Archbishop Nicholas Chia cutting the anniversary cake with Carmelite nuns. Photo: BENEDICT TEOArchbishop Nicholas Chia cutting the anniversary cake with Carmelite nuns. Photo: BENEDICT TEO

The Carmelite Sisters celebrated their 75 years in Singapore at their Carmel of Christ the King monastery along Bukit Teresa Road with a Mass presided over by Archbishop Nicholas Chia.

“A direct and intimate experience with God” is the basis of Carmelite spirituality, he said in his homily during the May 11 celebration. “There must be a contemplative spirit and a deep sense of God, a thirst to remain in His presence by means of God’s grace and His Holy Spirit.”

He noted that the Sisters, who spend much of their time in prayer, “are apostles in the silence of their cells and their cloisters”, taking time to be alone with the God.

Carmelite nuns singing during the Mass on May 11. Photo: BENEDICT TEOCarmelite nuns singing during the Mass on May 11. Photo: BENEDICT TEOThe archbishop stressed the importance of prayer, so that “one’s whole behaviour pattern is ... transformed”. He told the crowd of 250 that one of the characteristics of Carmelite spirituality “is the presence of the Virgin Mary” in members’ lives.

Apostolic nuncio Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, Carmelite friars and diocesan priests concelebrated the Mass.

The Carmelite monastery in Singapore has come a long way. The early community of nuns who came from overseas knew little English and lived in an unfinished building that was the monastery then in the 1930s.

The present monastery took many years to complete partly owing to the Japanese Occupation and partly to the time the community needed for fundraising, which took place slowly after the war.

At the same time, local vocations grew to a good number.

At present, the monastery is home to 20 nuns, ranging from novices and postulants to those who have made their final vows.

From Singapore, the Carmelites set up another monastery in Seremban, Malaysia, in 1981, and in 2005 set up a monastery in Yangon, Myanmar, in response to invitations from the bishops there.

St Teresa of Avila founded the Discalced Carmelite order, which focuses on a life of intimate friendship with Christ and Mary in which prayer, the spiritual life and sacrifice are dedicated to the service of the Church.

In 1988, the late Archbishop Gregory Yong invited the Carmelite friars to set up their community in Singapore. In 1997, the late Taiwanese friar Fr John Mary Chin and two Singaporean friars were assigned to the Church of Sts Peter and Paul, which is currently managed by the Carmelite friars.

By Martin See

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