In 1957, the Dutch Prior Provincial, Fr. Brocardus Meyer together with Fr. Richard Vissers journeyed to the Philippines looking for possibilities to start the Order and to assist to the pastoral needs of the Church in the Philippines. Moreover, there are also indications that the Order had planned a possible support center in the Pacific Region in the event the Dutch Carmelites were forced to leave Indonesia.
A number of invitations were received from the dioceses of Sorsogon, Cebu, Tuguegarao and Dumaguete. The Order accepted the invitation from Bishop Epifanio Surban of Dumaguete to take the most northern part of the Diocese of Dumaguete in Negros Island. In March 1958, the Vicariate of St. Anthony in northeast Negros, comprising the parishes of St. Anthony of Padua in Toboso and St. Francis of Assisi in Old Escalante and the Chaplaincy of Central Danao in the province of Negros Occidental in western Visayas were entrusted to the Carmelites.
March 16, 1958 is considered the founding day of Philippine Carmel. The founders of Philippine Carmel were Fr. Richard Vissers (Prior), Fr. Wirenfried Viesters, Fr. Theodulf Vrakking from the Dutch Carmel Province, and Fr. Fidelis Limcaco, a Filipino and member of the PCM Province joined the pioneering community.
In 1961, the first definitive monastery was inaugurated and blessed with the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish Church and Mount Carmel College were opened in New Poblacion Escalante in Negros Occidental. Aside from the parish and school ministries, the Carmelites also engaged with sectoral groups, cooperatives and social action programs.
On April 16, 1963, the Order was invited by the Bishop of Surigao to take the parish of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in San Francisco in Agusan del Sur. Subsequently, the Carmelites administered three (3) schools (Mount Carmel College of San Francisco, Father Urios High School of Prosperidad and Mount Carmel High School of Rosario); and started three (3) other parishes in neighboring towns (St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Prosperidad, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish in Rosario, and San Vicente Ferrer Parish in Patin-ay). Carmel in Agusan del Sur now belongs in the Diocese of Butuan, in Caraga region, one of the remaining rainforest areas of the country. The Carmelites were also involved in the diocesan social action and indigenous people’s programs and liturgical apostolates.
In the meantime, the Carmelites were actively involved in the implementation and realization of the renewal and reorientation programs effected by the just concluded Vatican II Council in 1965 which caused tremendous changes in the entire Church.
In 1965, the first seminary was opened in New Escalante, Negros Occidental for young candidates who would like to be Carmelites. The seminarians go to the nearby Mount Carmel College for their degree courses up until 1994 when the Order decided to transfer the entire college formation program to Cebu City in Central Visayas.
In 1967, the Carmelites rented a house in Looban, Paco, Manila as mission house to serve as the center of communications and transient house for the friars and lay partners who come from the provinces.
In 1968, the Carmelites opened and worked in the Diocese of Iligan, Lanao del Norte in Central Mindanao with the labor and workers’ organization in the National Steel Corporation and with the Diocesan Social action program. In 1981, the Order also responded to the invitation to take two (2) parishes (the towns of Benito Soliven and San Mariano) in the Diocese of Ilagan, Isabela province in Northern Luzon. During this period too, some Carmelites became professors in various seminaries and institutes in Manila. One Carmelite became the Executive Secretary of the Episcopal Commission for Tribal Filipinos of the Bishops’ Conference.
A major concern at that time was how to build the Church that is responsive to the signs of the times and how to unite the different kinds of people coming from different islands and regions. Vatican II and the Mindanao-Sulu Pastoral Conference (MSPC) gave a necessary push for more experimentation in the liturgy and for more participation of the laity, respectively.
In 1972, Martial Law was declared by a dictator- president. Within this period the Carmelites participated actively in awareness, conscientization and social action programs. They concentrated on sectoral organizations of farmers and plantation workers. Community programs and services like Cooperatives, Community Based Health, Justice and Peace were promoted by the Carmelites and its lay-partners.
In 1982, the community of friars working with social action and workers’ program in Iligan was closed due to security reason. In 1990, the missions in the Diocese of Ilagan in Isabela were turned over to the Diocese of Ilagan due to lack of personnel.
In 1987, a house for novitiate was acquired in Mendoza St., Paco, Manila which in 1998 was transferred to its definitive location in Tandang Sora, Quezon City and since then called the Spring of Carmel Novitiate House.
In 1988, the Carmelites together with the Redemptorists (CSsR) and the Franciscans (OFM) founded and opened a theological consortium called the Inter- Congregational Theological Center (ICTC) with its three pillars: academics, pastoral and spirituality programs. From then on, the Carmelites are involved in the administration and professorial works in ICTC which is the Ecclesiastical Graduate School of the Our Lady of the Angels Seminary in Quezon City.
In 1989, a number of lay workers who are attracted to Carmel and former Carmelite friars who want to continue its relations with Carmel, organized themselves in prayer and sharing groups. Later, they were called Lay Associates of the Order in the commissariat and have grown in number and presently integrated as members of the local regular community.
In 1991, the Carmelites opened the Titus Brandsma Center (TBC) in New Manila, Quezon City to serve as an “Open Space” to all who are in search for a place where they want to meet and share, celebrate and reflect, listen and learn. TBC served different people from all walks of life; both religious and secular groups and organizations. The student friars also found their permanent place within the compound at the Elijah and Elisha houses from Escoda, Paco, Manila. Since 1988, the student- friars also stay in inserted communities in the urban poor areas of Manila as part of their formation program.
In 1994, the Provincial Commissariat conducted a Comprehensive Management Evaluation (CME) to sum-up the past thirty six (36) years of the Order’s presence and set the new direction and programs of the commissariat. The entire commissariat is geared towards independence and the building of a Filipino Carmel. Thus, internal consolidation in all spheres and systematization of all structures and programs were put in place.
On September 17, 1994, the Order’s presence in Cebu was welcomed by the Cardinal Archbishop himself, the College Formation program transferred to Cebu from Escalante, thus, the San Alberto Carmelite Formation Center was borne.
In 1995, the Manila Community (also known as Teresa of Avila Community) moved to its definitive location in Quezon City from Looban, Paco, Manila to Acacia Street, New Manila, Quezon City. Also, in the same year, the Young Carmel Philippine Foundation, Inc (YCPF) was established mainly to support the Formation program of the Commissariat.
In 1996, the Commissariat took the challenge of exploring new forms of evangelization, thus, the Titus Brandsma Media Education and Communications Program became a commissariat’s ministry. It is intended to educate and evangelize the Carmelite areas and the mainstream Philippine media practitioners. Through these years the media ministry evolved as the Titus Brandsma Media Center is committed in the pursuit of truth thru Spirituality and Social Communication and offered its core programs on Media Research, Media Education, Film Dialogue, Pastoral Care for Journalists and Artists, and the biennial Titus Brandsma Award Philippines for Press Freedom, Leadership in Journalism, Community Communication, Communication and Culture & Arts, Communication and Literature. The media ministry has organized filmmakers and artists thru the pelikula@titusBrandsma and a Lectio Divina group among journalists.
In 1999, the Center for Spirituality- Manila (CSM) was established as a research-based and scientific institute in the study of Spirituality. It was conceived by the Titus Brandsma Center- Spirituality Program and the Titus Brandsma Institute in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. The CSM was renamed in 2005 as the Institute of Spirituality in Asia (ISA), a research and academic institute for the scholarly study of Spirituality in the Philippines and in Asian region. ISA’s main programs are research, publications, academic program (graduate and certificate courses), annual spirituality fora and public lectures, and library development.
From 1961 to 1994, yearly convention of all the members is held. Since 1997, an assembly (provincial commissariat chapter) has been convened every three (3) years. The provincial commissariat had just celebrated its 3rd assembly (chapter) last October 2003 and moved for the establishment of an Independent General Commissariat in early 2005. The commissariat formulated its own Mission Statement, Statutes and Formation Manual and were duly approved by the Assembly and the commissariat’s Council. The provincial commissariat launched its Spiritual Preparation Towards Independence of all the members and communities on March 25, 2004; alongside with organizational, apostolic and technical strengthening and consolidation in all spheres.
On July 16, 2004, the Prior General and Council had elevated the Provincial Commissariat into a General Commissariat and convened the First General Commissariat Chapter in February 2005. Mission Ad Gentes was a priority of the commissariat, particularly in the Asian region.
In 2005, the Carmelites responded to the invitation of the Bishop of Balanga in Central Luzon and established San Vicente Ferrer Parish in Saysain, Bagac, Bataan. In 2007, the Bishop of Novaliches in south- Quezon City entrusted the pastoral administration to the Carmelites; the Sagrada Familia Parish, Sitio Veterans and in 2008 the San Isidro Labrador Parish; both parishes are in Brgy. Bagong Silangan, Quezon City.
In February 2008, Carmel Spirituality Center and Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was inaugurated by the Archbishop of Palo in Ormoc City, Leyte in Eastern Visayas region under the community of San Alberto in Cebu and the Pastors’ community ad experimentum based in San Isidro Labrador Parish, Brgy. Silangan, Quezon City was created in July 2008.
The 2nd General Commissariat Chapter and the grand celebration of the golden jubilee of Carmel Philippines were celebrated in February 2008 in Agusan Carmel in Caraga region. On the feast of St. Teresa of Avila, October 15, 2008, the first three (3) Filipino Carmelites-- Perfecto Adeva, Reynold Caigoy and Edwin Magbago left for the Diocese of Bereina, Papua New Guinea (PNG) to start O.Carm. presence in the Oceania continent with the support of the General Curia. On October 19, 2008, the O.Carm. friars were welcomed and installed in Kubona parish, in the Diocese of Bereina, in Papua New Guinea by Bereina Bishop Rochus J. Tatamai, MSC with the clergy and the parishioners of Kubona mission areas. Hence, the Philippine Carmel General Commissariat of Blessed Titus Brandsma gave realization to O.Carm. Papua New Guinea.
The Philippine Carmel General Commissariat is under the tutelage and patronage of Blessed Titus Brandsma, a Dutch Carmelite priest, educator, journalist, mystic and martyr of the 20th century.
The Carmelite Province of Blessed Titus Brandsma of the Philippines was canonically erected on July 16, 2013 thru a Decree of Canonical Erection passed and approved by the Most Rev. Fernando Millan y Romeral, O.Carm., the Prior General of the Order with his Council, dated and signed on March 25, 2013 at the Order’s General Curia in Rome.
A holy mass was celebrated on the occasion of the Canonical Erection and the celebration of the solemnity of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel on July 16, 2013, held at the Immaculate Comception Cathedral of the Diocese of Cubao in Manila, Quezon City. The Rev. Christian Korner, O.Carm., the Vice Prior General of the Order presided the celebration the celebration in behalf of the Prior General. The Rev. Albertus Herwanta, O.Carm. the Councilor General for Asia, Africa and Oceania read the Decree of Canonical Erection.