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Thursday, March 23, 2017
Aylesford: report from Carmelite Formators' Conference
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¬†Forty-five Carmelites, entrusted with the ministry of Carmelite formation within the Carmelite Order, met at Aylesford Priory recently, for a two-week intensive programme exploring the present blessings and challenges of formation in the Order. The conference,which ended on Monday, provided a forum for vocation directors and directors of initial formation to explore the theme of formation for community life, in which they were aided by expert speakers who presented current approaches to spirituality and human development. Facilitated by Teresa Clements, DMJ, the programme was developed by Alexander Vella, O.Carm., Kristian KŲrner, O.Carm. and CharlÚ Camilleri, O.Carm. Expert Carmelite speakers from different countries came to parts of the conference to share the richness of their experience and learning. Kees Waaijman, O.Carm. a universally acclaimed expert on the Carmelite Rule from the Titus Brandsma Institute in Nijmegan, Netherlands, spoke on 'The Model of Community in the Rule of Carmel'. Quinn Connors, O.Carm. a psychotherapist from St Luke's Institute in Washington DC, led a process of reflection on 'Forming for Chastity in Community Life'. Alexander Vella, O.Carm., prior provincial of the Maltese province and chief redactor of the Order's formation document Ratio Institutionis Vitae Carmelitanae, presented material entitled 'Forming Praying Communities'. Simone Gamberoni, prior of the formation community at S. Martino, Rome, delivered a paper on 'The Community as the Place where People grow'. Tjeu Timmermans, O.Carm., prior provincial of the Dutch province, spoke on 'A Community in Mission'. Desiderio Garcia Martinez, O.Carm. from Spain explored 'The Role of the Community in the Process of Transformation'. As well as sharing a strong sense of the internationality and multicultural dimensions of the Carmelite Order, the participants were pleased to have had the opportunity of visiting Aylesford Priory, many for the first time. Reflecting on the significance of the place of their conference, the formators said: "The significance of the place - Aylesford - was not lost on us. As we stood together and prayed together at the site of the original church of the Assumption, our thoughts naturally turned to our brothers who first set foot on this spot so many centuries ago. They faced an uncertain future and lived through dramatic changes to Carmelite life. Through prayer, dialogue and by taking creative risks they were able to move into the future with hope, relying on Divine Providence... "From the year 1242, when the Carmelites first arrived at Aylesford, and especially in 1247 with the first General Chapter held here, this special place - this cradle of the Order in Europe - has been a witness to the changes our Order has gone through, especially in the change from a community of hermits to a mendicant Order with a contemplative lifestyle. During the days of our gathering, we recalled the response of our hermit brothers to the new situation they found themselves in. Our brothers prayed and acted, trusting in the maternal protection of Mary. We, the descendants of the hermit brothers of Mount Carmel, have prayed where they prayed. We entrust ourselves to Mary as they did and move into the future, with its uncertainties, in hope and joyful trust. We come from all over the world. Our first brothers could never have envisioned the future of Carmel, yet they want forward in faith. So do we - and we place ourselves and our candidates under the care of Mary, our sister in faith."
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