By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – There was much to celebrate July 16 at the Carmelite Monastery of Jackson. Not only was it the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, patroness of the Carmelites, but the day a new sister in Christ was veiled for the small community of Discalced Carmelite nuns.
The small chapel was standing room only with friends, family and supporters filling the pews and the extra seats brought in for the occasion. The first few rows of pews were taken by Discalced Carmelite Seculars from all walks of life, wearing their large brown scapulars as a symbol of their devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The order of cloistered nuns and the choir sat behind the grille that separates them from the public portion of the chapel.
Eight priests, along with Bishop Joseph Kopacz and Bishop Joseph Latino, gathered to celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the Solemn Profession and Veiling of Sister Geraldine of the Body and Blood of Christ.
The homily delivered by Discalced Carmelite Father Danilo Fauste, superior of Our Lady’s Hill in the Philippines, was set to remind Sister Geraldine of the difficult promise of commitment of surrendering to God’s call to contemplative life and prayer. He explained having a true “personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” as a cloistered nun includes the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. “The vows speak for your past, present and future . . . and will reflect to others the touch and the love of Jesus,” he said.
In the ceremony dating back to St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, Sister Geraldine stated the formula of profession of vows, which she herself wrote beforehand. After this profession, Sister Geraldine sang Holy is His Name by John Michael Talbot signifying her willing spirit of self-giving and joy. As the song went on, Sister Geraldine was overcome with emotion, an outward expression of her love of the Lord. The chapel filled with loved ones and supporters beautifully finished the song for her as she sobbed into Sister Mary Jane Patricia of the Resurrection’s shoulder, who came to comfort her.
After Bishop Kopacz consecrated the professed, he blessed the black veil that Sister Geraldine will wear as an insignia of her profession along with a stunning crown made of delicate white and pink roses.
Now admitted as a life-long member of the order of Carmelites with her black veil, Sister Geraldine beamed with excitement and joy. All in attendance sang the hymn You are Mine. “Do not be afraid, I am with you. I have called you each by name. Come and follow me. I will bring you home. I love you and you are mine.”
Sister Geraldine, after a long journey of religious life as a Franciscan, entered the Holy Family of Carmel in San Fernando, La Union in the Philippines before her journey to Jackson to join the Carmelite monastery. She is now a member of the small family of Carmelite nuns and will spend her days balancing times of solitude, study, work and community acts, including celebrating Mass, and participating in the Divine Office and joining in meals and recreation.
(Berta Mexidor also contributed to this story.)