The Carmelites in Balluta
According to the Carmelite Provincial archives, the first Carmelite friars who went to Balluta on the 22nd of May 1890 were: Fr. Angelo Mallia who was the Prior, Fr. Avertan Said and Fr. Albert Grech. There was also an unnamed brother.
At first they stayed in one of the mezzanines situated in Balluta that the ‘Carmelite Confraternity’ owned, which was founded in the Basilica Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Valletta. To welcome them on their arrival a big celebration was held, attended by many friars and distinct people. At this celebration, a welcome speech was made by the Rector of the Confraternity, lawyer Vinċenzo Pons. Afterwards the keys of the existing church were handed over to the Vicar Provincial Fr. Lwiġi Malfatti. When the land was acquired the friars had already begun thinking of building a new Priory on plans made by the architect Galvani Trevisani. The works were seen through by Fr. Giljan Callejja, and funded by the Priories of Valletta and Mdina.
The Priory was completed in May 1892 and officially opened and blessed by the Prior General of the order Fr. Lwiġi Galli. A marble plaque at the Priory entrance leading to the church commemorates this. This was inscribed in Latin and made at the time when Fr. Dijonisju Attard was prior.
With the arrival of the first Carmelites in Balluta, the place began to develop at a fast pace. In fact on the 6th of December 1900, the Prior called for a community reunion made up of himself and two other friars Fr. Anastasju Cuschieri and Fr. Joseph Dalli to propose the enlargement of the church, to cope with the spiritual needs of the growing number of people. For this task they asked to borrow the sum of £250 (Sterling) from the Archbishop’s Curia which was given to them at a three percent interest rate. However since the money they borrowed from the Curia was not enough, they borrowed a further £100 from the other Carmelite Priories of Mdina and Valletta.
In 1906 the Carmelite friars enlarged the sacristy by taking a part of the mezzanine’s garden. The new church consisted of a main Nave with 2 side Aisles, a Transept a Choir and Apse and a sacristy. The church was consecrated by the Archbishop Dom Mauro Caruana OSB. in 1911.
Fifty years later, the friars once again felt the need to enlarge the church as the town was no more a place for summer vacation but had become a residential area with an ever growing population. It is worth noting that the church had never been hit by bombs during the war, but the roof was in need of much maintenance. On the 11th of January 1955 the friars studied the new church plans presented to them by the architect Andrea Micallef and on the 3rd of August 1958, the Prior Provincial Fr. Carmel Vella blessed the first stone of the church. Work on the church was well underway. Since the old church was in a dangerous state and the new church was being built around it, it needed to be demolished. After the demolition took place, and the tiling had been done the church began to be used for mass. In the meantime the building of the church facade and the belfries continued. On the 12th of December 1984, the Archbishop of Malta H.G. Msgr. Joseph Mercieca consecrated the church to God and dedicated it to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. There were several beautiful works carried out within the new church such as paintings, stained glass windows, and a new niche for the statue of Our Lady. A blue velvet canopy was added later and more recently an altar of repose for Maundy Thursday.
The Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Balluta becomes a parish
There were many people who desired that the church be raised to the rank of a parish church, and sure enough on the 25th of May 1974, the Archbishop of Malta H.G. Msgr. Michael Gonzi issued a decree for this parish which came into effect on Sunday 16th June 1974.
The Parish priests who have served since the decree are, Fr. Damjan Cachia who was the first parish priest, Fr.Leonard Mahoney, Fr. Raymond Calleja, Fr. Richard Falzon, Fr. Joseph Falzon, Fr. Maurice Abela and Fr. Joseph Saliba the current parish priest.
The birth of the new parish brought with it the creation of a parish centre. This was used for activities such as group meetings, cathecism, cultural meetings as well as billiard and table tennis competitions. At first the ‘Queens Hall’ in Old College Street was used as the Parish Centre before moving into their own new Parish Centre in the Priory garden in Scicluna Street. The centre was completed on the 16th of June 1986 and named Titu Brandsma. It is still in use to date.
Religious groups and Entities in the Balluta Parish
The first movement founded was the Carmelite Tertiaries which was started prior to the parish decree. According to the Tertiaries records, the first Carmelite Tertiary was Dolores Callejja who was enroled by the Tertiary director Fr. Eliżew Zarb on the 13th of October 1886. Today there are various entities and religious groups in the Balluta Parish. These are the, Carmelite Community, Sisters of the Sacred Heart who run a school for children and teach Doctrine, (Doctrine is also taught at Titu Brandsma), The Chapel of the Friend Jesus (Ġesù Ħabib) which is run by the Franciscan friars in full communion with the Carmelite friars, Parish Pastoral Council, Liturgy Commission, Cathecism Commission, Family Commision, Diocese Commision, External Feast Commission who together with the Karmnu Musical Society of Balluta founded in 1987 help the Procurator to make a feast worthy of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, GRUFAN, Legion Of Mary (Women), Catholic Action (Woman), YLOM TEENS (Addolescent and Youths group) and the Abramo Community.
There are also other Parish groups such as the, Altar boys/girls, Elderly Group, Helpers of the Adoration Chapel, Parish Choir, Church Decorating, Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers, Readers, Group of the Divine Mercy, Guitarist Group and the group of the Church Magazine Deliverers.
Throughout the years, there have been many friars, religious and lay people who have worked hard and contributed much towards this parish.
We Pray to Our Lady of Mount Carmel to protect us and make us true sons and daughters of Christ.
Father Hermann Duncan O.Carm