Saturday, December 4th @ 2 pm ET Commentary by Dr. Bonnie Thurston Text: Luke 3:1-6 Click to Register ... Read More
Sr. Anita of Jesus
Sr. Anita brings a hardy down-to-earth pragmatism to her understanding of our Carmelite charism. She sees the ordinary quality of daily life as the perfect setting to encounter God. “I am not looking for exciting experiences in prayer,” she says, “I ask only my own fidelity. My great joy is just being a Carmelite, and belonging to a community of people of like mind.” This is not pie-in-the sky, but something to be appreciated in daily living. And so she seeks to express God in her life through simple availability, ready for whatever is asked of her. She offers this gift particularly to newer members: “I don’t ever want to come across as having all the answers. I just want to be there to support and encourage them, and to help them realize that their struggles are normal processes. They are not negative; they are how we grow.”
At age 94, her years in Carmel have witnessed many changes, but a grounding in the daily flow of life has given Sr. Anita the resilience to welcome them. For her, change is “part of the excitement of living, never frightening but something to be evaluated and discerned.” And while embracing the ordinary, Sr. Anita has been surprised by the extraordinary depth and breadth she has found in Carmel. “You learn more about God that you could ever anticipate; you learn to be concerned about the world in which you live and the needs of people beyond your own personal life. You can hardly believe how much is given to you. Everything is carried to a different level.”
Sr. Barbara Jean of the Trinity
As I reflect my years in Carmel, I can say that I came to know my vocation in Carmel through Prayer, Silence, Solitude, and the daily living of Community Life. No matter what the day brings, I try my best to live that day with a deep passion for God and do the very best that I can.
While community living is not without its challenges. I/We are sustained by the Sisters we live with and the people who share our prayer.
So, if you feel drawn to this way of life, to be a Carmelite Sister, come and give it your best and you will know if this your call. In other words, “Follow your Heart”! I did and it has made all the difference in the world.
Sr. Colette of the Trinity
My Carmelite vocation had its seeds in a summer I spent on Sullivan’s Island when I was just five years old. I have never forgotten that early experience of solitude, the glimmer of God as I roamed the edges of the sea and the secluded beaches.
Now, after fifty-seven years of life in the monastery, “roaming the edges” stands out as a description of my contemplative prayer and desire for God’s love to transform our world. My prayer begs, in this time of seeming worldwide darkness, violence and disconnection, for the gifts of compassion, mutuality and a prophetic hope that will generate human flourishing and communion among all peoples.
“Living in allegiance to Jesus Christ,” is a prime and compelling mark of our Carmelite Rule. This deep friendship with Jesus Christ strengthens me to embrace the pain of God’s people. It also calls forth the generativity to encourage others in their own life of prayer and desire to serve every person in selfless love.
Another serious commitment and part of the Carmelite vocation is living in community. St. Teresa tells her sisters that, in our communities, all must be friends, all must be loved, all must be cared for. Another kind of fidelity… We always hope our community life reflects the communion of God’s life in the Trinitarian mystery. This is real, constant, faithful love.
As I grow older in my life here, I do think about God coming to me and for me. Much is settled now, even though challenges and the “good works” asked for by St. Teresa remain. But I think about the resurrected body and soul and what that might mean. Imagination falters at the thought of what is beyond our knowledge and insight. And where it is! In all this I recall some words God spoke to St Catherine of Siena: “keep expanding your heart and your affection in the immeasurable greatness of my mercy.” This is hope in my time now.
Sr. Constance of Christ Crucified
When I dreamed at a very young age of becoming a Carmelite nun, I saw it as the way to give myself totally to God. I could have no idea then of the depth and breadth of such radical self-dispossession, nor of the wonderful, multifaceted, expansive journey that would open before me in Carmel: the desire for God growing and changing over a lifetime, the long, gradual renewal of my community following Vatican II and the development of a contemporary, contemplative Carmelite life with vibrant new members, the association with other national and international groups of contemplative women as we struggled to find our voice in the Church, the joys and trials of leadership, the cost and the rewards of forming new members, my intellectual life of study and reflection coming together with the experience of prayer to interpret our Carmelite tradition and particularly my beloved spiritual mentor, Saint John of the Cross, and finally the precious, tender friendships that have graced and sustained me – and so much more. While all this flows now into the memory of God, I, myself, feel enormous gratitude for such fullness in my 9th decade. All these past and present strands of my contemplative life and prayer converge in a profound hope in the God who is always approaching from the future and promising the transformations, intimate love and generativity that will influence, by a deep spiritual energy, humanity’s crossing the threshold into a new level of consciousness and empathic community, a new epoch of evolution.
Sr. Cecilia of the Cosmic Christ
I am “homegrown” as they say — born and raised right here in Baltimore. After basic schooling in the Baltimore area, I went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, where I played field hockey and received a minor in Theology. In 2003, I received my Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the University of Maryland School of Dentistry. I was fortunate to enjoy a very full professional life prior to coming to Carmel.
Religious life is very familiar to our family: I had one aunt who was a Sister of St. Francis of Philadelphia until she died, and two aunts who are Sisters of Mercy. Together with our parents, my aunts taught me the importance of prayer. They also taught me to love our Church (all the people of God) and to understand fully the Church’s humanity. I have a deep love of Scripture, prayer and liturgy.
My hope is that my presence here might reveal something of God’s love to our world. For I believe we are called to love God, to love one another, and to live within the brokenness of our Church, our world, our families, and our communities.
I have no idea what the future holds, but I trust that God will continue to be there for me. I arrive at this moment bringing the totality of my past, and I stand here ready to give my present and my future unconditionally to God and to this Carmelite community.
Sr. Judith of God
One of the things that first attracted me to Baltimore Carmel was its contemporary expression of the Carmelite life; its dress, its availability to our supporting community that surrounds us. We keep the enclosure necessary for our life of contemplation, and at the same time we open our prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours and Eucharist to anyone who wishes to attend. Our chapel was built to have no division between “them and us.” To me this speaks of an equality, a mutuality, meeting people on the same level. This concern for the people is central to me. I am a Registered Nurse and before coming to Carmel worked in the profession. Now I like to think of Carmelites as “Nuns Without Borders.” As I go about my life here I can hold the world and all God’s people in my heart. Edith Stein says that the contemplative can be anywhere in prayer. I can be the nurse, the comforter and the listener. I can hold those with AIDS and the children unloved, unwanted. I can be in solidarity with the poor and the parents who struggle to care for their families. I can hold in my heart the joy and sorrow of people near or far.
Sr. Judith of Jesus Crucified
I discovered contemplative prayer when I was 24 and it changed my life. After about a year of praying on my own almost daily, I discerned that I wanted to join with other lay people in a community that shared the values of quiet prayer, simple lifestyle, and social justice. I was pretty adamant about wanting to do this as a lay person rather than as a religious, as a witness that lay people are called to live out these values too. The social justice part of the formula was easy: I had helped to found a clinic in Washington, D.C. offering free medical care to the poor, and I eventually served there as a full time physician’s assistant. Simple lifestyle was easy, too: most non-profits don’t pay a salary that enables extravagance! But in the end the community of prayer component was elusive. I helped form groups that shared my goals but they would always be transient; people would move on to other things. I continued to live in these informal communities until I was 34. At that time, when things fell apart yet one more time, I heard myself say, “Oh nuts! What will I do now? I think I’ll join the Carmelites.” I was astonished by this, but I reasoned that if I was driven to mutter something like this in a moment of despair, I had better take it seriously, for God has ways of getting us to listen and pay attention to the invitations being proffered. It was one of the best things that I ever did in my life. I found a wonderful stable community that treasures contemplative prayer, lives simply, strives for holiness, and holds all the cares of the world before the loving gaze of God.
Sr. Leah of Jesus
I have been given two vocations in my life. First was a calling to help people find and organize useful information. I received a Master’s Degree in Library Science and became a law librarian, working at both state and federal level. Then, in 1998 I answered the second call, that of being a nun in Baltimore Carmel. I still consider the day of my Solemn Profession of Vows the happiest of my life. In this new calling, I can still live out my old one, since I work as librarian in the community. But I have also been surprised as previously unknown or unnourished talents have emerged, like art, floral arrangement, and liturgical planning. Most of all I love the opportunity to share the contemplative life with all our friends –the ones who come to daily liturgy, our Sunday “community,” or those who call or write us. I marvel at the courage and perseverance of the People of God, in sickness, in grief, in all realms of daily struggle. St. Teresa of Avila, our great founder/reformer, says that “those who are friends look in the same direction.” This is what I find, deeply and intensely, in our community life. We all look to Jesus to dwell within us and to love us without reserve, as we live our response by loving all.
Sr. Luisa of Jesus
I was born in Madrid, Spain, a good number of years ago. When I was about 10 or 11 years old I read an old version of St. Therese’s Story of A Soul, called A Stripped Rose. It really struck me deeply and put on my soul the first seed of my desire to become a Carmelite. I finally entered Carmel in my twenties. My desire was to search for union with God through a life of prayer, silence and solitude, and also “to save souls,” in the language of that time. To accomplish this goal Carmel seemed to me more effective than the career of teaching for which I was prepared.
When I entered Carmel, I thought I would die just there, after a holy and peaceful life. OK, it was not totally so. Short before my Solemn Profession I was invited to participate in the foundation of a new Carmel in Bolivia. It was a great adventure into which I entered only by faith, not by my own inclination. It proved to be very providential. After ten years I visited the States accompanying the Prioress of my monastery, who needed medical treatment here. I came as her “interpreter,” even though I knew only a very few words of English. However the impact was strong and very deep. I found a new way to look at my Carmelite vocation in Baltimore: I found a group of very prayerful, mature and loving women, trying to live their lives in Carmel in a more contemporary way than the one I had known until then, and, above all, very committed in the task of passing on our Teresian charism to the world of our times, to new generations. I realized that this was “my” place. Here I learned that no structures can sanctify us, but only our union with Christ.
Now, after enough years of waiting, I was able to come here finally in January 2010. My hope is to integrate myself into the life of this community -my community – and to myself at the service of its living prophetic mission in the Church and society.
Sr. Maria Guadalupe of the Trinity
¡Hola! My name is Sr. Lupe. I was fifteen years old when I began to think about becoming a religious sister, specifically to be a missionary. In 1982, I met the Carmelites for the first time in Puebla, Mexico, 373 miles from my hometown of Jalostitlán, Jalisco. I was 20 years old when I entered the parlor for the first time and I was overwhelmed with feelings of peace, joy, and gratitude that I was speechless! At the end of my visit, Sr. Josefina, the novice mistress, gave me a holy card of St. Teresa of Jesus and a small book entitled, Thoughts of Elizabeth of the Trinity.
As I began reading the book, I realized that its contents were echoing my inner desires. I was deeply touched by St. Elizabeth’s profound, tender, and great love for Jesus, the Triune God, the Church, and her loved ones. I understood that being a Carmelite was the way for me to be a missionary. As Carmelites, we trust that united to Jesus, our prayer and love has the capacity to reach everyone and every situation.
Since then I knew that my deepest desire to follow Jesus in consecrated life, would be realized in Carmel. I entered in December 1982 and from the beginning I loved community life, solitude and contemplative prayer, friendship with God, with Christ, and with one another.
In 1994 I went to Cameroon, Africa; the Mexican Carmelite Federation made a foundation there and I volunteered to go and help start this community. I was in Cameroon for 13 years before returning to my community in Mexico.
I’ve been a Carmelite for 34 years and when I first met the nuns in Baltimore in 2012, I was immediately drawn to the way they lived our Carmelite charism, a beautiful contemporary expression of the Carmelite life of prayer. I perceived a spirit of love among the nuns amid an atmosphere of deep prayer and passion for God and God’s people. Their joy was palpable!
I appreciate the way in which on-going formation is so central to our life, as well as the healthy balance we maintain between solitude and community. I love how each sister’s individuality and freedom is respected within the framework of community. I have found everything I have been searching for in Carmel and more!
I am the oldest of 12 children and I am blessed to have 31 nieces and nephews and 10 great nieces and nephews! I enjoy stitching, working in our vegetable garden, crochet and knitting, cooking, and playing cards.
I am so blessed to be part of this community, I hope you will consider it for yourself.
Sr. Mary Eileen of the Blessed Trinity
My 70+ years in Carmel have witnessed a great transformation in our Church and society. Baltimore Carmel responded by committing to ongoing discernment informed by prayer and the action of the Spirit of Jesus among us. I spent my first 20 years in Carmel on a corner lot of one half an acre, on a noisy city street. Our monastery was surrounded by a high enclosure wall, our windows were shuttered, and there were iron grates in our “Visiting Rooms.” In 1961 we moved to our present site, 27 beautiful acres of land in a quiet, residential area. We now pray in the Chapel without any barriers to the people who come. Visitors are no longer separated by grates and curtains. We have transitioned from a community without access to newspapers or radio to a community in touch with the religious, political, and social developments in our nation and world. For many years I have shared my studies of the works of Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross, studies in Christology, Science and Religion, and Dialogue with groups who come. In all these changes, we are following the spirit of Saint Teresa who through her work and writings shared with people the transformation she experienced in her life as she opened herself to the Spirit of Jesus.
Sr. Mary Rose of the Grace of God
I have always been on a spiritual quest, always been a seeker. I previously had careers in both Social Work and Law. Though I was happy in these careers, with my lovely condo in the city, my friends and family, my life in general, I kept looking for something more, something deeper. I was active in my downtown Baltimore parish when a Jesuit friend invited me to Baltimore Carmel for the first time to attend Sunday Eucharist. I told the sisters very clearly that I didn’t want to be a nun, but as I began to attend Sunday liturgy at Carmel I felt a strange and unexpected attraction deep in my heart to this community of vibrant, intelligent, and passionate women. As a logical thinking person, this strange, silent voice seeming to come from deep inside me was confusing and I tried desperately to resist it. One day I showed up for what I thought was a normal liturgy to find out it was the first vow ceremony of one of the sisters, and I was struck by the line on her program: There you will show me what my soul has been seeking. It seemed to be blinking neon just for me and I remember saying to God very clearly, “You mean This? Me?”
I am very much aware of much the world is in need of prayer, and while I could make a difference in the world as both a Social Worker and an Attorney, I feel that a life of deep prayer has the biggest effect of all.
I remember while coming for liturgy, one day I got out of the car and looked around and asked myself how could someone spend her whole life here in (this) single small place. I have found that each day brings newness and expansion, and rather than going out to discover it, the call is to go deeper and deeper inward in union with the Beloved: God continues to surprise and challenge.
Sr. Monika of Jesus Crucified
One of the main tenets of our Carmelite Rule is to meditate on the law of the Lord day and night, always being watchful in prayer. This instruction speaks deeply to me as it brings together my longing for God and a love for the Word, revealed in scripture and interpreted in the writings of our Carmelite forebears (and contemporary texts). As I live out this precept, I am delighted with how I can use the skills and experience of my former life: work as an economist with the German government, time with the United Nations in Switzerland, and volunteering with the Franciscan Youth Center in East Baltimore. Everything is a part of me and has prepared me to be who I am and whom I am still called to become. At times it seems like putting the pieces of a puzzle together. In the end the pieces in my individual life and the lives of my sisters, each member of the community, form a picture that is whole and beautiful in the eyes of God.
Sr. Patricia of Jesus
While growing up in Philadelphia I was interested in many things: sports, (e.g. swimming, basketball, field hockey), music (played the violin in the Germantown Youth Orchestra), scouting; I loved camping and the out-of-doors. Although I attended Catholic schools, I was not at first drawn to consider religious life. But when I was sophomore in high school, there came a moment of sheer clarity, pure grace, when I realized the fullness of God’s love for me. I felt compelled to respond to it in the fullest way possible. Supposing this must mean some kind of religious life I quickly went through all the possibilities I could imagine. Carmel was the one that stood out. I knew it entailed total gift of self to God. It seemed the only way I could respond to the grace of that moment. To enter Carmel became my goal from that moment onward. Because I could not enter as soon as I desired, I spent an invaluable year in nursing training. After 60 years I still draw on this training when I care for our sick or elderly sisters, a ministry to which I feel specially called. Informed and encouraged by the spiritual writings of our Carmelite saints, I embrace the world in my prayer day by day and continue to respond to that gift of God’s great love with the gift of self as best I can.
Sr. Robin of the Blessed Sacrament
What can I tell you of my years in Carmel? When I was introduced to the Sisters on my first afternoon in Carmel, tiny Sister Mary who was eight-something, reached up, embraced me warmly and exclaimed, “Oh, you’re such a child.” I was so hurt! After all, hadn’t I just left everything for God? Didn’t that mean I was grown up? Yes and no. It took me years to realize how young eighteen—yes, I was eighteen—really was. And how much baggage I had carried with me into the monastery, mostly packed into my head and heart. Having learned that it takes a lifetime to become a Carmelite, I continue to live into the mystery of letting God become the all of my being.
What mysteries lie hidden in the seasons of my life? The Spring dance of young love that knows everything is possible. Summer drought when I envied the birds because they were free and I was not. Autumns of ripening and fruitfulness borne of daily life among my sisters. Winter darkness and clinging to God while gazing at the moon, repeating over and over a verse of Psalm 89 “Like the moon that remains forever, a faithful witness in the sky.” During Lauds one morning in my Postulancy I discovered and claimed as my own a verse from Psalm 27: “One thing I ask of the Lord, this I seek; to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to contemplate God’s beauty.” I have always known at the core of my being that I want God more than anything else, and that desire has only grown stronger with the passing of years.
As my Golden Jubilee came and passed, a phrase from a homily slipped into my heart and took up residence: “We celebrate, not the tenuousness of life, but the tenacity of God’s love taking hold of us for a lifetime.” And indeed, that is the heart of the mystery – God’s love – not only for me – but for each of us – a love that pursues, haunts, captivates, surrounds – and this, whether at 18 or 88, is the life and the gift I celebrate.
At this point in life I’m skipping – or slipping – toward eighty. Sometimes I wonder where the years have gone and the mystery encountered in what they might mean. The seventh century Caedmon, who is said to have composed the first English poem, is remembered as “a humble and joyful singer of songs.” I live in hope of making these words a lived reality in my life.
Sr. Veronica of the Holy Face
My sisters are used to seeing me outside working on our lovely 27 acre property, and I believe I am at my best when I am working or enjoying the outdoors. To symbolize: we have in our meadow a white oak, which I planted in a pot indoors as an acorn. The acorn came from our oldest plot in the New Cathedral Cemetery, where our sisters are buried. I have tended it over the many years, and it now stands 30 feet tall. I also love to plant flowers and watch them grow and blossom. I believe, like the flowers, we have limitless opportunity here for our own growing and blossoming. Through the years I have never stopped reading and have found encouragement and nourishment for mind, soul, and spirit in religion and spiritual literature, music, history, and science. An ever flowing channel of God’s grace to me has been the written word. And while my life with God has flourished through outdoor work and reading, none of this could be without my community and the support of loving family and friends.