Carmelites Celebrate Feast Day with Jackson area parishes

The small chapel in the Carmelite Monastery on Terry Road was overflowing with friends and supporters of the Carmelite nuns and Carmelite Seculars during Mass at 6:30p.m. on Sunday evening, July 16, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. This, too, was the final day of the Novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel which began on Sat., July 8, and continued with daily Masses and Novena Prayers to Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

The Celebrants and choirs were from different parishes in the Jackson area each day of the Novena. On the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, St. Richard Choir graced the chapel with beautiful harmony. Father Jeremy Tobin, OPraem, and Father Kevin Slattery concelebrated the Mass. The homilist was Deacon Denzil Lobo.

Deacon Lobo reminded the congregation that when Mary stood under the cross with John, the beloved disciple, she then understood Simeon’s prophecy, “Your heart will be pierced by a sword.”  Looking down and seeing his mother with his beloved disciple, Jesus passed the responsibility of taking care of his mother to him.  John then took her into his heart and his home.  Just like John accepted Mary into His home, Jesus invites us to accept Mary into our hearts and homes. Mary is now our mother and prays for us, her children, and we, in turn invoke her protection and intercession. After the Mass, all were invited to a reception on the lawn of the Monastery catered by the Catholic Filipino Community and Carmelite Seculars. (Those who may be interested in learning more about the Carmelite Secular lay vocation may contact Dorothy Ashley, 601-259-0885 or carmelite57@yahoo.com.)

New Carmelite leader gives parents credit for deep faith

In this file photo from 2015, Sister Mary Jane of the Resurrection (right) shares a laugh with Sister Cor Christi Abenio and Lloyd Chatham during the art show of Sister Mary Muriel Ludden, a Discalced Carmelite nun who died in 2013.(Photo by Elsa Baughman)

In this file photo from 2015, Sister Mary Jane of the Resurrection (right) shares a laugh with Sister Cor Christi Abenio and Lloyd Chatham during the art show of Sister Mary Muriel Ludden, a Discalced Carmelite nun who died in 2013.(Photo by Elsa Baughman)

By Elsa Baughman
JACKSON – Before she came to the United States from the Philippines to serve at the Carmelite Monastery, Sister Mary Jane of the Resurrection had been a Carmelite nun for 35 years. She says her calling began to develop at a very young age when her neighbor would come to her house to read her and her siblings children’s books about the life of the saints. “I was about seven years old, and these stories, which were very easy to follow, taught us about how to practice virtues such as acts of love, kindness,” she remembers. “These hidden messages stuck with me.”
One of the books she loved the best was the life of St. Therese of Avila. Later in life, Sister Mary Jane was attracted to silence and solitude, something she thinks is a gift from God because while she was surrounded by all the noise she was able to feel the presence of God. “I think I got this feeling from St. Therese.”
She learned a lot from reading the life of St. Therese but she attributes her faith to her parents who were devoted Catholics.
She had a normal life growing up in the Philippines. She had friends, went to parties, joined clubs, was a ballet dancer. But her calling was haunting her. “I wanted to put this feeling aside because I wanted to enjoy the life I was having but the calling kept haunting me,” she noted. “I even considered marriage life in the future but then I thought if I married there was not coming back.
“With time I began to feel the need to address God’s will for me and when I made my decision to answer His call there was this feeling of liberation, of peace, it was a confirmation that God was going to protect me.”
She grew up with the Columban Sisters from Ireland who ran the school she attended. Remembering her childhood, when she started to hear the Lord’s calling, Sister Mary Jane said she was attracted to their mission but at the time she was looking for something that she didn’t find in that congregation.
At the age of 15, she thought about applying at the Carmelite congregation and without telling anyone she went to their monastery to speak to the prioress, a French nun who could barely speak English. When she told her about her intentions to enter the monastery the nun told her, “Oh my child, there is only one St. Therese.” Sister Mary Jane had a good laugh reminiscing this scene.
The prioress encouraged her to go back home, to continue her high school studies and to return after she was sure about her vocation. “And I just did that. I really wanted to ‘taste’ how their life was.”
At 18 she returned to the monastery to begin her religious life. She said she thought that if she didn’t like it she would go back home to start college.
“Here I am, 45 years later and enjoying my life as a Carmelite nun. She says she could have gone the other way but this was a special call. “I have always felt I am one of the few chosen. Everything comes from him and I did his will. I am happy where I am. My life as a Carmelite nun is a life of prayer. We spend much of our life praying not only for the church but for all people of the world, for peace, for refugees, for the unborn. We do it for our love for him, to save souls, to save sinners. This is my great joy, praying.”
In fact, the sisters gather seven times a day to pray as a community and they are required to have individual prayers in the morning and in the evening as well as spend time in silence.
Sister Mary Jane, who has been living in the Carmelite Monastery for 10 years, was elected as prioress of her community on May 24 of this year and installed by Bishop Joseph Kopacz during a special Mass at the monastery.
About her new role in the community she says that it’s a big responsibility. “I do my part to serve the community and I feel myself as a servant of the servants.”
There are five sisters living in the monastery at his moment.

Carmelites elect new prioress

JACKSON – The Jackson Carmelites elected Sister Mary Jane Patricia of the Resurrection, OCD, as Prioress of the community Tuesday, May 24. Sister Margaret Mary Flynn, OCD, will step down from the position, but remain in the community in a prayer ministry.
The community gathered for Mass concelebrated by Bishop Joseph Kopacz, Father Kevin Slattery, the Vicar General, and Father Jeremy Tobin, OPraem, followed by a prayer service asking God to send His Holy Spirit and invoking the intercession of Carmelite Saints.
Members then cast secret ballots which were counted by two so-called scrutators. The ballots are burned after the election. Once elected, Sister Jane knelt in prayer while the community prayed aloud the confirmation prayers. Bishop blessed her and then all congratulated her.
Sister was born Mary Jane Agonoy in the Phillipines on Jan. 25, 1951, and entered the Carmelite order in her home country in 1977.

Carmelites invite diocese to celebrate founder’s 500th birthday

This statue stands inside the Carmelite monastery in Jackson.

This statue stands inside the Carmelite monastery in Jackson.

By Dorothy Davis Ashley, OCDS
March 28 marked St. Teresa of Avila’s 500th birthday. Members of the Carmelite order she founded will celebrate the milestone for an entire year beginning on her feast day, Oct. 16. The Diocese of Jackson has a Carmelite Monastery in South Jackson as well as a group of Secular Carmelites who embrace St. Teresa’s spiritual teachings and support the nuns.
“Let nothing disturb you; nothing frighten you. All things are passing. God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Nothing is wanting to Him who possesses God. God alone suffices.”
What type of advice can a 16th century Spanish nun who lived in with a few other cloistered nuns possibly give to me and you? She was born March 28, 1515, in Avila, Spain, and baptized, “Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada.” We know her as Saint Teresa of Avila. She practiced in her life the tenants of the saying above as she faced seemingly insurmountable physical, emotional, financial and spiritual challenges.
Teresa of Avila, also known as “Teresa of Jesus” was a courageous, outspoken woman of God who lived in an era dominated by power-driven men who gave very little importance to the ideas and opinions of women. “Let nothing disturb you; nothing frighten you…”
Teresa knew that she alone could not effect change, but, with God, who was her friend and master, and with Jesus, her beloved, she could show others how to love one another and have a true friendship with him through prayer. “… All things are passing. God never changes…”
Through Teresa’s influence, small numbers of women and men banded together in 17 Carmelite monasteries and convents. She was their spiritual mother. The Carmelite friars received the benefit of her assistance in their reform as well. These were the beginnings of the Order of Discalced Carmelites. She endured many trials with the help of her beloved, Jesus, while growing in the virtues chastity, poverty, and, obedience, and of the Beatitudes. “… Patience obtains all things…”
Teresa was ordered by her spiritual directors and confessors to write. She produced books about her mystical experiences, the prayer of recollection – a particular type of contemplative prayer – founding the Carmelite communities and her vision for the spiritual life. “The Interior Castle” is perhaps her most famous book.

In 2013 the Carmelites hosted an art show and sale on the grounds of their monastery. (Mississippi Catholic file photo)

In 2013 the Carmelites hosted an art show and sale on the grounds of their monastery. (Mississippi Catholic file photo)

Her writings convey that she was a very empathetic, prayerful prioress who had a great sense of humor and wanted others to love Jesus as much as she did. Once when the horse-drawn cart she was riding in overturned and she fell off she commented: “Dear Lord, if this is how you treat your friends, it is no wonder you have so few!”
Teresa’s treasury of writings are still relevant for us today, particularly for anyone seeking to learn more about prayer – the Prayer of Recollection, a type of mental prayer called ‘recollection’ because in it “the soul collects its faculties together and enters within itself to be with its God.” Teresa died in 1582. In 1972, Pope Paul VI named her, along with St. Catherine of Siena, the first female Doctors of the Church, primarily because of her writings, especially on prayer.
(“… Nothing is wanting to Him who possesses God. God alone suffices.”) The Discalced Carmelite nuns and Carmelite Seculars of the Diocese of Jackson have planned a Mass to celebrate the 5th Centenary of her birth at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle on Saturday, June 6, at 10:30 a.m. Bishop Joseph Kopacz will be the principal celebrant and Rev. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD, Provincial Delegate, will concelebrate. A reception will follow. All are welcome.
Prayers and donations toward the celebration and reception are welcomed and appreciated. Send them to the Carmelite Monastery, with “500th Birthday” on the memo line, 2155 Terry Road; Jackson, MS 39204. Carmelite Gift Shop: 601-373-3412. To learn more about the 5th Centenary in the U.S. visit, http://www.teresa-5th-centenary.org/index.html
(Dorothy Ashley leads the Secular Carmelites in Jackson.)