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» Carmelecta

“Lead us with Prayer, With Love, With Hope!”

by Reverend Ron Oakham, O.Carm.

On Sunday, June 19, 2005, delegates to our Province’s 39th Chapter gathered not just from the four countries in which our Province serves (Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Peru), but from Italy, Australia, El Salvador and Brazil also. One hundred and sixty four Carmelites traveled to the Provincial headquarters at Aylesford in Darien, Illinois, for this triennial event set to begin on Monday morning. Within less than five days, all that had been in the planning for the previous two years was brought to completion.

Most Reverend Joseph Chalmers, O.Carm., (Prior General) and Very Rev. William Harry, O.Carm. (on the General Council) during the presentations

This Chapter was set into motion in May, 2003, when the Provincial Council appointed the Preparatory Commission. Frs. Bob Colaresi and Ron Oakham were asked to co-chair the commission working with Bro. Charlie Kwiatkowski, Frs. Bernhard Bauerle, Terry Cyr, Mike Greenwell, Tom Schrader and Bill Wert. Because the previous Chapter had worked so well at the Aylesford center, the Council selected it as the location for this Chapter. With the site already determined, the commission set to work on developing a theme and a logo.

The recommendation was made that we look for inspiration by reading two of the Order’s recent documents: the 1995 Carmelite Constitutions and the 2000 Ratio Institutionis Vitae Carmelitane (concerning the religious formation for Carmelite life). The call for “transformation” and “conversion” in these documents jumped out at the commission members. After several discussions and various drafts, the theme “Forging Our Future: Obedient to the Spirit” was chosen, and a logo designed (by Melton Castro, a graphic artist in San Francisco).

The newly-elected Provincial, John Welch, O.Carm.

This would be our guide for the work of developing the five elements which form our Province’s Chapter: prayer, fraternity, voting on legislation, election of Provincial leadership, and attending to other matters.

Most of Monday morning was designed as a retreat-like entrance into the Chapter. While we often use one of the various symbols found in our Carmelite heritage drawn from the two main inspirers of the community, Elijah the Prophet and Mary the Mother of Jesus (the mountain, the spring, the cave, the sword, the mantle, the crown, and the stars of David), this time the community gathered for an opening prayer time gathered around a different, but very Carmelite symbol—the fire (of Elijah’s sword, sacrifice and chariot and of the Spirit). This prayer and the Eucharist that followed it (presided over by Most Rev. Joseph Chalmers, Prior General of the Order) became the foundation upon which the work of the week rested.

The newly-elected Council (from left to right): Regional Superiors James Boyce, David Simpson and Albert Koppes; Prior-Provincial John Welch, and Councilors Carl Markelz, Emmett Gavin, Ronald Oakham and Daniel O’Neill.

An important part of a Chapter is having time just to be together since we live and minister in such far flung places from each other. Thus, interspersed throughout the various scheduled parts of the Chapter was time for lingering together so that we could catch up with old friends, get to know new members and celebrate anniversaries of vows and ordinations. The time to assemble in prayer together each day is also a cherished experience. During these prayers and liturgies of this week, we remembered the 26 Province members who died since the last Chapter, prayed for healing of illness and brokenness within our own lives, sought inspiration from our spiritual guides Elijah and Mary, and commissioned the leadership of a new Provincial and his council.

Reverend Raul Maravi, O.Carm. (foreground) listens to Chapter discussions across the wireless translator

Some time was spent each of the first three days addressing “other matters.” On Monday, Very Rev. John Russell, outgoing Provincial, presented a report on the Province followed by Very Rev. Bernhard Bauerle (Provincial Procurator and outgoing Midwestern Commissariat Provincial) and Mr. Denis Ancel (Provincial Business Manager) who gave an update on the Province’s finances. That evening, various persons who have served with us or been served by us in our various ministries addressed the Chapter. They spoke of their experience with Carmelites, affirming and challenging us as we continue to seek to serve the Church today. Two other matters were addressed during the week: Long Range Planning for our Province and an educational session to continue the development of a safe environment within our communities and ministries for children, teens and adults.

Fathers John Knoernschild, O.Carm., and Paul Henson, O.Carm., share a light moment during dinner

The legislative work (often the second most time consuming part of Chapters in previous eras) was attended to on Tuesday afternoon. It was the culmination of a year and a half of work which the Preparatory Commission oversaw in collaboration with the various Provincial Commissions. All but one proposal was approved by the Chapter, including the reorganization of the legislation so as to alleviate duplications and form a more unified sense of our life in community and ministry.

At the heart of a Chapter is the election of leadership. To foster an atmosphere of discernment, Leadership Forums were scheduled the day before an election. At these sessions, each candidate was asked to share with the Chapter Delegates what gifts and talents he would bring to the office as well as his limitations which he would need to be rounded out by the other members of the leadership team. In the intervening time before the election, delegates had time to reflect on what they had heard, to talk with other delegates about the various candidates, and to be open to the guidance of the Spirit. The elections were held in three separate sessions— for Provincial, for Commissariat Provincials (i.e., Regional Superiors), and for Provincial Councilors—on Thursday and Friday.

Rev.’s Ferdinand Lansang, O.Carm., and Benjamin Aguilar, O.Carm., leading the singing.

The Chapter ended midday on Friday with a closing Eucharist at which the newly elected Provincial (Very Rev. John Welch) was the main celebrant, and the other council members (Fr. Carl Markelz, 1st Councilor; Fr. Emmett Gavin, 2nd Councilor; Fr. Ron Oakham, 3rd Councilor; and Fr. Dan O’Neill, 4th Councilor) and Commissariat Provincials (Fr. Jim Boyce, Eastern Commissariat Provincial; Fr. Dave Simpson, Midwestern Commissariat Provincial; and Fr. Al Koppes, Western Commissariat Provincial) were concelebrants. Before the Presentation of Gifts, the community prayed for the guidance of the Spirit over this new leadership team and presented to each of them a hand decorated candle lit from the fire around which we had gathered throughout the week. After communion, all the Chapter Delegates were presented with a votive candle bearing the theme and logo of the Chapter. As we left the Chapter to return to the various corners of the world from which we came, we carried the “fire” with us along with the challenge that Fr. Ashley Harrington had presented in his homily at the Eucharist just after the election of the Provincial: “lead us with prayer, with love and with hope!”