Friday, May 22, 2015

May 22, 2015

Dear Sisters,

Today, my last day in Avila, has been simply remarkable. Just thinking about it I feel the tears coming once again.
Our morning began with Mass in English and a lovely homily by Fr. Greg Homeming of Australia. Following breakfast the sisters gathered with Fr. Rafal briefly for final instructions. We all signed a letter addressed to the Order which we will share with you soon - through the coordinators.
L-R Sr. Lucia (Holland), Sr. Elena (Spain), Sr. Maria Paola (Columbia) listen to Fr. Rafal.

L-R Sr. Jennifer (Australia), Sr. Lupita (Mexico), Sr. Bendina (Africa), Sr. Elena (Spain), 
Sr. Christine (France) 

After the meeting we all went to the CITeS computer room (11 of them!!) to print our boarding passes.

At every turn, CITeS has surprises! This is a patio off the dining room.

As we had time in the morning, several of us went to St. Thomas Dominican Monastery at the recommendation of Fr. Ramiro Casale (CA-AZ Province). It was very impressive and still functions as a parish church. 

The opening on the Right is a small confessional where St. Teresa went. 

Close up below. It's small!!

This is the priest's side of the confessional. 

Fr. Rafal arranged for the nuns who had not yet departed to go to Alba de Tormes in the afternoon. This is a photo of the landscape. It took us about an hour and fifteen minutes to get there from Avila.

We were surprised and delighted that the community of 9 sisters in Alba welcomed us into the monastery, treated us to home-made cakes, icecream and drinks and spent the next few hours with us showing us the monastery and museum. They could not have been more warm and welcoming!!

The Prioress immediately took us to the room where St. Teresa died. I could not restrain my tears nor could I take a photo of the room. It was somehow too special. But I did take a photo of this painting that depicts the room where she died accurately. 

This is the actual bell that was rung when St. Teresa died. The nuns rang it for us. Sr. Lucia's father was a watch-maker in Holland and she was fascinated with the interior working for the ancient bell.

Here we are with the community at Alba de Tormes in their refectory.

I was thrilled to learn that Sr. Iris (below, middle) sang in the Nada te Turbe virtual choir! She chose not to include her video - but only her voice. Knowing that I did not ask for a photo with her. So I was delighted when she came and asked me if we could have a photo together! All three of us here sang in the virtual choirs! :)

Below is a photo of a small part of the museum, which a few of the nuns took the time to show us. It was prepared especially for the 500th Centenary and is really, really beautifully done...unlike anything else I had seen. the design is contemporary and the simplicity of it helps the many artifacts they have on display stand out all the more. 

Below is the resting place of St. Teresa. It is usually locked with several keys behind metal bars. However, the Prioress was moved to open it for our veneration. It was very moving. Here in Alba I experienced Teresa's presence more than elsewhere. Several other sisters said the same thing. There was a spirit of gentleness, beauty and love here - not unlike what I experienced in Segovia where St. John of the Cross lies. 

We took photos of our group in front of the reliquary of Teresa. I believe it is evident from our countenance how moving this experience was for us. A great privilege!

After this the sisters took us around to the main chapel. St. Teresa's reliquary is above the main altar. 

Close up below...

We spent about 15 minutes in silent prayer here in the chapel with the community of Alba de Tormes before bidding them adieu. I prayed for our communities here - asking Teresa's blessing on all of us - and on each of us! 

Tonight at the end of dinner the friars thanked us for coming to share in their General Chapter. Fr. Saverio sends his blessing to all the sisters in the English-speaking region and counts on our prayers! 

For me, this has been a most extraordinary journey with the family of Carmel. I hope that each of you who have followed this blog have been able to experience the grace of this time in our Order! If Teresa were here now I might imagine her saying Vamos! Let's go! With our eyes fixed on Christ - let us wake up the world! 

With my love.
Your sister,

Thursday, May 21, 2015

May 21, 2015

Hello, Sisters!

Another wonderful day in Avila. The weather is clear and in the 60's. Crispy in the morning! Sr. Bendina (Africa) is shy about putting her nose out the door until the Friars come to pick us up and take us to CITeS for Mass at 8am. Today we began with morning prayer in Spanish as we went to the church where St. Teresa was born (La Sancta), within the walls of the old city - at 5pm. Following breakfast the sisters gathered with Fr. Rafal to de-brief about our experience of the previous 2 days with the Friars and AB Carballo. Gradually, we found our way through the maze of thoughts (followed always with translations) to a clear way forward. We decided to draft a letter which we will be sharing with the Chapter Friars and with you. Tomorrow we will check in with each other to see whether changes are needed, then we will sign it and share it with you. It's not earth-shaking so don't hold your breath. We just wanted to capture the experience we shared - which can be summed up in the words of the Gospel today: "That they all may be one."
While the sisters were engaged in dialogue today, the Friars celebrated the day with the OCarm General (whose name escapes me!) and members of the congregations affiliated with the Discalced Carmelites. All of them came to La Sancta in the afternoon to fill the church for the 5pm Mass, which was again - in Spanish. The music was provided by one of our Friars who accompanied his own singing with guitar and somehow roused great enthusiasm among the much so that several members of each branch of our Order gathered to dance in front of the altar during the closing hymn! Afterwards we politely crammed into a small side hallway to see the bed where St. Teresa was born. No surprise to find it was red!
Tomorrow some of the nuns will be departing after noon so our last time together will be in the morning. Fr. Rafal has arranged for us to visit Alba de Tormes in the afternoon with a chance also of visiting the nuns at the Encarnacion.
I end with lots of photos! With loving prayers and good wishes to each of you, my sisters!
The sun shining on the walls of Avila this morning!
The lovely chapel in the seminary on the floor where the nuns are staying

When you go around a corner in CITeS there is always a lovely surprise Here is a philodendron hanging through an opening of the hallways spanning at least 2 levels. Lovely!  

Sr. Elena (Spain) and Sr. Lupita (Mexico) at work! St. Raphael Kalinowski, OCD in background

Sr. Christine (France)
L to R...Sr. Mirjam (Albania), Sr. Maria Paola (Italy), Sr. Angela (Thailand). We were all visiting with Fr. Saverio and Fr. Rafal before going into La Sancta for Mass with the whole Carmelite family. 
Fr. Saverio sharing with Sr. Maria Monica (Argentina)
Inside the walls of Avila. You can see how modern buildings have been constructed right into the old walls. 
Inside the walls of Avila. 

The Friars tell us they have important business to complete before leaving Avila on Pentecost Sunday so let us keep them in our prayers! 

With my love...

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

May 20, 2015

Once again, I am writing late at night here in Avila so you will be getting more photos than stories! 

This morning we gathered in the chapel of CITeS for Mass (in Spanish) with Msgr. Carballo. The  lovely statue of Mary (above) is situated on one side of the altar.

We found our way through this lovely facility to the first meeting of the day following breakfast. 
The friars and nuns gathered to hear Fr. Carballo's presentation.
Sr. Jennifer Jones of Australia is below:

Msgr. Carballo (center) gave a wonderful talk about religious life followed by time for questions, which were challenging - especially from the Friars.  His answers included  lengthy illustrations about  Franciscan saints, history and stories. However, there were a few things shared about the Questionnaire, which has not yet been finalized.  Several times he asked for our prayers during this difficult period of transition at the Vatican both for himself and for our Pope Francis; pleading with us for understanding and patience. It is clear he is in a difficult position. I saw him on his way out of CITeS and thanked him for coming -  assuring him of the prayers of the sisters in the United States and Canada. 

Following lunch  I found my way through the maze of hallways to the small group discussion in the afternoon. Below, you will recognize (L to R) Fr. Luis, Fr. John Grennan and Fr. Michael McGoldrick of Ireland. Sr. Teresa Benedicta is taking a photo. 
Above (L to R) Fr. Daniel Chowing, Fr. Jude, ?, Fr. Jeremiah Fitzpatrick (Ireland) and Fr. Steven Watson. Not in the photo: Fr. Bonaventure, Fr. Dick (Holland) and Sr. Lucia (Holland). We had a great sharing about what we had heard during the previous 2 days - from the nuns and Msgr. Carballo. Many of the nuns expressed a desire for strengthening our relationship  with our Friars through greater mutuality and collaboration. They are delighted with this and want to be more attentive to how they can facilitate this happening.
Following our small groups we met all together one last time in the full assembly for a follow-up discussion. 
Above: (L to R) seated: Sr. Paula (Columbia), Sr. Cristina  (Portugal) and Sr. Monica (Argentina)

At the end of the day, the nuns gathered with Fr. Rafal to discuss what we want to do tomorrow. We decided to work together again - at least for the whole morning, taking advantage of the time we have together. In the afternoon some have expressed a desire to visit the monasteries of St. Joseph's and the Incarnation. As I have already been to both, I may do something different. Stay tuned! 
These lovely images above are in the chapel and express the mystery of God.

Sr. Ann Francoise from the Holy Land is below. Because she was present for the canonization of  St. Mary of Jesus Crucified, she was late to the meeting. As you can see - she exudes joy - and for good reason! 

Amen! Alleluia! 
Good Night, Sisters!!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Dear Sisters,

It is 11:30pm in Avila and the walls of the city are lit up. I feel tonight they are lit up for the Carmelite nuns who presented at the General Chapter today. I am so proud of our nuns! I think it's quite possible that St. Teresa is too! :)
Mass was celebrated by the Friars of the French-speaking region today. Lovely to hear the language! After Mass, Fr. Rafal gave us the scheduled order of presentations. Lucia and I were scheduled to speak just before lunch. Alleluia! I didn't want to wait all day. I quickly made copies of the statistics for our Associations and with that - all was ready.

After breakfast we went to the meeting room, learned how to plug into the simultaneous translation channels corresponding with our language and got settled. Fr. Saverio spoke to the assembly about the importance of this day of listening to the nuns and Fr. Rafal introduced Sr. Elena from Spain to begin. We all began looking at each other when, after 15 minutes, Sr. Elena had not even begun to speak about the 3 themes! We were wondering, "Well, did we all get a different letter?" Then finally! "Our response to the first theme..." Sr. Cristina from Portugal followed. Both presentations had good content but took altogether over an HOUR - twice the allotted time! We were wondering if we'd still be there the next morning! Nada te turbe. Sr. Bendina (Africa) got us back on track with a 10 minute report of the 3 themes. After that Sr. Ann Marie of Mauritius, Sr. Jennifer from Australia and Sr. Angela from Indonesia. By the time for the break - we were only 7 minutes past schedule. The French sisters were next: Sr. Christine and Sr. Anne-Franciose, followed by Sr. Lucia and myself. Our segment finished 7 minutes early. It's a good way to get compliments from the friars. :)
Truthfully, I had many compliments on our presentation:  "Brief, clear, fair to all views." My delivery was measured, deliberate - as we had been asked to do for the translators. Afterwards the French translator ran up to me thanking me over and over...he said, "You were a dream for a translator! You were slow enough. I could get every word!" So thanks be to God, Sisters, you were heard!

More news - than lots of photos to follow.

I must confess - I missed a little of the afternoon presentations. A deadly hour to expect us to be alert through 8 more presentations! But I heard MOST. I did ask Fr. Rafal if he could possibly send each of us translations of the texts in our languages. He said "that's a good idea." I think that means he'll do it. I will share them with the Coordinators.
I did not exactly take a poll regarding the international commission of nuns but I think the bottom line is that most of the nuns feel the discussion about an IC led them (as it did us) to see the need to build up regional relationships. We are not saying 'no' to an IC - just "not now."  I believe this is wise. And the nuns are glad the idea was presented to us because it is moving us further in imagining our future.
Many of the reports included reference to updating the Nun's Constitutions.
At the end of all our presentations Fr. Rafal gave a summary of the individual reports he had received from nuns around the world. We were saddened that one group suggested splitting the Order of nuns into 3 parts: 1990 Constitutions, 1991 Constitutions and Revised Constitutions reflecting a possible future re-writing more in keeping with the reality of our time.
Following all the presentations I presented Fr. Saverio (on his way out of the hall) with our card/offering - explaining that the enclosed check was 'fake' - that we had already arranged for a direct deposit. He was truly, truly delighted and thanked many times! Both Fr. Saverio and Fr. Rafal are very happy that our 4 Associations have collaborated in this way - and in our presentation - for the General Chapter.
AB Carballo is here now. Tomorrow we will listen to him in the morning and ask questions. In the afternoon we hope for open dialogue with the Friars in the assembly. On Friday the nuns will spend the day together for follow-up - probably with Fr. Rafal - and Saturday we depart.

I will follow now with photos - LOTS of photos - to introduce the nuns who presented.
Fr. General's introduction of the day with the nuns

Left: Sr. Elena (Spain), Right: Sr. Cristina (Portugal)

Left: Sr. Bendina (Africa) Right: Sr. Anne Marie (Mauritius)

Left to right: Sr. Christine (France), Sr. Anne Francoise (Holy Land), Fr. Rafal, Sr. Lucia (Holland), Moi

Sr. Lucia and our report!

With my American brothers after the report: Fr. Jude and Fr. Daniel

Presenting our card and offering to Fr. Saverio
Our grateful Superior General

Sr. Angela & Anne Marie, Fr. Rafal, ? (German) and Fr. Ramiro - CA Province!

It seemed like it would be fun to end this historic day with a fun photo...This is one of our OCD brothers who works at CITeS and has this pet parrot who whistles around the hallways all day long. And now that my report is given, I'm going to whistle all the way to bed! 

Love to each of you, dear Sisters! Thank you for allowing me to be here and for trusting me to present on your behalf! It is a privilege and joy! 
Sr. Claire