Meet Rolf ‘Nepi’ Willemsen, OCarm

MeetNepi4 Questions for Nepi Willemsen who was recently ordained to the priesthood.

Q: What attracted you Carmel?

A: The Carmelites were really the first order that I encountered. I am almost tempted to say that the order chose me. When I first heard about the Carmelites, I did not have the slightest idea that I would want to become one myself. I became friends with Carmelites and only then, very slowly, I learned about the history, the charism, and the ministry of the order. From the very beginning, I liked their hospitality and the way that the brothers treated each other.

Q: Why did you stay?

A: Later on I read some of the works written by great Carmelite Saints, like Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, and Titus Brandsma. That really got me hooked; the struggles of these people and their unique encounter with God were fascinating for me to read about. Each of them found a very personal relationship with God in prayer, one that eventually led them to enter into a deep friendship with Christ. Their approach to prayer and life is a great example to follow in my life as a Carmelite. My most basic and at the same time greatest hope is to further grow in my relationship with God. That’s what I have learned in the Carmelites and that is also something that has been with me ever since. God has been extremely good to me. My Carmelite journey has had its ups and downs but joining the Carmelites has been the best thing that ever happened to me.

Q: What has been your best experience of ministry in Carmel?

A: Being an intern at Salpointe Catholic High School in Tucson, Arizona, has been my best experience so far. I am enjoying this amazing time at the school and the awesome people around. Ministering to the students and their families both as a teacher in the theology department and in the various ways that I am involved with the school community is very rewarding. I could see myself teaching high school in the future but I really am open to whatever might come up.

Q: What do you think Carmel has to say to the world today?

A: The Carmelite charism of prayer, community, and service is answer to so many challenges that we face in the work today. Being a Carmelite is basically about living in a religious community. It’s really a community of brothers who together follow the common mission of attempting to live Christ’s teachings and making the joy of the Gospel available to the people. We try to focus ourselves on God in prayer (contemplation) so that we might serve the people with their needs in their everyday life (action); we are communities based on prayer in action. The Carmelite rule sets the framework for our common life as a religious order within the Catholic Church and helps us to continually build up a deep personal relationship with God. The prophet Elijah and Jesus’ mother Mary are probably the two most important figures for the order; their willingness to answer God’s call despite the difficulties that their commitments entailed are great examples. The Carmelite prayer tradition reflects a search for God that leads into silence and listening. The Saints of Carmel give witness to this powerful and transforming encounter of God, through their lives and many in writing. Carmelites are students of this school of prayer and we want to be companions for all those who embark on the journey of placing oneself in the presence of God. That is why we are hospitable communities, open to share our lives with others in serving them in the various ministries that we provide all over the world.

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