At the General Chapter of 2007 it was agreed to unite all of Europe into one geographical area having one General Councilor responsible for the whole area. Up to this Europe was divided into North and South. The Global Plan of the General Council (2007-2013) states: “Uniting the two regions of Europe into one geographical area presents us with
a challenge and an opportunity for re-evaluation, growth and change.” There are 13 provinces, two commissariats and two general delegations in this area. About one third of the friars live in Europe and the majority of the enclosed nuns are mainly in Italy and Spain. The heritage and tradition of the Order find deep roots in the European Carmel. Its support to the developing parts of the Order throughout the world is very significant.
Many of the European provinces have either begun or are beginning to evaluate their situation. Visitations have taken place in many of the provinces and provincial chapters are addressing urgent issues common throughout most of these provinces. The age level of the brethren indicates that we are facing a time of rapid change regarding numbers, and this will be very evident within the next 10 to 20 years. Many of them are facing painful decisions regarding closure of houses, financial income, personnel, etc. This necessitates a sense of priority regarding ministry and location. Some provinces are addressing the question of unification or “fusion” with other provinces (Arago-Valentina and Castile, Upper and Lower Germany). The Church in Europe is going through significant change and multiple crises. Pope Benedict XVI has endeavoured to address this crisis as a central part of his pontificate.
Europe itself also faces issues regarding political leadership, economics, secularization, immigration, birth-rate, etc. The Order in Europe provides a vast service to the local church through its diverse ministries in parishes, schools, sanctuaries and often quite remarkable service to the poor. The members of the provinces have to address the question of declining church attendance, lack of vocations, closure or “clustering” of parish communities, and pastoral service. Those in formation and the number of vocations are small. Many of the younger Carmelites in Europe see a new vision for the future and this is a challenge for provinces and for inter-provincial cooperation at all levels. These times are very challenging and European Carmelites too must look to the renewal of the face of the Order especially through our spirituality, charism, and new expressions of Carmelite presence in the old world. To this end many inter-province meeting take place in the three regions of Europe (Northern European Region, Iberian Region and with the recent meeting of the provincials of Italy and Malta, the reestablishment of an Italy/Malta Region).
The Carmelite Youth European Pilgrimage of Hope in 2010 has opened the way for a renewal of engagement with our young people and many provinces have set about building anew its pastoral involvement with young people. A number of provinces already have a well-developed youth ministry who offer help to young people and give them an opportunity to support the mission Carmel in Europe and around the world. This is in tune with the Six Year Plan of the General Curia: “Development of the a European policy of youth, forms of youth association and direct involvement by our laity.” Youth ministry will be given special attention in the coming years in the European area.