In my 27 years as a Carmelite, I’ve been blessed to have a number of “jobs” that I’ve loved. As an educator, I spent years in the classroom and later on as both a principal and president I was fortunate to share in the lives of the thousands of students, parents, staff and alumni who are so deeply committed to our schools. But in the year since my election as provincial I’ve been able to share in Carmelite life in profound ways that I couldn’t have imagined previously.
During the first 12 months of my tenure I’ve logged tens of thousands of miles traveling across 3 continents to visit our Carmelite men. (I even became an A-List member of Southwest Airlines with my travel in the United States!) It has been the privilege of a lifetime to witness first hand the exciting and life-transforming work our brotherhood is engaged in across the globe. It was that experience that informed our provincial leadership team as we formulated our new vision statement: “Carmel: A Place and Way of Transformation in God.”
The spiritual journey of transformation that originated on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land 800 years ago is alive and well in the mountains of Peru, the barrios of El Salvador and Mexico, our parishes in Canada, the city of Chicago, or any of the other far flung places the Carmelites of the Province of the Most Pure Heart of Mary find themselves. My hope is that this blog can be equal parts travelogue and pastoral meditation offering a window into the great variety of places where our brotherhood is bringing the spirit of Carmel and the transformations that are taking place as a result.
While there I had the opportunity to participate in the Memorial Mass for Berta Madiera, the godmother of Hank Ormond, O.Carm., who died six months ago in Oakland, CA. The mass was a beautiful celebration of her life and Portuguese culture. Hank was also joined by his good friend Patrick McMahon, O.Carm, along with Mike Greenwell, O.Carm, Prior of our Bay Area Carmelites, Mike Kwiecien, O.Carm., along with family and friends.Later that Saturday I presided at the afternoon Mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Fairfield, CA, where there’s a beautiful spirit of participation and welcome. We were asked to start this parish in the Diocese of Sacramento in 1979, and John Hertel, O.Carm. was the first pastor. He did baptisms and mass in the garage of the first rectory before a multi -purpose Church was built. The new Church was built nine years ago. Currently David Fontaine, O.Carm. is beloved in the role of pastor.
After mass, leaders from the parish council, finance committee, and Lay Carmelites demonstrated their tremendous hospitality by sharing a meal and entertainment with Mike Greenwell, O.Carm. and me. The youth of the community shared their stories and their commitment to the parish through song. It was a wonderful evening.
On Sunday, I presided at the two Masses at St. Teresa of Avila Parish in San Francisco. Our team of Mike and Mike, also known as Greenwell and Kwiecien, are doing a spectacular job of leading the people who are especially focused on the church renewal at Vatican II and believe in the dignity of every human being, living as good stewards of the earth, and keeping social justice issues at the forefront.During my weekend there I reflected on the importance of making a decision for Jesus Christ. The gospel that Sunday was the conclusion of the Bread of Life Discourse in John’s Gospel, (Chapter 6). Many of his disciples turned away since Jesus’ teachings were too hard to handle. Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Peter responded, “Lord to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God (Jn 6:68-69).”
Many of us, perhaps, would have struggled with Jesus’ teaching about “eating my flesh and drinking my blood” in his day. As Carmelites we are called in Chapter 11 of our Rule to celebrate the Eucharist daily. We are convinced that the Eucharist has the power to transform us into better people and ultimately better followers of Jesus Christ. Carmel is a Place and Way of Transformation in God, through his son Jesus Christ. Each day we must make a decision: to follow Jesus Christ as brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel! It is not easy each day. Jesus’ teachings at times might seem too hard to handle, but with God’s grace and the companionship of our brothers in community and the people of God, that burden is lightened and we are transformed together.
I thank my Carmelite brothers Mike, Mike, David, and Hank for their hospitality and warm welcome. I also would like to invite others to experience this welcome themselves. If you are ever in Fairfield, stop by and join the community of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. If you find yourself in San Francisco, get to 19th and Connecticut and worship with the St Teresa of Avila community.
May Our Lady of Mount Carmel bless our prayer, community, and ministry in the Bay Area.