On 26 -29 June we were pleased to attend a symposium on the campus of Loyola University in Chicago (USA).  The symposium was organized by the Carmelite Institute of North America and entitled “Pope Francis points the way for Carmel” which dealt with the inspiration for Carmelites in the messages of Pope Francis.

Participants at the symposium included the Prior General, Fernando Millán Romeral, O.Carm., the provincials of the Chicago province, Fr. William Harry, O.Carm., (who reported on the activities of the Carmelite Institute) and of the North American Province of St. Elias, Fr. Michael Kissane, O.Carm. along with many Carmelite friars, Carmelite sisters, lay Carmelites from many different groups and other members of the Carmelite family. Cardinal Blase Joseph Cupich of Chicago presided over the opening mass.  The symposium was well represented by over 110 attendees.

Overall Summary Experience

The talks and discussions during this symposium suggest to us several considerations:

Carmel is a gift to the Church: the vocation of being Carmel is the call to contemplative prayer (Fr Vinko OCD called this a storehouse of Grace).  Contemplative prayer carries with it a pastoral and community (social)responsibilities.  This is a challenge – to be more active in our social outreach.  From this contemplative base emerges the prophetic and evangelization call of the Gospel.

  1. How do we identify who needs us most?
  2. Who are the people on the periphery that need the message of Carmel?
  3. How do we show we are part of a Church that addresses inequality, discrimination and global poverty?
  4. How do we show we are a community of joy and hope?
  5. Are we people who have the courage to change – to share our lives, to talk with each other and reach out?
  6. How do these messages reach the whole Carmelite family – those beyond friars, lay Carmelites and sisters?
  7. Attendees at the symposium were surprised that we were not Lay Carmelites and this initiated discussion on a broader understanding and awareness of Carmelite inclusion.

Our Carmelite Centre program brochure was given to all participants and we received positive feedback.  Many were surprised at the range of topics and seminars on offer and expressed genuine interest at what was on offer to a ‘broad church’.

Conversations with attendees at the symposium about what led them to Carmel.  People spoke about their personal contact with the friars and sisters.  Often these journeys of faith were slow but sure in building their faith relationship with the Carmelites.

We look forward to exploring these challenges further as we plan for the next months and years.

Irene & Damien