Carmelite Sister Francede talks about her intimate love for God and how she hopes to share this love with others through prayer
Sr Francede, seen here at her solemn profession. Photo: VITA Images
Before she knew about the Religious life, Francede was in Thailand working as a caregiver for the elderly.
One evening in 2004 when she was 24, she took a taxi in Bangkok and was heading to her friend’s house.
After an hour’s ride, she sensed that the driver was taking her to a different route, certainly not the way to her destination. Instinctively, she put her hand into her handbag and reached out for her rosary. Though terrified, she calmed herself and began saying her prayers to Our Mother. Her quick-thinking action was noticed by the driver when he stopped his vehicle at a secluded spot, came out of the driver’s seat and glared at her.
Undeterred, Francede kept her fingers on the rosary beads reciting her prayers, and taking an occasional glance at the driver. The man backed off after seeing her praying. Mother Mary must have intervened. He got back into the taxi and drove her straight to her friend’s house. The harrowing journey ended safely for her but it made a strong impression on Francede.
This was one encounter that fuelled her desire for prayers and she was subsequently introduced to the Carmelite Sisters working as missionaries in Myanmar by a friend.
“God has called me to intimacy with Him and the Carmelite way of life has drawn me like a magnet,” and this was how she became Carmelite Sister Francede.
“Through this intimacy with God, He calls me to love others even more and this is how I hope to reach out through prayer,” she said.
Sr Francede, who moved to Singapore from Myanmar in 2010 to serve as a counsellor to the many people who came for prayers at the Carmelite Monastery, made her solemn profession on Sept 4.
In his homily during the celebration, Archbishop William Goh said that “a priest or Religious finds his or her calling because they have fallen in love with Jesus. This is the most important. If there is no love, everything becomes a chore.”
Contemplative life, which Sr Francede has chosen, will demand even more and there will be challenges, said Archbishop Goh. It is a “purification and deepening process each day so continue to cultivate a deep intimacy with the Lord,” he told her. Your fellow Sisters in the community will also support you, you are not on this journey alone, he added.
When Sr Francede moved to Singapore, she had trouble adjusting to the local culture, language and food.
Although she learned English during her pre-postulancy period back in Myanmar, she still had difficulty communicating with her fellow Sisters in the Carmelite convent and this sometimes led to “misunderstandings”.
During breakfast, she was used to eating rice and initially baulked at the sight of bread. It was during these periods that she “leaned on God for perseverance and love”.
“I prayed and asked God to reveal Himself to me and I felt joy and love,” said Sr Francede, who is a cloistered nun, which means she lives within the enclosure of the monastery and follows a completely contemplative life.
Her Sisters in the community also reminded her of her purpose. “They told me that if God is willing, you will overcome these [challenges],” she said.
Sr Francede, seen here with her parents who came from Myanmar, enjoying the cake cutting celebration.
Coming from a country where most people are Buddhists, Sr Francede came to know about the Catholic faith through her family, who are Catholics.
She developed a strong prayer life and would often carry her rosary with her.
Entering pre-postulancy in 2007, Sr Francede grew to love the Carmelite way of life and looked up to St Teresa of Avila, reformer of the Carmelites.
She shared that she was touched by how St Teresa saw contemplative prayer as a crucial means of reaching God, and how “He can be found in anything and everything.”
“In my life, I experienced the power of prayer when I was in difficulty and I want to pray for others who go through their
own troubles,” said Sr Francede.
In a day, Sr Francede prays the Divine Office, meditates and has other responsibilities such as counselling visitors, sewing and doing laundry.
For those thinking of joining the Religious life, she has this piece of advice: “We are all made to love and to be loved. Listen to your heart attentively and you will know that the deepest form of love is that which comes from God.”
The Carmelite charism
The charism of the Carmelite congregation is contemplation. What is distinctive of Carmelites is the way that they pray, live community life and serve, taking inspiration from the prophet Elijah and the Blessed Virgin Mary, patrons of the Order.
The congregation has a strong devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The First Order of Carmelites are the friars, the Second Order are the nuns, and the Third Order consists of laypeople who participate in the charism of the congregation by liturgical prayers, apostolates and contemplative prayer.