Some serious spiritual warriors will make their home in the Wilcannia-Forbes diocese at the invitation of Bishop Columba Macbeth-Green OSPPE.
Five nuns will come from three thriving communities of Discalced Carmelites in Nebraska and Pennsylvania to form a Monastery of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in the southern part of the outback diocese. Two of them are Australian – Sr Francis from Canberra, who joined the Nebraska convent around 15 years ago and Sr Mariam originally from the Blue Mountains, who joined one of the Pennsylvania convents in 2011.
Bishop Macbeth-Green told The Catholic Weekly that he had been keen for a long time to get a contemplative order into the diocese, so long as they could be self-funding. “The main reason we want them is that contemplative religious are the powerhouse of any diocese, in their prayer and their witness. They are the heart of the Church. Because ours is a rural and remote diocese, the nuns will be a great source of consolation for clergy and our people.
“The second thing is that we’ve had the tradition of the Carmelites here at Parkes, which ended when they joined the community at Dulwich Hill to form the monastery at Varroville in the late 1980s. I’m really looking forward to the possibly of having a Carmelite powerhouse in my diocese again.”
The nuns live a life of strict enclosure and solitude, and prayer and sacrifice for the Church and the world. They observe the traditions of the Carmelite order under the 16th century Discalced reform of St John of the Cross and St Teresa of Avila, but also trace roots to Mexico with their particular communities celebrating the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and Divine Office.
Georgina Brazier belongs to a committee which has been supporting the nuns in their preparations to come to Australia. She said that in the US they are seeing vocations flourishing and convents overflowing, with two or three young women each month enquiring about joining the order. They are self-reliant but need help to raise funds to purchase a place to live and will welcome ongoing donations. “We’ve begun fundraising and have got a few properties in mind, but everything else is ready and we’re really hoping that they will be here in the latter part of the year,” she said.
Mother of five Jean Haynes, of St Aloysius parish in Moama, said she is excited about the prospect of welcoming young religious to her diocese. “It’s wonderful to hear of convents opening up, when usually the news is about them closing down. I want my kids to see the religious life as a normal part of life. And it’s important for all of us to see people who have devoted their lives to prayer, to remind us of the importance of prayer in life.”