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PAN AMERICAN MEETING of Carmelite Formandi and Formators

Fr. Felix Avendaño, O.Carm.

Fraternity is the way that God, our Father, chose through His Son Jesus Christ for all people to reach salvation. Aware of the urgent need that every baptized person is called, the major superiors of the Americas have stressed the need for young religious, both formandi and formators,

to live this experience of brotherhood in a deeper way and from common spaces where the Carmelite friars of the Americas can share their experiences and educational, cultural and spiritual riches. Therefore, the Pan American religious course was designed with the idea of encouraging more formation course in Carmelite spirituality, and also to support the foundation of that Carmelite fraternity which is integral to our charism.

In response to this initiative from superiors, friars belonging to various stages of formation and formation coaches, from Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Mexico, El Salvador, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru and Argentina, accompanied by the General Director for the Americas, Fr. Raul Maraví, O.Carm, who organized the course, met at the Villa Carmelitas, Lima, Peru, from July 23 to August 9, 2015. During these 17 days as brothers we had spaces for personal and community prayer, studying, recreation, fraternal sharing, and the daily experience of the Eucharist.

One of the most striking elements of the course was the formation. During those days, a program that covered several topics, including the spiritual, human and psychological dimension, leadership and teamwork was provided. First, we had the presence of Fr. Gregorio Geaney, O.Carm., a member of the Commissariat of Peru, who presented us with the very dynamic Enneagram. Then we addressed the emotional reality with Dr. Edward Montagne, specialist therapist in psychoanalysis and many religious groups who contributed their research on affective human dimensions, emphasizing the importance of the tools provided by the field of psychology within the processes of formation in the religious life, so that we can have the necessary maturity required in the consecrated life style.

We were also accompanied by Mr. Jose Antonio Carreras and Mr. Germán Díaz, who gave us very dynamic tools to strengthen personal and community leadership, to address the most common problems that arise within the religious community, as well as instruments to promote dialogue, communication and better teamwork.

We are enthusiastically growing in Carmelite spirituality. In this important area for our Order, we participated in two conferences given by two renowned Carmelites with vast experience in Carmelite spirituality. Fr. Jack Welch O.Carm., from USA, provided an overview of what the origins of Carmel spirituality represent, the experience of the historical process, the Rule of Carmel as a paradigm of charism, changes and adaptations that Carmelites had to live with the at different stages and their influence on our current spirituality. They also offered a special presentation of the spirituality of the great saints of Carmel: Saint Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle and dwelling, as a spirituality of union with God; John of the Cross, the spiritual richness of his poems and the theology of The Dark Night, and the inner reality of the believer in the complex experienced in their faith. Finally the experience of St. Teresa of Lisieux, Story of a Soul, as a synthesis of the spirituality of St. Teresa and John of the Cross, and the spiritual journey of St. Teresa as a profound experience of spirituality and Gospel values, from the simplicity and humility of their life.

Finally we had the presence of Fr. Carlos Mesters, O.Carm., from Brazil, whom with his extensive knowledge in the Biblical field, delved into the wealth of the Rule of St. Albert and spirituality for Lectio Divina for the Carmelite itineraries of faith in the light of the Word of God and of the great inspirational figures of Carmel, Prophet Elijah, Elias and the Virgin Mary.

As far as a pastoral experience, we visited several sites in the Parish of Our Lady of Our Carmel in Jose Galvez, a very poor area in the outskirts of Lima, where the Carmelite friars of Peru carry out social and pastoral work. We learned the humble and simple reality of the locals in a meeting with the children; also we went to the San Jose Center, a halfway house for addicts, and another center that serves as a shelter for teenage mothers abandoned by their families.

The meeting gave us space in which we could share the expectations and concerns regarding formation and our current challenges from the contexts of each country and the global horizons of our Order. There were many moments for fraternal exchange experiences, moments of recreation and leisure entrenching huge bonds of brotherhood between all participants. This opportunity has given a real space to expand our own vision of the Order, not just in the field of formation, including on the role of the Carmelite family in the ministry and in the local Churches of every country originally. This meeting has helped us to look with faith and hope to the future of our Order, it has helped us strengthen our Carmelite vocation, and to increase the desire that our family continues to grow vocationally, but above all as brothers, for that fraternity lived authentically as the Gospel is the best way we can deliver the message, to be true witnesses of Jesus Christ. That path of brotherhood happened during those days that we lived in the Villa Carmelitas, and with more enthusiasm and conviction we have decided to continue traveling now from our own communities with the help of our Carmelite brothers and the people of God.

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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."