Lay Carmelites reflect and pray at annual retreat

By Tom Head, Ph.D. and Dorothy Ashley, OCDS

JACKSON – The Lay Carmelites of Jackson participated in their annual retreat at the Visitation Monastery in Mobile, Alabama from Oct. 1-3, 2021. The Mobile Community of Lay Carmelites (aka “Carmelite Seculars”) were the hosts of this silent retreat. They were well-represented along with Carmelite Seculars from the Gulf Coast area and Fort Walton Beach, Florida. They all belong to the Order of Discalced Carmelites Seculars (OCDS).

Father Stephen Sanchez, OCD, a Discalced Carmelite priest led spirited conferences on the theology of St. John of the Cross, with emphasis on his minor works. Particular attention was given to St. John’s practical admonitions that could be used to avoid the snares of the world, the flesh and the devil. Retreatants also attended daily Mass, received the Sacrament of Reconciliation, had Exposition/Benediction, participated daily in the Liturgy of the Hours and gathered for meals. There was also time for silent prayer and reflection.

MOBILE – Carmelite Secular Aspirants and their Formators with Father Stephen Sanchez, OCD after being clothed in ceremonial brown scapulars. Front, left to right: Billy Yost of Mobile, Jill Therese Hisaw of Jackson, and Tom and Deirdre Head of Jackson. Back, left to right: Robert Gareri (formation director, Mobile) and Anita DeRouen (formation director, Jackson). Blocked from view are Gena Middleton and Kathleen Williams both of Fort Walton Beach. (Photo by Dorothy Ashley, OCDS)

Three Jackson members, Jill Hisaw (St. Therese) and Deirdre and Tom Head (Christ the King) completed their Aspirancy period and were clothed in the large ceremonial Brown Scapular of the Order during evening prayer on Saturday of the retreat, thus advancing to a period of deeper commitment and formation. During Mass on Sunday, one Jackson member, Elmina Johnson, OCDS (Holy Ghost) made her Definitive Promise to the Superiors of the Order of the Teresian Carmel and the local community. Her Promise was entrusted to the Virgin Mary, Mother and Queen of Carmel.

Discalced Carmelite Seculars are members of the Carmelite family of the 16th-century reform of St. Teresa of Avila. These followers are present in the modern world as friars, enclosed nuns and seculars. These lay, third order, seculars come from all walks of life, from every level of education and from every type of work. They are Catholic lay men and women over the age of 18 (married or unmarried) or they can be ordained diocesan priests or deacons. They gather in canonically erected communities monthly for study, prayer, formation and community bonding under the guidance and leadership of the Order.

The local Jackson community, St. Joseph and St. Therese of Lisieux Discalced Carmelite Seculars was founded by Father Josiah Chatham in 1952. It became dormant in 1969 but was revived in 1997 and has met continuously ever since. They have a fraternal and supportive relationship with the Discalced Carmelite nuns of Jackson and often participate together in praying Novenas particularly leading up to the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

The two groups support each other in prayer and celebrate major Carmelite Feast Days together. The three Branches of Carmel, priests, nuns and seculars, are of the same Order with the same Holy Mother Foundress, St. Teresa of Avila. The monthly meetings for the remainder of the year will be held on Saturday, Nov. 13 and Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021, at St. Jude Parish Hall in Pearl at 10:15 a.m. The Jackson community has 20 members from various parishes throughout the diocese including one diocesan priest and one member who lives outside of our diocese.

Those who may be interested in learning more about the vocation of an OCDS are welcome to visit the monthly meetings as part of their discernment. For more information, please contact Dorothy Ashley, OCDS, President at (601) 259-0885 or