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Ongoing Formation Course for Young Carmelites in Indonesia

Fr. Joseph Tri, O.Carm.

Aware of the wide range of expectations which newly ordained Carmelites face and of the unique adjustment demanded by the transition from initial formation to daily ministry, the General Commission of Formation, together with the Province of Indonesia, organized an ongoing formation course for newly ordained Carmelites from November 16-21, 2015.

This included the men who are from 1-5 years in ministry and in the region of Asia - Australia - Oceania. The ongoing course served as an effort to help the younger Carmelites to know each other in the region, to share their experiences, difficulties, and challenges from the threshold of initial formation to ministry life, and to dream for the Order as they continue their journey as future leaders of the region. The gathering was guided by the theme: Nurturing the Carmelite Vocation in the Year of Consecrated Life.

Thirty eight newly ordained Carmelites, from Indonesia, the Philippines, India, East-Timor and Vietnam gathered in the Magdalena Postel Retreat Center run by Misericordia Sisters, Malang, Java province, Indonesia.

This one-week course began with the Eucharistic celebration presided by Fr. Ignasius Budiono, O.Carm., Prior Provincial of the Indonesian Province. In his homily, Fr. Ignasius underlined the importance of ongoing formation after ordination not only to have up-to-date knowledge with the modern world, but also to be renewed in spirit.

 In the opening address, Fr. Ignasius welcomed all the participants and wished them to take these days not only to study but also to refresh themselves from ministry. Fr. Benny Phang, General Councilor of Asia-Australia-Oceania and Councilor for Formation took the opportunity to thank the Indonesian Province and the preparatory and organizing committee for making this course possible.

The keynote speaker Fr. Christian Buenafe, O.Carm, Prior Provincial, of the Philippines, gave the first talk on Finding the Balance in the Tension of Community and Ministry. He shared that this is the reality that every friar must face in his initial ministry. Both of these dimensions can be challenging for the newly ordained because they experience an instant change of lifestyle from study to work, from formation community to pastoral community. However, Fr. Christian shared that if the friar learns how to harmonize and manage these dimensions well, it will be very beneficial for the friar himself, for the community, and for those he is serving.

On the second section of the first day, Father Wayne Stanhope, O.Carm, Formation Director from the Australia-East Timor Province, invited all the participants to share concerns and struggles between community life and ministry and their experience of how to harmonize these two dimensions. He also shared that only contemplation can help us to harmonize these dimensions. He stated that “we should never forget that people expect us to teach them how to pray and walk with them as companions. Therefore, it is so sad when Carmelites engage in their mission with a very little contemplative heart.”

On the second day, after the Eucharist celebration, Fr. Noel Deslate, Ph.D., a diocesan priest from the Philippines and a director of Galilee Institute, which is dedicated to helping priests and religious with problems, came to speak about Boundaries and Intimacy in Ministry. Fr. Noel gave some guidelines to help participants how to be aware of their sexuality and the need for healthy intimacy in the environment of ministry. Following the talk, the participants were divided into small groups for discussions.

In the afternoon of the second day, Fr. Robert Puthussery, O.Carm., Prior Provincial of St. Thomas Province of India, gave the presentation, Consecrated Religious in the Midst of the People. He used a message from the teachings of Pope Francis for the year of consecrated life to remind the participants that their religious life is to “wake up the world,” and “we can’t accomplish this mission if we forget our identity as religious. Being religious means our hearts totally belong to God.”

On Friday, after  the Morning Prayer, Fr. Stephanus Buyung, O.Carm., Director of Marian Center based in Jakarta, Indonesia, helped the participants to deepen their understanding of the gift of contemplation. He invited young Carmelites to reclaim and nurture the contemplative gift in today’s world. Contemplation is a gift from God. He stated, “The first hermits of Carmel passed it down to us, our duty is to live, develop, and share it.” “Contemplation is the heart of Carmelite life. This heart keeps us functioning. We can’t live our fraternity, prayer, and mission without being contemplative people.”

In the afternoon, Fr. Benny Phang, O.Carm., challenged young friars to accept their role as future leaders of the Order as well as the Church. His talk, Building Theotokoi Community: Carmelite Lifestyle in the Changing World, highlighted the issue of how young Carmelites live with the challenges of our time. The name of Carmel is highly associated with deep spiritual life. “Carmelite saints show us that Carmel is the school of prayer. Our community must be a school for us to learn how to experience God so we may share this gift with those we serve. The lifestyle of Carmelites must be contemplative.”

At the whole duration of the course, all participants enjoyed the fraternal hospitality of the Carmelites of the Indonesian Province. The ongoing formation course was a mixture of study, prayer, group discussion, recreation, and fraternal sharing. Thanks to the preparation team who had created much space and time for prayer and reflection as well as for the participants who were able to get to know one another. The participants also had the opportunity to wash one another’s feet, as a symbol of service, as they were led in prayer by Fr. Wayne. Cultural nights and other activities followed as all representatives shared their cultural richness. They also enjoyed a day trip to visit Batu Secret Zoo and some museums in Malang.

The gathering was concluded with a Eucharist presided by Fr. Benny Phang, O.Carm., with the participation of the Carmelite Novices and Suara Musik Suci Choir. All participants were happy to have this gathering. They were grateful to the General Commission for Formation and the Indonesian Province that hosted it. They did not forget to thank for the hard work of the preparatory committee that made this gathering successful and fruitful. They also expressed their deep gratitude to all facilitators. They went home with renewed energy and new hope about their lives and about their ministries. They arrived strangers to each other and they left for home as friends and brothers and are looking forward to their next gathering!

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As Carmelites We live our life of allegiance to Jesus Christ and to serve Him faithfully with a pure heart and a clear conscience through a commitment to seek the face of the living God (the contemplative dimension of life), through prayer, through fraternity, and through service (diakonia). These three fundamental elements of the charism are not distinct and unrelated values, but closely interwoven. 

All of these we live under the protection, inspiration and guidance of Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, whom we honor as "our Mother and sister."