New Beginnings In The Carmel Of Vilvoorde
By Sister Carmela OCD
Before we enter into the beautiful season of Lent, allow us to share with you some good news and significant beginnings taking place now in our Carmel here in Vilvoorde,Belgium.
Yesterday, 23 February, we had our community elections. Our youngest Belgian sister, now Mother Lutgardis, 65, was elected prioress. With her in the council are Sister Lutgart, Mother Ann Christi and Sister Carmela. Please, pray for us as we begin a new triennium, a real beginning for Mother Lutgardis, who is in this office for the first time. Mother Ann Christi deserves a much needed rest after 24 years of wisely and lovingly leading the community during those difficult years of transition. She has laid the foundations and set the course towards making Vilvoorde an international community.
Another new beginning is the re-opening of our novitiate after 22 years with the arrival today of our two Filipina postulants: Jurechille ‘Jijie’ Catalan, 30, and Glenda ‘Lisa’ Tanudtanud, 49, who had been a Franciscan missionary for 11 years before transferring to Carmel.
At around 11am today, 24 February, their plane landed at Zaventem-Brussels airport, where Mother Ann Christi, Sister Luisa, their new Mistress, and Dr Philippe Cornut, the president of Vriendenkring, Friends of the Troost, met them.
When they got out of the vehicle at our entrance door, the big clock in the belfry struck 12 noon, for the Angelus. The president said, ‘That is for you!’ The newcomers thought that one of the sisters was watching for their arrival so she could ring the bell to welcome them. But our clock is automatic! It was Our Lady's way of welcoming them!
We were in the choir praying the Divine Office when the doorbell rang. The Sister-chantress in her excitement, exclaimed in Flemish, between the psalms, ‘There they are!’ The rest of us couldn’t answer right away, trying to control laughter and excitement too. But when the sister chanted the next line with more or less the same words as these ‘I cannot go on anymore’, then we burst into laughter. Our Mother went out ahead and we followed after the Office to welcome them. Oma Teresia was surely with us in spirit as she had been praying for them.
Of course the first stop was in the choir, to pray before the Blessed Sacrament and to pour out their mixed emotions, especially that of gratitude. Then we all gathered before the miraculous ancient statue of Onze-Lieve-Vrouw van Troost, Our Lady of Consolation, our Patroness, to sing the Salve Regina. Our Mother gave a short welcome message in English. Then we proceeded to the refectory in procession.
Sr. Maria Luisa prepared a para-liturgy for the re-opening of our novitiate, which was supposed to take place on the same evening but due to an unforeseen interruption we had to postpone it till the following day. The postulants too needed to adjust to the time difference so Mother sent them to bed early. The whole community went in procession with votive candles, prayed in the novices’ oratory before our Mother gave them a blessing as they knelt at the door of their cells.
By the way, our Mother was the last novice in our novitiate 22 years ago after she transferred from her active congregation and now she has re-opened it during her first term as prioress. We find this significant.
And last but not least, this month Sister Luisa has also made definite her transfer to Vilvoorde. So, we now have two Filipina Chapter Sisters who are permanent members of the community while another young Chapter Sister from the Carmel of Cagayan de Oro City, is now processing her papers to join us soon. That will make our community one of five Belgian and five Filipina Sisters. Sister Cecile returned to the Philippines last month for health reasons.
Please do keep us in your prayers especially for the perseverance of our postulants and a fruitful, hopeful and blessed triennium!
We wish you a blessed and holy Lent! May we all enter deeply into the spirit of the season so that after plunging into the mystery of Jesus' Passion and Death, together we will partake of the joy of His Resurrection at Easter!
Lovingly in Jesus and Mary,
You may email Sister Carmela at firstname.lastname@example.org
You will find more photos from Vilvoorde here.
A Bonus from Belgium
Just over 30 minutes by train from Vilvoorde is Antwerp Central Railway Station. Why not take a stop there for this delight.
Sister Carmela went from the Cebu Carmel to that in Vilvoorde, Belgium,where she is now a permanent member of the community and also on the monastery's council. She is currently visiting the Cebu Carmel for the 60th anniversary of its foundation. Here you can see some of the Sisters in Cebu interpret Something More, sung by Lea Salonga.