Discalced Carmelite prayer group gains approval

They started out in 1997 as a small prayer group with the purpose of praying in the tradition of the Discalced Carmelite Sisters in Covington, and 18 years later, they are now, in the eyes of the church, a canonically approved secular order.

The Mary, Spouse of the Holy Spirit community – a secular order of the Discalced Carmelites whose 25 members are lay women and men – celebrated their new status Jan. 31 with a Mass celebrated by Discalced Carmelite Fathers Bonaventure Sauer and Jerome Earley at the Discalced Carmelite Sisters’ chapel in Covington.

‘Discalced’ means shoeless
The term “discalced” means “shoeless,” and it is a reference to the foundress of the order, St. Teresa of Avila, whose followers in the 16th century wore sandals rather than shoes, which distinguished themselves from Carmelites of the Ancient Observance.

The Vatican gave the group canonical status on Dec. 8, 2014, and the Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated last month. Patricia Simon, president of the secular order, said daily prayer and Mass are at the heart of the group’s charism.

“It has a tremendous impact when you come together within a group and you have the same mission of prayer and spirituality, and you’re able to discuss spirituality with people who will support each other,” Simon said. “Our group is very prayerful. We pray for each other’s intentions and often have had prayers answered. They really are small miracles.”

Three original members
Father Earley and Discalced Carmelite Sister Edith Turpin, prioress, started the prayer group in 1997, and three of the original members – Patricia Enk, Ethel Ganucheau and Rosalie Quigley – are still with the community today.

Church rules require a long, formalized process to become canonically recognized, and the group followed the process carefully, Simon said. Original members were “clothed” in 1998.

Among the groups that helped them was the New Orleans chapter of the secular Discalced Carmelites – the Our Lady of Prompt Succor community – which was established in 1953.

“They are the group we had our original formation with,” Simon said. “Father Jerome and three members of the New Orleans group came over each month and would provide formation.”

Discalced Carmelite Seculars come from all professions and levels of education. Members must be at least 18 years old, and they can be married or unmarried, or they can be ordained priests or deacons.

Simon said Secular Carmelites are called to “stand before the world as a witness to the resurrection and life of the Lord Jesus and a symbol of the living God,” by means of a life of prayer and service in bringing the love of Jesus to others.

Daily prayer routine

Members are asked to fulfill certain obligations (the “6 Ms”):

1. Meditation: A suggestion is 30 minutes each day.

2. Morning prayer, evening prayer and, if possible, night prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours.

3. Mass: Daily, if possible.

4. Mary: Every day, Seculars express devotion to Mary, imitating her in “reflecting on all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

5. Meetings: Seculars gather, usually on the second Saturday of the month, to study, pray, form community and support one another in their lives of prayer and the apostolate.

6. Mission: Seculars share in the Carmelite mission of knowing God so God can be known.

At the Mass, members prayed specifically for the Discalced Carmelite Order throughout the world, for marriages and families; for their own commitment to prayer; for the canonical approval of the secular order; for fellow seculars; and for deceased members.

“I am so grateful for this gift of being a Secular Carmelite, and I know you are, too,” former president Patty Still told the community. “Today, together, let’s remember that all we think, say and do daily is a prayer if done for the glory of God in love and thanksgiving to him for all that he has done for us in his love and mercy.”

Anniversary is coming
The two communities of Secular Discalced Carmelites will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Teresa of Avila with a Mass June 20 at 9:30 a.m. at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, 2701 State St., New Orleans.

“For me, it has really increased my faith and taught me how to lean on God each day and not to worry about the past and not to worry about the future because God is in today,” said Simon, who is a member with her husband Roy. “God will get you through today. You don’t have to worry about tomorrow.”

The archdiocese has several other secular orders, including Third Order Dominicans, Lay Carmelites of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Third Order Marists, Secular Franciscans and the Secular Order of the Servants of Mary.

For more information on the Secular Carmelites, call Simon at (985) 871-7805.

Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at .org.

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