The Capuchin history of Amala Annai Province goes back far earlier than 1972. Tamil Nadu enjoys a special privilege in the history of Christian tradition and Capuchin presence in India. Tamil Nadu is a land of exceptional culture and tradition dating back to 5000 years of civilization, and its language “Tamil” is one of the living languages of antiquity like Greek, Latin and Sanskrit. The Christian tradition holds that 51. Thomas, one of the Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, preached the Good News and was martyred at Mylapore, Madras, now known as Chennai in AD 72.
Fr. John of Monte Corvino, the first Franciscan missionary to India ministered at Mylapore from 1291 to 1292, Later, the feet of the first Six French Capuchin missionaries touched the land of Pondicherry in 1632 leading to the foundation of the first Capuchin Mission, it was officially erected in the year 1674. During this time, Fr. Ephraim de Nevers, a French Capuchin missionary, founded also the first Christian mission in Madras in the new township of the British on July 8, 1642.
This efficient and effective Capuchin missionary erected the first church in Madras and founded the first English medium school in India. These Capuchins served from1632 to 1834 (202 years) in the Tamil region and became the pioneer missionaries to the dioceses of Pondicherry, Madras and Chingleput, establishing new Christian Catholic Communities, erecting churches and responding to the social concerns of the People. The first French missionaries continued their evangelization mission in South India until 1834. The mission ended due to lack of personnel caused by the French Revolution in 1789. However, the Lord’s grace ended the 109 years of Capuchin absence in Tamil Nadu, with the establishment of the Indian Commissariat in 1921 and the subsequent re-entry into Tamil Nadu in Amalashram, Srirangam, Trichy on June 13, 1943. Amalashram became one of the man cradles of the re-establishment of the Capuchins throughout India and more particularly in Tamil Nadu, with the establishment of Tamil Nadu Province in 1972.
Amala Annai Province (meaning Immaculate Conception), Tamil Nadu was established within the territorial jurisdiction of Tamil Nadu, India during the bifurcation of the united Province of India on May 9, 1972. Br. Jonathan Nathan was appointed the first Provincial with Coimbatore continuing to be the Provincial curia of the new Province. At that time there were fifty friars and seven friaries. With a steady inflow of Tamil vocations, the province grew day after day, spreading into sixteen dioceses, establishing twenty-four friaries, of which fourteen are parishes and six are animation centres. The Capuchins are a force to be reckoned with, within the Church in Tamil Nadu, with their evangelical, spiritual, pastoral and social activities all over this region. The Lord has blessed the province abundantly with vocations.
The mission and ministry of this province are not confined within its walls. Following the itinerant nature of the Order, the ministry of this province has reached far and wide. Tamil Nadu province reached the shores of Africa in 1989 by undertaking the Zimbabwe mission. The zeal and the dedication of the Tamil missionaries gave birth to a custody in Zimbabwe in 1999. In the same year, the province was also entrusted with the mission of Burkina Faso (West Africa). Apart from the African missions, the province also assists other Capuchin provinces such as: the General Vice Province of Arabia since 1987, The Capuchins of Central Canada since 1995, and the Province of France since 2003. Thus province has also responded readily to any request of the Order for ministry and mission at the international level.