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Carmelite Secular Order


P. Aloysius Deeney, OCD



       In the months of November and December, I made a visit of the Secular Order in the five Provnices of India.  I have wanted to visit them since I took charge of the Secretariat of the Secular Order in 1997 and was happy when Father General instructed me to go to India after his visitation of two of the Provinces.  During the two months I was present I visited 55 different cities and met with many communities of the Secular Order.  Sometimes representatives of communities from close by came to meet together with other communities.  During this visit, I was on planes, trains (day and night trains), rickshaws, the back of motorcycles, in taxis, busses, and private cars.  Sometimes the trips were short, maybe 2 hours.  Other trips were longer, e.g. a ten-hour train ride. It was a very tiring experience, but at the same time, an experience that encouraged me greatly and reinforced my conviction of the importance of the lay membership of the Order. 

     I started in November in the Tamil Nadu Province on the south east coast of India in the city of Chennai (Madras) followed immediately by the city of Pondicherry.  I mention that at the beginning because, before I left India (at the end of December) the terrible disaster of the tsunami struck those two places.  I am sure that some of the members of the OCDS whom I met when I was there were drastically affected by that terrible disaster. 

     The enthusiasm and love for the Order that I encountered in the many groups I visited was very heart warming.  I had some meetings at 6:00 AM so that I could meet the people before they went to work.  In the fishing villages I had to be available to meet the people when the women were done selling the fish which the men had caught during the night.  Those meetings were in the afternoon when the women finished selling and before the men went out again to fish.  In some places the people came by bus, stayed overnight sleeping on the floor where we met, and left in the morning to return by bus to their villages.  There was not a complaint anywhere, only smiles and happiness to be part of the Order. 

     In Tamil Nadu Province I met with 10 communities of the Secular Order.  Some people spoke English, but very few.  The majority of the people spoke Tamil only.  Father Rock, the Provincial Delegate accompanied me and translated my conferences.  That was done in each place I visited throughout India – in Tamil Nadu into Tamil, in South Kerala (10 places) by Father Sedric, Malabar (16 places) by Father Alexander, and Manjummel Provinces (11 places) by Father Provincial and Father Francis, the Provincial Delegate into Malayalam, and in Karnataga-Goa Province (8 places) by Father Provincial into Hindi, Konkani and Kannada. 

      The Secular Order in India, as in the rest of the world, varies from place to place and experiences some of the same challenges as the rest of the Order.  Some communities have many elderly people.  Some communities are entirely feminine.  Others have younger people and have a fair number of men.  Some communities voiced the anxiety they have in not being able to attract younger people.  By younger people they do not mean teenagers, but people in the late 20’s to mid 40’s bracket.  One person made the observation that 30 years ago people were attracted by the idea of wearing a larger scapular and walking in processions in honor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, but that attraction no longer exists among the younger people.  He went on to note that what attracts younger people now is the ideal of a spiritual life based on the teachings of Saint Teresa, Saint John of the Cross, and Saint Therese.  The unfortunate thing is that one must know one of the European languages to be able to read them. 

      In truth, some of the communities were more like Confraternities of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.  These communities have always functioned as Confraternities and the formation has been lacking to be communities of the OCDS.  I spoke with some of them and with the Provincials or Delegates about making a distinction between those who are Seculars and those who are Confraternity members. 

     As you may know there are hundreds of languages and thousands of dialects in India.  This is a major challenge to the Indian Secular Order.  Formation materials, including the primary sources of our Holy Parents are severely lacking.  At the time of International Congress in Mexico, I suggested that each Province of the Secular Order establish a type of twin with a Province in the missions to help with formation materials.  This visit to India increased in my mind the importance of that idea. 

     The biggest impact on me though was the experience of the practice of the faith that I encountered in India.  I have the opinion that a good indicator of the level of practice of the faith is daily Mass attendance.  Daily Mass attendance in India is very impressive.  I said the parish Mass in some places at 5:30 AM for 200 to 300 people.  These were people who come to Mass everyday, not just OCDS people.  In Mangalore, I said the English Mass at 5 PM on a Thursday afternoon.  There were over 1000 people present.  That was for the English Mass, there were four other Masses that day in the popular languages! 

     There are about 6000 OCDS in India.  Pray for them.  Help them.  To strengthen them will strengthen the entire Order.  There are currently five established Provinces in India.  There are six other regions in India in the process of development.  They need our help now.  We may need their help in the future. 

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Updated 17 gen 2005  by OCD General House
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