mother Veronica of the Passion. She was a holy and dedicated woman who was inspired by God to start a congregation devoted mainly to the education of youth.
Sophie Leeves, her former name, born on 1st October, 1823, was an English lady, daughter of Marina Leeves and Rev. Henry Daniel Leeves, a military Chaplain to the British Ambassador. She was well educated and an extremely versatile person. Besides being a writer, she was also an excellent musician.
She had everything but not truly happy. It was at this time that she received a call from God to give herself totally to the service of God. In response, she joined the Congregation of sisters of St. Joseph of Apparition, on 14th September, 1851. As a nun, she received a new name – Sister Veronica of the Passion.
Having worked in several schools in Europe, she was sent to Calicut, India in 1862. She showed a special love for the less fortunate. She wanted both the rich and the poor to enjoy all the ‘goods of the land’ – God’s gift for his people. She learnt Malayalam, eager to fit herself to give an all round development to the girls in this new field of labour where Malayalam was the chief language.
It was while here that she heard another call – a call to enter ‘Carmel’. Relying on God and empowered by Him, she surmounted all difficulties, ridicule and insult and went back to France in 1867. She started a small house in Bayonne and there the Apostolic Carmel was born. She trained a batch of three sisters and sent them to India. As with other works taken in faith. Once again the history of the Apostolic Carmel proves the truth of the Biblical maxim: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn.12:24) The house in Bayonne had to be closed. But this closure gave the A.C. a singular characteristic – making it completely indigenous.
It was on 19th November, 1870 that the three Sisters landed in Mangalore and started the St.Ann’s School for girls. Mother Veronica had fulfilled the purpose God had called her for – “A Carmel for the Mission”.
She had yet another call – a call to the cloistered Carmel. Truly she could say she lived up to her maxim: “Obedience is my life”. For the next 33 years of her life, until her saintly death on November 16, 1906, she continued to water the tiny plant that she transplanted in India on November 19, 1870, with her prayer and sacrifice.