Discalced Carmelites of East-Asia Oceania at prayer during their recent meeting.

An expansion of the mission in Asia and an interreligious exchange in spirituality – these are the plans the Discalced Carmelites of East-Asia Oceania have for the next three years.

Superior General Fr Saverio Cannistra voiced these issues in an interview with CatholicNews after the Carmelites East Asia-Oceania Provincials’ Meeting 2010. This was held Oct 25-29 at the Church of Sts Peter and Paul.

The Carmelite order as intended by its foundress, St Teresa of Avila, is to be both contemplative and missionary, he said.

The Singapore-Taiwan General Delegation has helped start a new community of friars in Thailand. There are also plans to expand the mission into Malaysia and Timor Leste, he said.

Superior General Fr Saverio Cannistra

China meanwhile remains a goal for the order. Father Saverio said that the Carmelites “could give a specific and original contribution to the spiritual life of this growing Church in China” in response to the Holy See’s engagement with the country.

Fr Saverio also expressed his wish to have more interreligious exchanges, especially with Buddhism, through the establishment of an institute for spirituality.

Buddhism has a strong presence in Thailand and Korea, he noted, adding that there are parallels between Buddhism and Carmelite spirituality. These similarities, Father Saverio said, can foster dialogue.

Fr Saverio himself had spent 10 days in a Buddhist monastery.

The Superior General also highlighted the Carmelites’ plans to mark the fifth centenary of the birth of their founder in 2015.

Starting in 2009 and lasting till 2012, the Carmelites will concentrate on preparing themselves spiritually as a community and individually for the celebration.

The priest said he hopes to offer to the congregation a more complete translation of the writings of St Teresa and to organise talks in parishes and monasteries to present her message. He also proposed working with the Carmelite Lay Order in countries such as the Philippines and Korea in this regard.

Fr Saverio also highlighted the crisis of the falling number of vocations in the Western world such as North America and Europe.

The Carmelite order needs to interpret God’s will in this situation, he said. One possible way is the reorganisation or a possible reduction of the number of provinces or houses “in order to foster what is most important in the religious life”.

“For us and for the Church, it’s not important to have 100 monasteries in Italy or in Spain. It’s important that maybe in 20 monasteries, we are living a true and authentic religious life,” he said.

The meeting also discussed the need for Catholics to return and rediscover the value of prayer and contemplation in their lives and in Church.

Fr Saverio said in a world focused on efficiency and activity, there is a need to remain silent and to be passive under the action of God – an aspect of Carmelite spirituality.

Other provincials who attended the recent meeting included Fr Thomas Lim (Singapore-Taiwan), Fr Greg Homeming (Australia), Fr Christianus (Indonesia), Fr Paul Kunori (Japan), Fr Chito (Philippines), Fr Bruno Kim (Korea) and Father Definitor Fr Peter Chung.

By Darren Boon
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