Tears of Joy

In a journey taking several years, Adalbert Imperial swapped hospital scrubs for a friar’s habit. Among the many influences along the way, one moment at the Garden of Gethsemane stands out

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Bishop Greg Homeming OCD ordains Br Adalbert Imperial to the Diaconate on 8 May, the World Day of Prayer for Vocations and Mother’s Day. The previous day the young friar made his final religious vows to the Regional Vicar Fr Bernard Hancock OCD as Br Adalbert of the Beloved. Photo: Patrick J. lee
Bishop Greg Homeming OCD ordains Br Adalbert Imperial to the Diaconate on 8 May, the World Day of Prayer for Vocations and Mother’s Day. The previous day the young friar made his final religious vows to the Regional Vicar Fr Bernard Hancock OCD as Br Adalbert of the Beloved. Photo: Patrick J. Lee

On May 7 at Varroville in Sydney’s southwest, Br Adalbert made his solemn profession, promising to serve God as a Discalced Carmelite friar for the rest of his life.

The following day, Lismore Bishop Greg Homeming OCD ordained him to the diaconate; the first time in Australia that a bishop from the order has ordained one of its friars.

One of the major mendicant religious orders, the Carmelites trace their origin to 12th century Holy Land.

In the 16th century St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross established the Discalced reform of their order. St Therese of Lisieux, the ‘little flower’, is probably its most well-known saint.

“It was really at the Garden of Gethsemane at the Franciscan monastery there, where our group stopped and prayed, where something revolutionary happened to me during prayer.”

It is devoted to spiritual direction and other apostolic works, and above all, to prayer.

Br Adalbert was a Brisbane medical resident and contemplating what speciality he would work towards when he grabbed the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and World Youth Day in Madrid in 2011.

“I really enjoyed my early years as a junior doctor but I was hungry for something more and was trying to discern where I should go and where would I be most fulfilled,” he explains.

“It was really at the Garden of Gethsemane at the Franciscan monastery there, where our group stopped and prayed, where something revolutionary happened to me during prayer.”

While he can’t describe exactly what happened, Br Adalbert just says “something changed” and the next time the group attended Mass, he found himself inexplicably crying.

On pilgrimage at World Youth Day in Madrid. Far right: Br Adalbert with his parents Wilfredo and Melita.
Br Adalbert (left) with friends on pilgrimage at World Youth Day in Madrid.

“Things just made sense, in a way that I never thought could make sense. I was just moved to tears…things were just happening in me that were hard to describe. I spoke to a fellow pilgrim [about it] and he said, ‘That’s the gift of tears’.”

Back home, the young doctor spoke to the archdiocesan vocations director and in 2012 began his search in earnest, entering a house of discernment for men and beginning introductory theological studies.

Eventually, and not without a painful struggle, he decided to let go of his medical aspirations and enter the Holy Spirit Seminary in Banyo.

He felt that if he didn’t immediately say yes to this call to the priesthood, that life would move on from that crossroad and he might never take the plunge.

“St John of the Cross always popped up whenever you’d see something about the mystical tradition of the Church, but he would also pop up in the most unexpected places.”

Gradually, he says St John of the Cross brought him to the Discalced Carmelite life with its focus on allegiance to Jesus Christ and deepening union with God for the good of the Church and the world.

“I always liked to read works of the saints and their biographies. And St John of the Cross always popped up whenever you’d see something about the mystical tradition of the Church, but he would also pop up in the most unexpected places.”

After two years in the seminary Adalbert felt called to discern a religious vocation. While he seriously considered joining the Dominicans and Jesuits, he also contemplated contacting the Discalced Carmelites after a talk with Fr Paul Chandler OCarm, the seminary’s spiritual director at the time.

The new deacon says that St John of the Cross (pictured) and St Teresa of Avila have been strong intercessors in his life.
The new deacon says that St John of the Cross (pictured) and St Teresa of Avila have been strong intercessors in his life.

“I was tossing and turning about what to do and finally reached out to Bishop Homeming. I didn’t know until later, but the day I emailed him, 14 December, happened to be the feast of St John of the Cross.

“I feel like the saint was always there directing me, bringing me to deeper prayer through the Carmelite charism.”

Br Adalbert says his time in the novitiate has been a true ‘dark night’. “It has been really quite inspirational and moving and I started to get a glimpse of the light that can only be seen in the darkness.”

In Sydney the friars devote themselves to spiritual direction, giving retreats and conferences, and the running of two parishes, Our Lady of Mt Carmel in Varroville and Corpus Christi in St Ives.

In recent years Br Adalbert has also worked with the pastoral care team at St Vincent’s Private Hospital in Darlinghurst, putting his deepening theological studies, experience of prayer, and doctor’s bedside manner to good use.

His great hope as a deacon and, in time, a priest is “to love as God loves”.

“Because that presupposes that we are united with God, which presupposes that we are pleasing to God,” he explains.

“At this stage it’s just about how do I continue to grow as a Discalced Carmelite while serving as a deacon and a priest. Whatever that means is up to God.”

“Knowing this helps us to guide our actions, our toughts, and our words, so that we’re not really constrained by what people might say to or about us. If that is our foundation then our witness [to God] becomes very powerful.”

While he has taken vows of obedience, chastity and poverty for life, he’s still not sure where his path will lead.

“At this stage it’s just about how do I continue to grow as a Discalced Carmelite while serving as a deacon and a priest. Whatever that means is up to God.”

Interested in life as a Carmelite? See www.carmelite.com or contact Fr Gerard Moran OCD at [email protected]