The Carmelite Missionaries, who were sent to Malabar by Pope Alexander VII in the year 1657, started a small Seminary at Verapoly in 1682. The Seminary worked satisfactorily for some time, but it had to be closed down owing to some adverse circumstances.
The Re-organized Seminary (1764-1886)
On 14th September 1764, the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide wrote to the Vicar Apostolic of Verapoly asking him to re-open the Seminary at Verapoly for the formation of both the Latin and the Syrian Clergy. During 1774 – 1866 we find candidates of both Syrians and Latins receiving formation in the Verapoly Seminary.
The Central Seminary at Puthenpally (1866-1932)
The Seminary at Verapoly was shifted to the new buildings at Puthenpally in the year 1866. In 1888 the Seminary of Puthenpally was constituted the Major Central Seminary for the whole of Malabar, and was placed under the immediate jurisdiction of the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide. Important changes were made in the curriculum of studies as demanded by the exigencies of the time and circumstances. It was during this time that the study of languages such as Sanskrit, Greek, Hebrew and Malayalam was introduced in the curriculum.
The Central Apostolic Seminary at Mangalapuzha, Alwaye (1932)
Owing to the increase in the number of students at Puthenpally, a new seminary with better accommodation was built at Mangalapuzha, Alwaye. On 1st June 1932, the Theology Section was transferred from Puthenpally to the new Seminary, which was still under construction. In December of the same year, when more accommodation was made available in the new Seminary, the Philosophy Section too was transferred to Mangalapuzha. The official inauguration of the new Seminary was held on 28th January, 1933 by the Most Rev. Leo P. Kierkels, C.P., the then Apostolic Delegate of India. The Seminarians at that time numbered 274. On 2nd January 1951 there took place the blessing of the newly constructed chapel of the Seminary.
Carmelgiri, New Seminary for the Philosophy Students
The increase in the vocations to priesthood necessitated further extension. A nearby hillock was bought and a new building was constructed on it and it was to become the new Seminary for Philosophy students, named “St Joseph Apostolic Seminary, Carmelgiri.” On 24th November 1955 His Excellency the Most Rev. Martin Lucas, the then Apostolic Internuncio to India, blessed and inaugurated it.
Seminary Raised to Pontifical Status
In 1964 the Seminary was raised to the “Pontifical Status” by the Holy See. His Excellency the Most Rev. James Robert Knox read the Papal Brief at a public meeting in the Seminary on June 14, 1964.
K.C.B.C. Entrusted with the Direction and Administration of the Seminary
The Carmelite Order continued to administer the Seminary until its transfer to the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Conference on June 12, 1976. On October 27, 1973, a formal request for the transfer of the seminary was made by the Superior General of the Carmelites which was jointly approved by the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. The Statutes of the Seminary made by the two Congregations state that “St. Joseph’s Pontifical Seminary is a pluri-ritual Institution, common to the three Rites, namely the Syro-Malabar, the Latin and the Syro-Malankara.” It was also stated that “the Seminary belongs to the Holy See and that its direction and administration is entrusted to the Conference of the Bishops of the three Rites of the Kerala region, subject to the high authority of the Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Churches and the Sacred Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples.”
The Church of Kerala is greatly indebted to the dedicated missionaries of the Carmelite Order for the best kind of formation they imparted to the clergy of Kerala for three centuries and more. It is a matter of great joy and honour for the Seminary that the cause for the beatification of two of its Professors, Rev. Fr. Aurelian O.C.D. and Rev. Fr. Zacharias O.C.D., has been taken up. Rev. Fr. Aurelian was declared venerable on 26 March 1999 and Fr. Zacharias on 27 January 2014. Rev. Fr. Aurelian had served the Seminary for 51 years and Fr. Zacharias, for 45 years.
Pontifical Institute of Theology and Philosophy, Alwaye
On February 24, 1972, the Congregation for Catholic Education issued a decree erecting a Theological Faculty in the Pontifical Seminary, Alwaye. On 1st October 1974 a similar decree was issued by the same Congregation erecting a Faculty of Philosophy in the Pontifical Seminary, Alwaye.
Carmelgiri: Major Seminary for the Latin Rite Community
In compliance with the request of the K.C.B.C., made on June 5, 1995, for separate campuses on the basis of Rites, the Holy See has, without prejudice to the Pontifical Institute, Alwaye, which remains common to all the three Rites, issued its nihil obstat by Prot. 4368/96, dated October 7, 1996, to re-organize St. Joseph’s Pontifical Seminary, Alwaye. As per the above decree, in view of promoting better formation in matters of Liturgy, spirituality and tradition of each sui iuris Church, the Carmelgiri campus was assigned to the Latin Rite.
Construction of the New Theology Block
The new situation necessitated various constructions. The construction of a three-storied building with a plinth area of 7630 square metres took four years until it got completed toward the end of May 2002 under the efficient leadership succesively of Rt. Rev. Dr. Stanley Roman (Bishop of Quilon) and Rt. Rev. Msgr. Joseph Etturuthil the then Rectors of the Seminary. The new block provides accomodation for as many as 12 staff members and 120 students of Theology.
The Theology Block was completed with the addition of a new kitchen and refectory, Chapel and Assembly Hall, during 2003-2004.
Devotion to the Blessed Mother is an integral part of the priestly formation. The magisterium of the Church and the illustrious lives of the Carmelite Missionaries have imparted such legacy to us. To immortalise our filial devotion to the blessed Mother we have erected a statue of her in front of the Theology Block surrounded by beautiful gardens.
A quiet room at the top floor of the Seminary is ideally furnished and is set apart for meditation.
The entrance of the Carmelgiri Campus is now beautified with a relief map of the Holy Land.
New Library Block
A full-fledged library with the modern facilities is a long- standing dream of our Seminary. On July 16th 2010, on the feast day of Our Lady Mount Carmel, the foundation stone for the new library was laid by His Grace Francis Kallarackal, the Archbishop of Verapoly. The construction is underway. We hope to complete it soon.
St. Joseph Pontifical Seminary, Carmelgiri, Alwaye, is a home which nurtures committed and enlightened disciples of Christ to be servant leaders of the people through philosophical and theological formation to build up the Kingdom of God, a just, human, secular and free society.
Carmelgiri aims at the formation of seminarians in the multi- religious and cultural context of India, through human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral programmes, to equip them to be Catholic priests building up the family of God in order that the dignity of the human person and his/her environment may be upheld.
The Seminary is very grateful to the Pontifical Work of St. Peter the Apostle, Rome, the Missio Bregenz, the Archdiocese of Köln, the Aid for the Church in Need, the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Missio Munich, and Foundation Baillairge, Canada, OPSPA, Montreal and Malta and others, for the financial support they extend to us. We most earnestly beseech the Lord to shower His choicest blessings upon each and everyone of them and the dear benefactors and benefactresses of these organizations.
We are grateful to our Prelates, Staff Members and those who discharge various ministries and services routinely and impromptu.