International Congress of Carmelite Laity 2018

lay carmel group The International Congress of Carmelite Laity took place in Rome at the Carmelite Conference Centre in Sassone (near Ciampino airport) from September 15th to 21st, 2018. Two delegates from Ireland, Peggy Molloy and Mary O’Doherty, members of the Whitefriar St Chapter and the National Committee attended, accompanied by Fr Joe Mothersill, O. Carm., Provincial Delegate to Lay Carmel in Ireland.

It was the most wonderful opportunity to see Lay Carmelites from all over the world who were brimming over with vigour and enthusiasm for their faith and Carmelite Spirituality. There were 250 people, young, old and in between from 24 different nations. The richness of this diversity was most apparent as the various nations led the liturgy each day and in the lively colourful performances on Culture Night.

In the Year of the Family 2018 the theme of the Congress was “Our Lady of Mount Carmel: Mother of the Family”. Archbishop Antônio Muniz, O. Carm., Archbishop of Maceío in Brazil, in a tour de force spoke on devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the local church in Brazil and in delegates’ home churches. He asked what was the point of celebrating Mass with beautiful liturgy if, when we get home, we ignore our neighbour.

It was so enriching to hear world class speakers and scholars: Giovanni Grosso, O. Carm., lecturing on “Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Our Tradition”, and Fernando Millán Romeral, O. Carm., the Prior General of the Order, speaking on “Devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the Order throughout history”. These fine illustrated lectures were most satisfying; they provided a wealth of new information, included vaguely familiar material and gave context to it all. Also satisfying was having a Third Order speaker, Christine Wade, from Australia on the “Role of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Family Life”. Christine traced the strengthening influence of Our Lady of Mount Carmel throughout her life. A number of Lay Carmelites also gave testimonies. These were very moving. They described scarcely tolerable suffering and how Our Lady of Mount Carmel brought healing, comfort and counsel.

There were many highlights throughout the Congress. The General Papal Audience was certainly one of those, with our Congress among the special mentions by Pope Francis, as well as seeing him close-up as he moved about the thronged Square.

Our Rosary out in the garden on Tuesday night was prayerful with delegates of different nationalities leading the prayers in their own tongue for each Mystery. There was also a treasured opportunity to write our petitions and place them in a basket at the altar while we celebrated Eucharist and joined in the Liturgy of the Hours.

There were sessions to which delegates were assigned by language where set questions were discussed and the findings reported to the general assembly. These provided opportunities to get to know others by name and to learn about their culture and life in Carmel, while considering the searching questions posed.

Meeting members of the Dutch Province and feeling their longing for the canonisation of Blessed Titus Brandsma was to somehow make one feel closer to Blessed Titus and to become very eager for the continued progress of his cause.

Gratitude and appreciation are due to Fr Raúl Maraví, O. Carm., and to each member of the committee who organised the Congress superbly, with such attention to detail for our comfort and welfare. The hospitality of the Order was especially generous and gracious. The presence and availability of the Prior General was noteworthy and edifying. I was blessed to be at this Congress, which lifted my heart and horizons and deepened my faith and feeling of belonging in the world of Carmel.

- Mary O’Doherty, T.O.C.

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