no. 2   april - june 2003


Gathering in Rome to Discuss RATIO for the Carmelite Nuns

From February 17-21, 2003, an international gathering of Carmelite Nuns, their Assistants, and their Delegates to create a RATIO for formation of the nuns was held. Over the entire week, a total of 52 people attended the sessions. Thirty six nuns from Italy, Spain, the Philippines, the USA, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, Venezuela, Kenya, and Holland participated. They were joined by the Provincials from the Dutch and the Flumen Januaris Provinces as well as six Assistants and Delegates.

The meeting was facilitated by Rafael Leiva Sánchez, O. Carm., General Councilor Responsible for the Carmelite Nuns, Desiderio García Martínez and Giovanni Grosso. These three also constituted a preparatory commission for the meeting. The Prior General, Joseph Chalmers, also participated during each of the sessions and gave the opening conference.

In June 2002, the Commission sent a initial draft of the RATIO to each of the monasteries in the world for discussion. In November 2002 the draft was reworked into 13 documents which included the suggestions received from the monasteries.

Two talks were also given on the topic of formation as part of the preparation of the Ratio. "Experience of the Formation Process in a Federation" was given by Sr. Elena Mª Samper, President of the Mater Unitatis Federation in Spain. "Experience of Formation in a Monastery" was given by Sr. Eliana Turrisi and Sr. Elvira Calenne, members of the Monastery of Carpineto Romano in Italy.

The work was divided between general sessions with everyone present in one group and work in smaller language groups.

The group decided to nominate a commission of three to continue the work of refining the RATIO. Sr. Pilar Simón (Spanish language group), Sr. Elena Tolentino (English language group) and Sr. Maria Elisabetta Mambrelli (Italian language group) were chosen. The commission will distribute the draft which will include the various modifications made during the meetings. It is thought that this would occur sometime in October 2003.

"There was a good atmosphere and a very good rapport developed between the sisters," said Sr. Thérèse Neppelenbroek, O. Carm., the prioress of Karmel "St. Josef" in Zenderen, The Netherlands. "It was very good to reconnect with some of the sisters from the Fatima meeting a few years ago."

Sr. Ma. Elena of the Burgos Carmel (The Philippines) sees the meeting as bringing the future into focus. "Cloistered Carmel must continue to serve the people of the Third Millennium, the Ratio will guide us to do that."

Sr. Therese Maria of the recently incorporated Carmelite hermit community in Monteluro, Italy sees the experience as something that needs to continue. "We need to share more often, to meet more, and to journey more together. Even though there is diversity in every monastery, I think there is a value in going beyond that meeting and the Ratio becomes an occasion to make this happen." Sr. Mary O’Neill, of the Hudson (USA) Carmel commented "It was a beautiful gift to have all those lovely women of all ages and cultures gather to pray, share, smile, eat, and work so hard in a structured amount of time and accomplish so much. Deo gratias!"

While these international meetings somehow manage to get the work completed, most realize that the best benefit is often in the relationships created. Sr. Ma. Elena summed it up best. She asked, "Are we not happy we belong to this one, big, happy family?"

On Thursday, the entire group was hosted for dinner at the Donum Dei restaurant in Rome, L’Eau Vive. On Friday, they were hosted for Vespers and a celebratory dinner at Centro Internazionale di Sant’ Alberto. The next day, having concluded the meetings, the group traveled to Florence where they visited the Monastery of Santa Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi, the Carmine, and Castellina.

The meetings took place at the Domus Carmelitana in Rome.

Italian Carmelite Missionary  Flees the Firing Squad

"I left through the door of the military command's office and I saw a firing squad, weapons in their hands, in front of me. The commander yelled `Kill him.'"

Able to retell the odyssey he lived at Nioka (128 kilometers northwest of Bunia, in the northeastern region of Ituri in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) is an italian Carmelite missionary, Fr. Mario Serra.

The religious, born in Mogoro (Oristano) in 1939 and for the past 24 years working in the Congo, returned to Italy (in January) after having been arrested and having stared into the face of death. This is all the result of the conflicts between the various groups that for political and ethnic reasons, are fighting over the northeast.

Fr. Serra did not want to tell his story but then decided to do so that people would be informed about the drama that is being lived by "his people."

"It is urgent that it is spoken about because the massacre of the whole population, forced to abandon their homes and flee, must be stopped immediately," the 63 year old missionary says with sadness. "In the Carmelite mission in Nioka alone, where from 1995 I was the parish priest, the struggles have provoked the deaths of 50 people in the last year."

Unfortunately even activities conducted to help the people advance can put one in harm's way. That simply is what happened to Fr. Serra.

"On December 21, I left on my usual round of visits. While I was still far from the parish center, they advised me not to reenter Nioka because it was unsafe and the guerillas were searching for `the white pastor.'"

But the religious decided to return in order to celebrate the end of the year together with his community even

though he knew the risks were high. One December 28, in the morning, two men in civilian clothes appeared. "They asked to use the radio. The associate pastor and I said that, we did not let strangers use the radio. With a great show of anger, they left accompanied by some soldiers."

"We did not know," continues the missionary, "that the two men in civilian clothes were the local military commander and his secretary, an unwitting mistake but one with terrible effects." On Monday, December 30, Fr. Serra was forced by the military that controls Nioka to present himself at the local command. There he waited for hours only then to discover the true identity of the two men. He was insulted and accused of having provoked, when he refused to loan the radio, "the loss of a convoy being attacked."

The commander got more and more angry. He ordered Fr. Serra to leave and it was at that moment that the missionary found himself face to face with a firing squad. He heard the commander yell out in Swahili to kill him and he thought this was the end.

The secretary however tried to calm his boss. The odyssey of Fr. Mario however was not yet finished. He was imprisoned and guarded by six military for several hours. Then, thanks to the mediation of one of his parishioners, he was freed to return to his community. But the threats continued.

Taken from Italian Press Reports


Participants in the On-Going Formation Course
, The Role of the Prior in the Carmelite Community, take an opportunity for a photo during their visit to the General Curia. The course, at Domus Carmelitana, ran January 29-February 14, 2003 with a total of 21 Carmelites taking part. Evaluation of the course indicated a high degree of satisfaction with the material presented, the methodology used, and the accommodations. (CITOC Photo - 2003)

Information about the presentations given during the course are available at

Mark Attard, O. Carm., Named Extraordinary Professor at the Gregorian University in Rome 

The Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education, His Eminence Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, on the 29th November 2002, gave his approval for the

promotion of Fr. Mark Attard, O.Carm., from Adjunct Professor to Extraordinary Professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome.

The Superior General of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), as Vice Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical Gregorian University, signed the appointment on December 6th 2002.

Fr. Mark is currently serving as the prior of Centro Internazionale di Sant' Alberto (CISA); he is also the Order's General Delegate for Culture, and is professor of moral theology at several universities in Rome. He was the Procurator General (the Order's Liaison with the Holy See) from 1983 to 1995.

A member of the Maltese Province, Fr. Mark has taught at the Gregorian University since 1971.

Joint Marian Liturgy Commission Announced

The membership of a Joint O.Carm - OCD Commission for Marian Liturgy has been announced by the two General Councils.

Members are Fr. Jesús Castellano Cervera, OCD, Fr. Andrea L'Afflitto, OCD, Fr. Lucio Zappatore, O. Carm., and Fr. Giuseppe Midili, O. Carm.

The Commission is charged with enriching the Marian text of both Orders and of developing creative new liturgies for the times.

This Commission is different from the Joint OCD-OCARM Mariological Commission whose members have yet to be appointed.


Carmelite Presence Invited in Lithuania

Bishop Eugenijus Bartulis of the Diocese of Šiauliai in Lithuania has invited the Carmelites to consider establishing a permanent presence in his diocese.

The Bishop had written in 1998 asking for help in restoring the Carmelites to the diocese. In a letter to Joseph Chalmers, the Prior General, in October, 2002, the Bishop wrote "Since that time (1998) many good things have happened in Linkuva and in other dioceses due to the visits of Fr. Miceal O'Neill, from Ireland and Fr. Klemens-August Droste from Germany together with other friars."

The Bishop, remarking on the Carmelites' annual celebration of the Solemnity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Linkuva wrote "People of this little town already cannot imagine this celebration without the presence of the friars, without the ceremony of enrollment into the Scapular of Our Lady. Young people from all over the country are already used to expecting the friars to have a summer camp on Carmelite spirituality."

A number of prayer groups for vocations have begun appearing in the diocese and in Vilnius, according to the Bishop.

A group of Carmelites visited Kaunas, Lithuania from February 22 _ March 2, 2003 in order to participate in "A Day of Renewal"—a combination rally with a program on Carmelite spirituality. It is intended as a continuation of the connection between Carmelites of the North European Region and the people involved with the two summer camps held at Linkuva in 2000 and 2002. A former Carmelite foundation as well as a former Carmelite parish church are in Linkuva.

Many people in the area feel a great affinity with the Carmelite tradition and are anxious for the Carmelites to return. The Bishop and the Carmelites have spoken about the problems Western Europeans might experience settling in Lithuania.

Members of the Northern European Region who visited Linkuva were Míceál O'Neill and John Keating of the Irish Province, Johan Hettinga of the Dutch Province, Klemens-August Droste of the Upper German Province, Damian Cassidy of the British Province, and Andreas Scholten of the Lower German Province.

On March 1, the Lithuanian service of Vatican Radio devoted its program to the Carmelite visit.

The Provincials and the General Councilor for the Northern European Region will discuss the possibility of a project in Lithuania during their meeting scheduled for early May in Prague, Czech Republic.



Some Facts About Carmelites and Lithuania:

‡ The first Carmelites of the Polish-Bohemian Province arrived in Vilnius in 1514.

‡ The Russian Province later opened other houses.

‡ The Lithuanian Province of St. George was founded in 1756.

‡ The Province of All Saints was founded by Russia in 1766.

‡ There were about 30 houses between the two provinces.

‡ Conflict between the Lithuanians and the Russian nobility led to the expulsion of the Catholic religious in 1830-1831.

‡ The last house in Vilnius was closed in 1863.

‡ The bishop of the newly erected diocese of Siauliai wrote to the Prior General in 2000 asking the Carmelites to return.

‡ Summer camps organized by the Carmelites were held in 2001 and 2002.



The Lithuanian Church

The Lithuanian Church has suffered considerably. Apart from a brief period between the World Wars, a period of about 20 years, it has been subject to foreign rule. Many people suffered greatly for their faith. New evangelical groups are finding footholds among the people. Their spiritual roots were deepened by suffering and there is a great hunger for spirituality. Devotional practices are very strong.

The poverty left behind by the retreating Soviets is considerable. The collapse of the economy, the sheer absence of good housing, the end of the collective communist farming system, the abuse of alcohol and the increase in suicides have created huge challenges for both state and church.

Their language is one of the oldest in Europe. It is Indo-European with origins in Sanskrit. Many people speak a little English or German.