December 20, 2008

The final days of Advent

The "O" Antiphons of Advent

December 17 - O Wisdom, (O Sapientia) Who came from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly, COME, and teach us the way of salvation.

December 18 - O Lord of Lords, (O Adonai) and Leader of the house of Israel, COME, and with outstretched arms redeem us.

December 19 - O Root of Jesse, (O Radix Jesse) Who stands for an ensign of the people, before whom kings shall keep silence and unto whom the Gentiles shall pray, COME, to deliver us and delay not.

December 20 - O Key of David, (O Clavis David) and Scepter of the House of Israel, COME, and bring forth from his prison the captive that sitteth in darkness and the shadow of death.

December 21 - O Dawn of the East, (O Oriens) Brightness of the light eternal, COME, and enlighten them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death.

December 22 - O King of the Gentiles, (O Rex Gentium) and the desired of them, COME, and deliver man whom Thou didst form out of the dust of the earth.

December 23 - O Emmanuel, (O Emmanuel) God with us, our King and Lawgiver, the expected of all the nations, COME, and save us, O Lord our God."

Each night from December 17 through December 23, after Compline, we process with an image of the Infant Jesus from the Chapel to the Friar's cell who is having his Day of Recollection on the following day. Singing the "O" Antiphon of the day and carrying lighted candles, we make our way through the monastery, asking Jesus to COME!

December 15, 2008

snow, snow and snow...

The Novices were able to enjoy lots of snow on their visit to St. Cecilia, Stanwood, Washington.

The new pastor of St. C's enjoys a cold day in Stanwood.

more Novitiate Tour

Novices visiting our parish in Stanwood, Washington - St. Cecilia.

The Novices enjoying the sites of the Great Northwest - Deception Pass on Whidbey Island.The Novices visiting with our good friend, Jo Koles and her son, John.
The Novices were on hand to share a Knight of Columbus evening and to witness our brother, Fr. Laurence, receive an award of recognition for service to the St. Cecilia Council.

Northern Novitiate Tour

As is our custom, the Novice Brothers have the privilege of visiting the houses of our Province during their Novitiate year. The last few days have taken them to the Northern part of our Province. First stop was a visit to our Nuns in Eugene, Oregon. From there it was on to Mount Angel Oregon. Next stop, Stanwood, Washington.

The Novices in front of the Abbey Church at their future seminary - Mount Angel.

The Novices with our good friends and benefactors in Mount Angel - the Westbrooks.

The Novices at Sacred Heart Church, Gervais, Oregon. This is where the Friars lived when they first arrived in Oregon in 1999.

December 11, 2008

Carmelite Kitchen

Our brothers can often be found assisting our Carmelite Nuns in whatever project they might be working on at the time. One recent autumn day found Fr. Adam and the novices assisting one community of our Sisters making applesauce for their Christmas sale.

And of course, wherever Carmelites gather, after the hard work there is also fraternal sharing over a meal.

November 13, 2008

Our brother in Rome

On October 15, 2008, the Solemnity of our Holy Mother, St. Teresa of Jesus, the Carmelite students at the International Carmelite College (The Teresianum) began a new academic term. Our Brother Juan Elias Medina began his second of three years of Theological studies in preparation for Ordination to the Priesthood.
On October 12, 2008, a few days before, our Bro. Juan accompanied our three brothers from the Manjummel Province (India), who are also studying at the Teresianum, to the canonization of the first Indian, Sister Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception. With Bro. Juan are left to right, Bro. Shon 1st year, Bro. Lincemon 3rd year, and Bro. Joemon 2nd year (Bro. Juan's classmate). We have a special bond with our brothers from the Manjummel Province because several members of the Province have served with us in California and Arizona for the last few years.

November 6, 2008

Novitiate Provincial Tour

Our three novices are presently touring the southern part of our Province with their Novice Master, Fr. Donald. They are pictured (with Fr. Thomas - member of the Redlands Community) at their first stop, El Carmelo Retreat House and will continue on to Tucson and Alhambra.

November 1, 2008

Beatification of Louis and Zelie Martin - parents of St. Therese

The following account was written by Theresa Thomas, OCDS (Berkeley Community). God reward you, Theresa, for sharing the graces!

In August, George and I were planning our vacation. He wanted to go to France, late October or early November, so we would be there during the election, and find out what the French think about our new president. I mentioned it to Father Gerald. “You’re going to France??” he asked. “In October?!” I started to explain, but he interrupted me. “Do you know that St. Therese’s parents are being beatified in Lisieux on October 19th, Mission Sunday?” How simply the Martins extended their invitation to us to attend their celebration. Of course, we accepted.

Of course? That in itself is a small miracle. George isn’t even Catholic, but on his own, he made the beatification the focal point of our vacation. St. Therese wanted to make sure he had a good time. We arrived in Paris on October 9. He was able to sleep late, indulge in great French food and wine, and visit museums to his heart’s content, for six days. He ate more andouiettes (that’s chitt’lins in this country) than I ever imagined possible. We had dinner with friends whose parents live in Paris.

I was able to pick up my own routine, developed in previous visits, beginning with morning Mass each day at St. Pierre de Chaillot (my local parish church in Paris, a block and a half from our hotel), where the pastor and congregation have always warmly welcomed me, followed by morning prayer from my French breviary and a good 45 minutes or more of quiet prayer before returning to our darkened hotel room to find George still asleep! Sometimes I accompanied him to museums, and sometimes I struck out on my own. I had a few errands to accomplish. Our separate adventures gave us grist for our dinner conversations.

We saw the Picasso exhibit at the Grand Palais together; I set off alone in search of our Carmelite Fathers’ house. At a church where I asked directions, I was directed to an orphanage established under the patronage of St. Therese, which has a large shrine in her honor with some major relics. It was not our friars’ house, but it became clear that the Martin family had taken charge of this visit in France.

Father Gerald sent me contact information for our Discalced Carmelite friars in Paris, but St. Therese went him one better: After a visit to the Catholic bookstore, she led me to the Discalced Carmelite seminary in Paris, where I found her statue seated in the courtyard with an open book in her lap. Of course, I also found my way into the chapel for a few minutes’ prayer, and a special remembrance of our own seminarians, as well as of the French seminarians and the lone young man sharing the chapel with me.

We left Paris on October 15, after a visit to the friars’ house in the 16th arrondisement to share our Holy Mother’s solemnity with them. Our next stop was Giverny, and a visit to Monet’s house and gardens, which were breathtakingly beautiful.

We arrived at our B&B about 15 kilometers outside Lisieux on Thursday evening, after a leisurely drive along picturesque back roads through the Normandy countryside. Here the Martins intensified the retreat-like atmosphere of this vacation for me: Our room was in a separate building from the main farmhouse, and there was no TV or telephone. Just outside our window a horse and donkey were pastured. It brought to mind Sr. Mary of St. Peter (1816-1848), from the Carmel in Tours, who was also devoted to the Holy Face, and whose life may have influenced St. Therese.

We passed Friday with a visit to the Carmel, arriving precisely in time for Mass (thank you, Therese), and almost equally importantly, a visit to the laundromat across the street. We also figured out our route from the B&B to the Basilica, and practiced it, to make sure we wouldn’t get lost and lose precious moments on the all-important morning of the 19th. We had been informed that the Basilica doors would open at 8:30 a.m. and that if we weren’t there by then we wouldn’t get in.

That evening just before sunset, we took a stroll along a hiking path to the charming little church of Notre Dame de Livaye, perched atop the hill overlooking the surrounding farms. The peacefulness of the surroundings gradually took hold and penetrated our souls. The church, of course, was locked up tight, as we anticipated. It did not look as if it was ever used; the drive up the hill from the main road was not even graveled. Later, our hostess explained that Mass was celebrated there only twice a year, on the feast of St. Martin (!), and that she was the keeper of the key, and the one called in case of an emergency. If she had known we were going, she would have given us the key!

The celebration began in earnest on Saturday, in Alencon. Various events were scheduled. The home of St. Therese’s birth was specially opened for the occasion, as it has been closed for repairs; there was an exposition of artifacts related to the lives of the Martin family; a conference about Louis and Zelie; and a list of various sites to see. The climax of the day was a pontifical Mass celebrated by Cardinal Martins (with many other concelebrants), followed by a reception with aperitifs (in the street) and fireworks. A little timidly, I wore my ceremonial scapular at the Mass. It led to a nice exchange with the woman seated behind me, who explained that she also wore the scapular, and who gave me a lovely holy card that she distributes as an apostolate. We were seated near the back of the church, on the center aisle. As the many priests processed in, one noted my scapular particularly. His face lit up in a big smile, and he reached out toward me and said, quite audibly and excitedly, his eyes twinkling, “Vous etes carmelite, comme moi?” I straightened my shoulders, looked him in the eye, nodded and replied quietly, and seriously, “Oui, comme vous.” Then it was my turn to grin. But I have been wondering ever since, just what kind of Carmelite he really is. A good one, I hope!

The next morning, it was still dark as we made our way to the farmhouse for a delicious breakfast with homemade breads, cake, jams and yoghurt in addition to the butter and cheese, cold cuts and ever-present fresh apples, not to mention the coffee and tea. I wanted to start even earlier than we did, but we had been assured by the tourist information office that the parking lot would not open before 8:00 a.m., so I held my anxiety in check. As we made the short drive to Lisieux, I noticed that there were clouds in the east, as dawn was breaking, and the sky there was quite red, normally a reliable indication that it will rain later. The sky overhead was clear, and I smiled happily as I thought to myself, “No, it will not rain today. God is just showing off his goodness and creativity, and the beauty of his creation. It is beautiful, Lord. It will not rain today. You would not let it rain today.” And indeed, the sky was clear the whole day. It was, however, quite cold at first.

Notwithstanding our earlier practice, we were too excited, and repeatedly took a wrong turn, losing precious moments. We arrived shortly after 8:00, and were directed to a parking space right next to the entrance to the Basilica grounds. Other cars, before and after us, were directed to places further away. I was beginning to think Zelie and Louis had taken a special interest in this couple who came all the way from California to attend their beatification celebration, as I had hoped they would. As we made our way in, we were handed a packet of information that was to include a booklet containing the ceremony printed in French and in English, and a copy of the homily as well. We were also handed a plastic bag containing free samples of France Catholique, a French weekly.

We made our way to the front doors of the Basilica, but with a sinking feeling, as I noticed that people were already taking seats outside in the great plaza in front of the grand entrance. There was a solid line of discalced Carmelite friars wearing white mantles in front of every door, and some other people who looked very official. One friar explained to me in English that the Basilica had been full for over an hour, and suggested that I try the crypt, and after that the seating outdoors. We did not bother to try to get into the crypt, but found great seats about six rows back outside. Our seats were on the aisle next to a section that was reserved for people with minor roles in the ceremony – a section that remained empty until well after the beginning of the Mass – so we were ideally situated to see the entrance procession, and to get some great photos. Again, I was aware of having been specially cared for. There was a huge screen to see everything that happened inside the Basilica. I was better off outside than I would have been inside the Basilica, and I knew it. All the same, the chairs had been set up the day before, and the dew had condensed on them during the night. I realized that plastic bag holding the free magazines was going to be extremely useful! There is a huge semi-circular arch over the main doors of the Basilica. A picture of Louis on the left, and Zelie on the right, had been enlarged, and shaped to fit the space. His eyes gazed into the distance, clearly looking inward to God; her soft, loving eyes seemed to look straight into the depths of my heart, where I am sure she read and answered every prayer I brought with me to France.

Did I mention that it was cold?! St. Therese used to discipline herself not to react to the cold. For me, to do so that morning would have been impossible. I was shivering violently and uncontrollably after a short time, notwithstanding the down jacket, long pants and wool socks I was wearing. And I was not alone. All of us did our best to distract ourselves from the cold by taking an interest in the people sitting near us, and in the celebrities who were arriving one by one, and being escorted past us into the (presumably warmer) Basilica. Right in front of us were three friendly young women from Mexico, who spoke perfect English, and whom we encountered again the next day at the Carmel. They had some pretty fancy photography equipment, and were having a great time with it! A few rows behind us was another man from the U.S. There was an amazing sense of joyous unity among all of us watching this great event from outside the Basilica. We were family, celebrating this joyous occasion together.

The ceremony began with a long entrance procession, well documented in my photos, with all ten thousand of us joining in the Laudate Dominum. There was one familiar, and beloved face: the serene countenance of our Superior General, Father Luis Arostegui, O.C.D..

The procession was followed with a welcome from the rector of the Basilica, and by a brief message from His Excellency, Pierre Pican, Bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux. Bishop Pican spoke about how this ordinary family, enlightened by faith and lively participation in the life of the Church, confronted all the trials of life and produced five religious vocations by their humble response to God’s call. Bishop Jean-Claude Boulanger, of the Diocese of Sees, spoke next. His remarks, touching on a few of the details of their lives, made the point that one could say that Therese’s spirituality was rooted in that of her parents, who modeled the simple desire to accept completely the will of God, to live through confident abandonment to Divine Providence.

The Mass was mostly in French, with some sung Latin, and readings and intercessions in other languages. Happily for us, one of the readings was in English! The Penitential Rite was followed by the Rite of Beatification, which began with the request of the two bishops of Bayeux and Lisieux, and Sees, and of the Postulator General of the Discalced Carmelites, to inscribe among the number of the Blessed the Venerable Servants of God Louis Martin and Zelie Guerin, spouses and parents. The Vice-Postulator then presented the biographical profile of the Venerable Servants of God. You can find an English translation of it (and of the Cardinal’s homily) at, a superb website about all things Therese-ian. Jose Cardinal Saraiva Martins, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, then read the Decree of Beatification, and relics were carried in solemn procession by selected families, accompanied, of course, by jubilant song. Outside, there were cheers and waving of the banners included in our information packets, especially when the relics passed by on the esplanade. This was the point at which something was done just for those of us who were outside the Basilica: fireworks were set off, multi-colored streamers of smoke that echoed the rainbow of colors of our waving banners, clearly visible against the clear blue Norman sky.

The Mass resumed in the usual way, with the Gloria from the Mass of the Angels and the Credo being blended with another solemn chant, perhaps of a more modern composition. On the aisle, I had the freedom to kneel during the Canon of the Mass, while most of those around me had to stand. One of the most moving moments of the morning came when the camera showed all of the ciboria on the altar, and the movements of the priests as they moved purposefully, almost urgently, to distribute communion to the masses of people assembled. Can you imagine the distribution of Holy Communion to ten thousand people? It was prayerfully carried out with great simplicity and dignity. Everyone present received the Body of Christ, in a peaceful and orderly manner.

After the sending forth, the Cardinal Bishops came outside to greet the people, and Louis’ and Zelie’s relics were carried outside for veneration by the faithful. Crowd-control personnel reverently and prayerfully touched various articles to the reliquary for those who passed by in homage to these newest models of sanctity. I suddenly realized I was desperate for a restroom, and the Martins looked after even that humble need: when I found the restroom, there was no line.

When I returned to George, I discovered just what a family celebration I was attending. As the Mass of Beatification was to be followed by other events in the Basilica, after an appropriate break for lunch, the French had made themselves at home, rearranging the chairs for their picnic lunches, releasing their dogs from their carriers, and their children from the constraints of good behavior. Everyone was playing in the sun, which had finally warmed the air to a comfortable level! Following their example, we found a spot on the grass, moved a few chairs over, and opened our own picnic lunch in the best French tradition: bread and cheese and fruit with some good Norman cider, and for George, more andouiettes!

After lunch, George found a seat in the Basilica to watch the “Spectacle”, a re-enactment of the daily life of the Martin family in period costume, with narrative in French taken from Zelie’s voluminous correspondence. Ready for some solitude, I strolled up the hill to the municipal cemetery, where St. Therese and her parents were originally buried. It is one of my favorite places in Lisieux. The Carmel of Lisieux maintains a fenced plot with a statue of Therese and cross, where other nuns are buried. Just outside it, and to the right as you look out over the valley, are a couple of other very old graves, in some disrepair, from the Carmel of St. Joseph, where I always like to pause and pray. A little further back toward the entrance is a bench, where one can sit quietly and read, or pray, or just look out over the beauty of the valley.

I rejoined George in the Basilica for Solemn Evening Prayer, presided over by one of the many bishops in attendance at the Beatification. I believe it was Bishop Guy Gaucher, OCD, although I am not sure of it. Tired and happy, our lives changed forever, we made our way back to our B&B, and then out to dinner.

The next day we opted for a quiet Mass at the Carmel instead of yet another pontifical Mass at the Basilica. I bought some postcards, with the same photos of Louis and Zelie that covered the arch at the Basilica to share with my OCDS community, and spent some time with St. Therese’s relics. Then we said goodby to Lisieux, and headed for Cancale, a quiet oyster-fishing village on the Bay of Mt. St. Michel for a couple of days. From there we drove to Barbizon, for a couple of days hiking in the forest before returning home to Berkeley. We stopped at the cathedral in Chartres on the way to admire its windows, and sculptures, continuing to ponder the graces received during our “pilgrimage” to Lisieux. I am aware of having been confirmed in the way of confidence and loving, in abandonment to God’s providential care.

In fact, there was one more grace. I usually suffer from jet lag for at least two weeks. This time, I don’t think I’ve had any jet lag at all.

October 31, 2008

All Hallow's Eve

Our parish school in Alhambra, St. Therese, celebrated Halloween as most schools do. However, the big difference was that many of the children were dressed as holy saints and heroes. Pictured is one St. Therese School student dressed as a young St. Therese in period costume. With her is Deacon Bro. James, who said that he is dressed as St. Raphael Kalinowski. The school celebrated with a parade and had lunch from the "In n Out" Burger van - a Southern California favorite.

October 25, 2008

Franciscan University of Steubenville Vocations Fair

On October 28, 2008, Fr. Adam Gregory represented our community at the Annual Vocations Fair at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. He was joined by Fr. Michael, OCD, (Vocation Director of the Washington Province), the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart, the Carmelite Nuns of Alhambra, CA, Piedmont, OK, and Latrobe Pennsylvania, as well as the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus, and the Carmelite Sisters of the Aged and Infirm. After a great day of sharing our lives with the students, we joined them for Holy Mass.

Carmelite vocation links:

Latrobe, PA Carmel -
Piedmont, OK Carmel -
Alhambra, CA Carmel -

Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart -
Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus -
Carmelite Sisters of the Aged and Infirm -

Western Province Friars -
Eastern Province Friars -

October 9, 2008

St. Cecilia (Stanwood) 100th Anniversary

On September 21, 2008, the Carmelite parish of St. Cecilia in Stanwood, Washington celebrated the 100th anniversary of foundation. Archbishop Alexander Brunett, Archbishop of Seattle, was present for the celebration.

Fr. Laurence Poncini, O.C.D. is the present Carmelite pastor of St. Cecilia.

Although the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Shoreline, Washington arrived in the archdiocese of Seattle in 1908, the Discalced Carmelite Friars of the California-Arizona Province did not arrive there until 1986. In 1989, we asssumed care of St. Cecilia Parish.

October 5, 2008

Carmel of Santa Clara 100th Anniversary

On the feast of St. Francis, October 4, 1908, the Carmel of the Infant Jesus was founded from the Carmel of Boston. After nine years in San Francisco, they finally transferred their monastery to the Santa Clara Valley (now known as Silicon Valley).

On Saturday, October 4, 2008, friends, family, benafactors, and the Carmelite family gathered around the Nuns to celebrate their 100th anniversary of foudation. Fr. Stephen Watson, O.C.D. our Definitor General from Rome, (and a member of our Province) presided at the Jubilee Liturgy. Over twenty Carmelite Fathers and Brothers, Jesuits, and Diocesan Priest were present in an overflowing chapel to celebrate with the Nuns. The year long celebration will continue until October 2009 and will close with a Liturgy presided by Bishop Patrick McGrath, bishop of the Diocese of San Jose.

October 4, 2008

First Profession of first Ugandan vocation

On August 22, 2008 (Feast of the Queenship of Mary), Fr. Godfrey Chandya Lega, a diocesan priest of the Archdiocese of Gulu in Northern Uganda, made his First Profession of Vows as a Carmelite Friar of the California-Arizona Province.

Impressions of my First Religious Profession
By Fr. Godfrey Chandya, OCD

In thanksgiving to God on this day of my first religious profession as the first Ugandan Carmelite under the Western Province of the Discalced Carmelites (USA) I am greatly indebted to Fr. David Costello, OCD and the entire California/Arizona Province, headed by our Provincial Superior, Fr. Matthew Williams, OCD, for having requested for my profession to be in Uganda, and not in Nigeria, where I have had my novitiate experience.

I was honored by the fact that my vows were received by Fr. David Costello OCD, in the presence of Fr. Edmond Shabani, OCD, Fr. Larry Daniels, OCD., the Sisters of our Lady of Mount Carmel, Sr. Ulrike, OCD, representing the Carmelite Nuns of Kiyinda-Mityana, a few Sisters from other congregations and other People of God. This was a cause of great joy for me on this day of my profession, which by its mode was quite simple, but very solemn. The liturgy of the day was vibrant, the choir and the participants made it very prayerful.

Lastly, I am grateful for the gifts I received on this day of my profession. I am also grateful for the items of entertainment that were presented in the Hall after the Mass.

May these impressions help me to live by the vows I have professed. May God grant me to drink always of the Spirit of Carmel in order to attain union with Him.
In Carmel,
Fr. Godfrey Chandya Lega, OCD

September 30, 2008

Visit to new Oakland Cathedral

Fr. Philip, Fr. Adam and our Brothers of the novitiate visited the days old Cathedral of the diocese of Oakland, California - Cathedral of Christ the Light

September 16, 2008

First Profession of Vows - Bro. Charles of Jesus and Mary, O.C.D.

On Sunday, September 14, 2008, Feast of the Exultation of the Cross, Bro. Charles Nawodylo of Jesus and Mary made his First Profession of Vows. He is shown here venerating his Profession crucifix which he will wear over his heart and beneath his scapular. For a slide show of the ceremony go to

September 7, 2008

Investiture and Entrance into the Novitiate

Bro. Peter Gabriel of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus

On Sunday, September 7, during Solemn Vespers and in the presence of the exposed Blessed Sacrament, Bro. Peter Gabriel Vecellio was invested in the Holy Habit of Carmel and entered the novitiate of our Province. Bro. Peter Gabriel was a privately-professed member of the Little Brothers of Carmel (private association of the faithful in Minnesota) for 12 years. He was received by Fr. Prior of the San Jose Community who was specially delegated by Fr. Provincial because he was unable to be with us.

September 6, 2008

New Ugandan Missionary

Uganda Update! September 5, 2008

Meet Fr. Lawrence Daniels, OCD, who has recently joined our Carmelite Mission in Uganda. Fr. Larry transferred to Kyengeza from our Carmelite House in Nairobi, Kenya (the foundation of the Eastern/Washington Province).
He is no stranger to Africa!

Fr. Larry writes . . .
“Please secure all trays. Put your seats in the upright position. Make sure your seatbelt is fastened. All luggage should be stowed overhead, or under your seat. We will collect . . . – the stewardess of the British Air flight from London to Entebbe, Uganda was announcing. Soon our Boing-767 sounded a rumbling thump and a huge plume of water followed us down the runway. A morning rain had just ended.

My luggage was first off, and a very friendly airport worker helped me with the bags and out the door. The air was hot, heavy, wet, and close. Lake Victoria captured my attention right away, for it is very close by. Then the faces of Fr. David (Costello) and Fr. Charles came up from the parking lot. What a warm greeting!

In a short two hours Fr. Charles had driven us safely to Kyengeza, our Mission in Uganda.
Oh, so many friendly people to greet. Faces become blurred and names muddled. Yet more welcomed me. Newly arrived, I knew no Luganda, so they very considerately spoke English. What a welcome!

Fr. Paul (Koenig) was in Luganda class when I took a break from unpacking. A hint of what I’d soon be doing myself. Thoughtfully, Fr. David suggested getting started with Luganda as soon as possible, which the teacher, Elizabeth, found a good idea. We began in a week. So it goes still. All my Luganda is in my heart, and nothing in my mouth. But slowly, slowly.

Each morning begins with Morning Prayer. As the light of the rising sun fills the Church, we begin our Luganda Mass and then the Office of Readings. The Luganda Mass is coming better for me now, as Fr. Charles helps me after supper to understand what I’m trying to pray.
The cooks prepare food that is plentiful, tasty and Ugandan. My abundant girth has not suffered any damage so far. My greatest surprise were the washing machines. And TWO of them! Ugandan, nonetheless. Very good, reliable and thorough. The brand names? Olivia and Judith.
This is a pleasant place. Much work has been done to build this parish with the inspiration of the pastors, and now Fr. David. There is a small gathering of animals: goats, chickens, rabbits, pigs, and a cow, “Carmelita.”

Perhaps the most pleasant time happens every evening, when our community gathers on the south-facing veranda. In the light of the setting sun and cooling breeze we pray Vespers. Usually the soft settling calls of birds come our way, and sometimes two of our friendly hens also decorate our praises. The closing of another day in the Carmelite Community of Kyengeza. A truly African blessing.

September 4, 2008

Labor Day Telethon

Deacon Bro. James Zakowicz, O.C.D., spiritual advisor for the Knight of Columbus (Alhambra Council 2431 -, joined the Knights in answering telephones for the Annual Jerry Lewis Telethon over Labor Day weekend.

August 26, 2008

Vocation reflection by Fr. Philip of Our Lady of Guadalupe, O.C.D.

Prior to making my Solemn Profession of Vows on January 1, 2005, I went on a retreat in Los Altos, California. St. Ignatius of Loyola designed a process of discernment that helps any individual know and follow the will of God. This process is commonly known as the 30 day Exercises of St. Ignatius. Exercise is the correct word to use when one tries to determine a specific direction in life, whether it be marriage, employment, religious life, or the priesthood. Exercise is a word that indicates several meanings: to stay active, to keep busy, to remove restraint, and to guard. All these are correct meanings of the word exercise especially when we are trying to discover God’s direction in our life.
The retreat was in silence except for the one hour of spiritual direction we all received privately every day from our directors. The group consisted of thirty or so people of all different ages, men and women, and everyone had a different reason for being there. A Dominican nun was looking for God’s will whether or not to return to the missions in Brazil, a young woman wanted direction in her ministry, a young protestant seminarian wanted renewal in his prayer life, I wanted to know if God was calling me to be a priest. Even after seven years in Carmelite formation I was not certain. I had many reason to convince God why I should remain a Carmelite brother and not to be ordained a priest.
I do not remember how long I had been on retreat when it happened. Some time had passed; I was restless, feeling a strong urge to return to St. Joseph’s Monastery in San Jose. While the retreat was going well, I wanted to celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel with my brothers who were only 15 miles away across the Valley. My director knew of my restlessness and encouraged me to stay focused on the retreat. He asked me to spend some time meditating upon a verse from the Gospel of St. Mark.
Jesus was preaching in the Nazareth. The synagogue looked more like a small adobe house without furniture. There were many who came to hear our Lord speak. I too was there. I was pushed by the crowd but I did not budge. Despite the many people who were there, when Jesus spoke his words were clear and sharp: “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.” My heart was heavy when he spoke these words. I felt as though they were intended for me alone, all the times I did not accept his friendship or the times I preferred my own interest to his. I looked around to see the crowd mumbling and dispersing, angry, offended. Jesus stood staring at the men who have spent their entire lives preparing for this moment and they reject Him so quickly. I saw his mother who stood waiting for her Lord to give her leave. The room emptied and the gossip of another false prophet began to spread.
Suddenly, I was alone and the day was spent, I was spent, exhausted. I began to walk and eventually I heard the voices of men. As I approached, I saw that the voices belonged to some of the disciples who followed Jesus. There he was! Jesus was sitting alone watching the others as they struggled trying to prepare a fire for their camp. Jesus seemed amused by their efforts. I could feel his gaze now upon me even though I was watching the others. I turned to look at Jesus who was now resting quietly, his eyes were closed. I approached him and sat down. It is evening and the temperature is getting colder. Jesus was planning to take his disciple to Capernaum in the morning. I felt his rejection. “I will never reject you Lord.” I said.
“Come with me to Capernaum. Leave everything and follow me.” I looked back at the others who were still struggling to light the fire. I have followed Jesus to the Carmelite Order. I am committed and content in spending the rest of my life as Carmelite. Yet, he is asking me to “leave everything.” I knew something like this would happen! I was caught off guard and lost control of my meditation. Now I have to face a request that I did not plan nor expect. I did not prepare for this! I looked down, the fire began to crackle and I could smell spoke. There was a commotion among the disciples as they rejoiced in the success of their efforts. “Lord” I finally replied, “I cannot do what you are asking me to do.” I knew Jesus was asking me to follow him in his priesthood. The priesthood is final and eternal. It was too much to ask of me. Again, Jesus said, “Follow me.” I repeated myself as if the Lord did not understand the first time, “I cannot do what you are asking me to do.” “Your hesitations are not mine,” He said. Where did that statement come from? This is not how I intended this meditation to happen. “Follow me, Philip.” These words ignited my heart and changed my life.
I could not reject him as the others did in the synagogue. “I will follow you Lord.” Although I do not fully understand the priesthood, I know in my heart that our Lord called me to serve in this capacity. I can not explain why Jesus gave me this gift, but I believe it was a gift given at the moment of baptism. I believe my vocation to the Carmelite Order provided the safest environment for this seed to grow and to be nourished. I still have hesitations in my abilities to serve. I am still overwhelmed at times with the mystery of it all. However inadequate I may be for this job, it was Jesus who called me and it is Jesus who desires to feed and to forgive, to heal and to comfort his flock through His eternal priesthood. I am a priest forever.

July 31, 2008

Letter from Fr. Paul in Uganda

Uganda Update!
Kyengeza, Uganda August 1, 2008
Every year during the month of August, like a huge, magnificent, cosmic clockwork, our night skies are riddled with an extraordinary abundance of "shooting stars" - meteors leaving their burning trails across the heavens as they enter into our earth's atmosphere. Astronomers tell us that there is an abundance of asteroids - perhaps remnants of what had once been a planet - floating out there in space, right smack dab in our earth's orbit. As we continually circle the sun, we come right through that "debris" time and time again, right at this time of year, and are treated to that spectacular display - count on it! Speaking of heavenly luminaries, did y'all notice that plethora of Carmelite Saints and Blesseds we just "came through" in July? In that stretch, we celebrated ten Carmelite feastdays over the course of twenty days - whew! That's quite a Carmelite roll, eh?
Among our many wonderful benefactors who support our mission here in Uganda, one of the most remarkable is Steve Tomkovicz. It was his "dream child" to start up and develop what has come to be called the "Wine to Water" project in the Napa Valley - clever title, that! Every year he heads up this event. He contacts vintners throughout the wine-rich Napa Valley who very generously donate cases and cases of wonderful wine to be auctioned off or given away as gifts at a selected venue in or around Napa. There is a grand meal and auction on a Sunday evening, followed by a golf tournament the following day. Part of the proceeds are then donated to our mission here in Africa, especially earmarked for providing good, clean water for drinking. Thousands of dollars are donated every year to support this tremendous cause.
Well, Steve wanted to visit the Mission and actually see how this project actually works - in person, mind you. So, by golly, he hopped on a plane along with his daughter Allison and their good friend Wayne (another benefactor who hails from Houston) and just paid us a nice visit. It was great having them, and they all seemed to be dutifully impressed and moved by what they saw and experienced over the course of their week spent here. Believe it or not, Steve's brother, Jim Tomkovicz, was the salutatorian of the Crespi High School class of '69 -a classmate of mine! - three years ahead of Steve. Small world department!!!
Keeping track of our young men in formation is a mini class in African geography. Fr. Godfrey (he was already an ordained priest when he joined us as a postulant in '07) is about to finish his novitiate in Nigeria (the site of the Anglo-Irish mission) and return to us here in Uganda to make his First Profession of Vows. Three of our guys are brother candidates and have just left to make their novitiate in Malawi. Three others will be studying Philosophy at our Carmelite stronghold in Nairobi, Kenya (the foundation of the Eastern/Washington Province). Finally, four of our postulants will be beginning their Philosophy studies, continuing to live in Jinja, Uganda (about 70 miles east of us here in Kyengeza), the source of the Nile, the longest daggone river in the whole world. Our new House of Studies is being built (and taking shape quite nicely, thank you) right next door to the PCJ (the Philosophy Center of Jinja) where these young men will be studying. So haul out your map of Africa and track these guys! While you're at it, please keep them, and all of us, in your prayers, as we keep you in ours.
Fr. Paul Koenig, OCD