SANTA TEREZA


BORMLA
MALTA

A MISSIONARY COLLEGE TRANSFORMED INTO A HOUSE OF FORMATION


 
The Discalced Carmelite Friars (or Teresian Friars, as they are known locally) established their presence in Malta in the year 1625. The entire Order was behind the founding-project since, as a port of call, Malta was perhaps unique, even at the dawn of the Teresian venture in the missionary field. St. Teresa of Avila, her love for the Church expressed in her contemplative lifestyle and missionary zeal, will be always linked to the island of Malta.

Cospicua OCD Church
It was here that St. Teresa’s Missionary College saw the light of day and where the first church ever dedicated to the Saint since her canonization opened its doors, so to speak, to the general public. The Venetian fleet, monopolizing as it did the Mediterranean sea routes, was bound to call on the Maltese Islands that it might replenish itself with provisions and commercial cargo, as well as to load and unload passengers to and from the East. Foresighted and shrewd as he was by temperament, Father Paul Simon of Jesus Mary, Superior General of the Order based in Italy, could not have missed the right assessment and prospects of this situation. He wasted little time in taking swift action for the establishment of a Missionary College on these Islands. Father Paul Simon and his General Council gave their go ahead by officially establishing the first community on December 18, 1624. Fr. Joseph Angel of the Mother of God, a Spaniard, was commissioned to investigate the possibilities of realizing this missionary project, before taking up his new office as prior of one of the two houses in neighboring Sicily. Fr. Theodosius of the Holy Spirit, a Frenchman, joined him and both embarked on a Venetian vessel and set sail to Malta, arriving at the end of the year 1625. On their landing they were met by none other than their acknowledged friend, Msgr. Balthassar Cagliares, Maltese by nationality and Bishop of Malta. He offered them his warm hospitality, while the friars dealt with Grandmaster Antoine de Paul and his Council in connection with the proposed foundation.Statue of St.Tereza of Jesus
After the initial set-backs and difficulties that accompany such an endeavor, Fr. Joseph Angel was happy to report to his Superiors in Rome about the positive outcome. Fr. Paul Simon, a seasoned missionary himself, could scarcely have overlooked the difficulties involved in the handling of this projected foundation. To cope with such, he wisely chose to involve as many influencing personalities at his disposal. He obtained the patronage of Pope Urbanus VIII and King Ferdinand III. Bishop Cagliares proved to be a life-long benefactor and bought at his own expense the site selected by the friars. By now, Fr. Joseph Angel had proceeded to nearby Palermo and Fr.Alexius of St. Angelo, from Naples, and the laybrother Joseph of the Immaculate Conception, from Rome, arrived and concluded the necessary negotiations of the community with the Knights of Malta. The friars moved in their new home within the Grand Harbor area in Bur Mula (later named Cospicua), a site that proved to be conducive to the friars’ lifestyle and projected mission. The date of purchase was November 11, 1625. Fr. Alexius, then Vicar of the community, was elected as the first prior during the General Meeting of the Order held six months later.Church internal view

More was yet to come. The Order and Rome itself kept a close eye on the project. Rome solicited to have the Missionary College in Malta placed under the direct jurisdiction of the head of the Order and its Rector be elected by the General Chapter. The Council, known as the Definitory General, conceded to such a request, and on March 1, 1633, after due investigation and evaluation, granted the independence of the College from any religious Province of the Order. The hour had struck for the announcement of the official birthday of St. Teresa’s Missionary College. Urbanus VIII definitely confirmed such provisions for the future and issued the Bull, Decet nos, March 2, 1634. This document safeguarded the running of the missionary college for many years to come, and contributed in its own way to maintain the prestige of the house in Bur Mula. For over 150 years the house served its formation purposes through professors drafted from all the religious Provinces of the Reform of St. Teresa. Its tenor of life was duly checked and reinvigorated by pastoral visitations of Superiors. For the years 1636-1782, a number of 245 students hailing from different nations were recruited and trained for missionary purposes. Many more friars found a hospice in the house as they traveled to and from mission lands. Together with the courses of theology, particular attention was given to the studies of Oriental languages, such as Arabic, to facilitate communication for the future missionaries. It was a thriving community and many a friar contributed to the prestige of the college and the good of the Order. Among them one may mention the Italian Balthassar of St. Catherine, the French Isidor of St. Joseph and Dominic of the Trinity, the Belgian Dominic of St. Nicholas, the Dutch Caesar of St. Bonaventure and the Maltese Julius of the Holy Savior, Joseph Mary of the Sacred Heart and Cyril of the Mother of God. The last mentioned is reckoned as Father of the Maltese Province due to his untiring efforts and skills to gear the then dormant college into a potential province able to provide for its future. At the end of the 18th Century the provinces of the Order were disbanded due to the repercussions of the French Revolution throughout the European Continent. As Malta depended on recruits from abroad, with this source petering, the College could only die a natural death. However, every cloud has its silver lining. A reduced community survived with a different assignment. The house was eventually transformed into a regular novitiate, retaining its character to provide for the formation of the young Maltese who were called to embrace the Teresian way of life. The house in Cospicua was established for the first time as a novitiate by the Congregation for the Discipline of Regulars in Rome, October 3, 1790. Yet provisional norms issued by the Order retained the Maltese recruits as members of foreign Provinces. Matters changed with the establishment of the Semi-Province of Malta in 1896 since a second house was opened in Birkirkara. Today the monastery retains its role as house of formation for the young Maltese who join the Discalced Carmelite Order, in particular in their initial stages of postulancy and novitiate. The monastic walls of St. Teresa’s evoke a thriving era but, as always, within them a life of prayer remains the heart of every formation program.


full address:
Discalced Carmelite Fathers,
St. Teresa Convent,
St.Teresa street,
Cospicua  CPS 02.
MALTA.    Tel: +356   826111.

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