By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – On July 27, as the morning light shown through the stained-glass windows depicting Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Therese at the Carmelite Monastery chapel in South Jackson, four ladies were celebrated at a special Mass to further their commitment to the Discalced Carmelite Seculars.
Father Jorge Cabrera, OCD of the Mount Carmel Center in Dallas, Texas, Father Kevin Slattery and Deacon John McGregor were on hand to celebrate Mass and welcome Elizabeth Jones, making her rite of admission, as well as, Elena Buno, Maria Asuncion Cannon and Rizalina Caskey making their public petition of first promise.
Not to be confused with the Carmelite nuns, the Discalced Carmelite Seculars come from all walks of life, from every level of education and from every type of work. Seculars can be lay Catholic women and men over 18 years of age or ordained diocesan priests or deacons. There are over 45,000 Discalced Carmelite Seculars worldwide and more than 6,000 in the US. Each make a commitment to seek the face of God in prayer for the good of the Church and the needs of the world.
Elizabeth Jones of St. Richard Jackson is one seeking that commitment, as she received the secular order’s signature brown scapular with her rite of admission to the formation. When she was younger, a movie about Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who devoted her life to serving the poor and destitute around the world, drew Jones in to wanting to explore the life of a religious. As she got a little older, Jones realized that she wanted to have a family and found that the Carmelite Seculars would allow her the “perfect balance of being able to still continue to pray and still have a family.”
As a graduate student at Jackson State University studying public health with a concentration in epidemiology, Jones aspires to continue her studies and growth in prayer to the formation of the rite of first promise in a few years.
At the celebratory Mass, Maria Asuncion Cannon, Elena Buno and Rizalina Caskey of St. Jude Pearl, all took the next step in the order by accepting their rite of first promise, which requires a minimum of two years of study and growth in prayer, the apostolate and community life.
Buno’s interest began in the order after she met the Carmelite nuns and started volunteering at the Carmelite gift shop. What ultimately led her to the secular were “the nuns . . . and the desire to deepen [her] relationship with Mary and Jesus Christ and to deepen my prayer and spiritual life.”
Families also play a large part in shaping the faith formation of the secular orders members. Caskey’s family reared her in the Catholic church and she always felt “inclined to the religious life” when she was a little girl. “That did not happen because I got married, but now I’m widowed,” said Caskey.
She came to Jackson from Phoenix, Arizona and did not know about the Carmelite nuns until she “ran into the nuns at a store” and asked them about the order.
Fascinated by her encounter, Caskey got involved the Carmelite secular and began to meet with them every month. She feels “so blessed” that she pursued more knowledge and is thankful for the close-knit community. Caskey plans to take the next step, which is the rite of definitive promise after at least three more years of continued growth and prayer.
It is no surprise that the Carmelite nuns play such a huge part in inspiring others into a relationship with Christ. Juanita Butler, a member of the seculars and Holy Ghost Jackson, was introduced to the monastery when she was a little girl.
“My Mom would come [to the Monastery] for us to hear the nuns sing. They were all behind the wall. We didn’t see them, but we heard them. They sounded like angels,” Butler reminisced.
As a child, “I said ‘Momma, one day I’m going behind that wall,” Butler asserted. Her mother was in disbelief at the certainty of her young daughter saying, “Don’t you know you cannot go behind the wall unless you are a Carmelite nun?” To that Butler responded, “Why not? I can do it.” She laughed a little and said, “here I am today a secular.”
Butler and the Holy Ghost Jackson choir uplifted all in attendance with their joyous hymns accompanied by drums and piano.
Asuncion Cannon summed up the occasion offering that “the Holy Spirit” guided them all to the order and to be followers of Christ.
The third order of Carmel meets monthly at St. Richard Jackson and welcomes all to join them in prayer and study. For more information call Dorothy Ashley, OCDS at 601-259-0885.
(Tereza Ma also contributed to this story.)