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In Nairobi, cloistered Carmelites give themselves to God in prayer [Catholic Caucus]
cns ^ | February 17, 2011 | Barb Fraze

Posted on 02/17/2011 1:27:35 PM PST by NYer


Sister Bernadette is among 16 sisters in a contemplative community at Mount Carmel Convent in Nairobi. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

By Barb Fraze
Catholic News Service

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- For several of the cloistered Carmelite Sisters at Mount Carmel Convent, their life of prayer began in their families, when they were children.

"My dad taught me to pray for others," said Sister Bernadette, one of the younger sisters. She said her father told her he knew sisters who prayed for everyone, and she asked if they could pray for her, too. She said she began corresponding with the sisters and was drawn to their life of prayer.

Sister Constanza, who professed her final vows in January, said she attended Mass each morning because she did not live far from the local church. Each evening, her family gathered to pray the rosary and other evening prayers.

"I decided to give myself to the Lord for myself and for the salvation of souls," and the best way seemed to be contemplative life, she said.

In an interview with Catholic News Service Feb. 16, several of the sisters talked about the path that led them to nearly continuous prayer each day.

"I never dreamed of becoming a nun," said Sister Monica, who now serves as novice mistress for the order. In college, she met some Catholic students who began praying the rosary together, then attending daily Mass. One of the students wanted to become a Franciscan priest, and as he talked more about the saints, her interest grew.

She said she was filled with "a desire to belong to Christ."

Sister Regina, a young nun who works with aspirants, said her family prayed the rosary and intercessions every day.

"I came from a praying family," she said with a smile. She said she felt called to pray, "especially for priests."

Not all of the sisters are from Kenya. Sister Agnes, from India, said a friend of her sister was becoming a Carmelite, and "somehow that mystique of Carmel drew me very strongly."

The cloister was founded by Carmelites from Dublin in the mid-20th century. When the archbishop of Nairobi visited Cleveland, he asked the Carmelites there for help, and seven nuns and three postulants flew to Kenya in 1951.

The three postulants -- Margaret, Jean and Annamae -- remain, now as some of the oldest members of the order.

Sister Margaret, originally from Pittsburgh, said when she was a teenager, she had visited the Carmelites in Cleveland, and they invited her to go with them to Kenya. They "took a chance" and took her along, she said. Since then, she has only traveled home to be with her mother when she died.

She and Sister Agnes spoke of how much the area around the cloister has changed. Today, it has been built up and surrounded by affluent homes. When they arrived, they were the only building on the hill, and they could see Mounts Kenya and Kilimanjaro in different directions. Now the city is too built up to see far, they said.

The two were there during the eight-year Mau Mau Uprising that started in 1952, and the Mau Mau, a tribal group, had a hideout in the valley. Sister Agnes said one of the local priests talked to the Mau Mau, who promised never to trouble the sisters, because they were holy.

Today, when young women apply to join the order, the sisters require that they finish high school and begin some other course work, Sister Monica said.

"It gives them time to mature a bit," she said.

Sister Regina, who works with the aspirants, said she checks to see if candidates are "determined to live the life."

"Does she feel called because she has other things she is afraid to face or does she feel called because God is calling her?" she said.

An aspirant will join the sisters for three months to see if a contemplative life is something she really wants. The day begins with the prayers of the morning office at 5:20 and ends around 10 or 10:30 p.m. Other than a couple of hours of recreation, the day is spent in prayer. While the sisters work -- sewing vestments and altar linens, printing greeting cards and making Communion hosts -- they meditate. Meals, cooked by the sisters, are eaten in silence while one nun reads -- to nourish the soul.

The sisters pray for their own intentions -- pregnant women and mothers, priests, events in the world -- as well as intentions of those who ask, including Muslims, Hindus and Protestants.

Sister Bernadette said they prayed for Americans before the 2008 elections "because we have our American sisters."

"It's not just like we are here for Kenya," added Sister Regina.



TOPICS: Catholic; Current Events; Prayer; Religion & Culture
KEYWORDS: carmelites; cloister; nairobi

1 posted on 02/17/2011 1:27:43 PM PST by NYer
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To: netmilsmom; thefrankbaum; Tax-chick; GregB; saradippity; Berlin_Freeper; Litany; SumProVita; ...

This is a Catholic Caucus thread


2 posted on 02/17/2011 1:28:48 PM PST by NYer ("Be kind to every person you meet. For every person is fighting a great battle." St. Ephraim)
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To: NYer
Meals, cooked by the sisters, are eaten in silence while one nun reads -- to nourish the soul.

I wish we could do that at our house. Listening to the children bicker during meals is bad for my digestion.

3 posted on 02/17/2011 1:35:30 PM PST by Tax-chick (All that, plus a real-meat cheezburger and wine.)
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To: NYer

I have always regarded the Carmelites as God’s angels on earth.


4 posted on 02/17/2011 1:37:17 PM PST by Steelfish (ui)
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To: NYer

Sounds awful to say (and sinful) but in a way I’m envious of their life! Lol! It seems like such a beautiful life. God bless them.....I will think of them when I pray for priests & religious!


5 posted on 02/17/2011 1:47:08 PM PST by surroundedbyblue
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To: Tax-chick
I wish we could do that at our house. Listening to the children bicker during meals is bad for my digestion.

Give it a try. Let them take turns reading during dinner. Lent might be the perfect reason to begin a new tradition.

6 posted on 02/17/2011 2:01:23 PM PST by NYer ("Be kind to every person you meet. For every person is fighting a great battle." St. Ephraim)
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To: NYer

It’s worth a try, at least on some occasions.


7 posted on 02/17/2011 2:17:20 PM PST by Tax-chick (All that, plus a real-meat cheezburger and wine.)
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To: Tax-chick

Print out a saint from the net, have one of the kids read about their life, and then go around the table and have each one make a comment.

St. Fiacre, patron of taxicabs and gardens, is always interesting.

Tell them it’s their Lenten sacrifice, and don’t tell them when Lent begins. ;-D


8 posted on 02/17/2011 2:24:01 PM PST by Judith Anne (Holy Mary, Mother of God, please pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.)
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To: Judith Anne
... and don’t tell them when Lent begins.

Nice thought, but it's on the calendar.

9 posted on 02/17/2011 2:38:36 PM PST by Tax-chick (All that, plus a real-meat cheezburger and wine.)
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To: Tax-chick

Well, there you are. My kids always ignored the calendar, so I was able to make up “special” days out of thin air. ;-D

You know, St. Immacolata, patron of closet cleaning and sock matching. Etc.


10 posted on 02/17/2011 2:42:27 PM PST by Judith Anne (Holy Mary, Mother of God, please pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.)
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To: Judith Anne

That might fly ... but Ash Wednesday is too well-known. If I told them Lent started next Wednesday (2/23), their Sunday School teachers would set them right the following week.


11 posted on 02/17/2011 2:48:25 PM PST by Tax-chick (All that, plus a real-meat cheezburger and wine.)
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To: Tax-chick
Okay, okay, I've got it, tell them they're practising for Lent. ;-D That's it, I'm fresh out of ideas.
12 posted on 02/17/2011 2:51:26 PM PST by Judith Anne (Holy Mary, Mother of God, please pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.)
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To: Tax-chick
Some time during my Tenth year (IIRC) my father decreed that the family would read the entire Bible, from "In the beginning ..." all the way to "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."

So we did ... fifteen minutes or so at a time, after dinner. Some of it was an awful slog, but God spoke to us (certainly to me) even in some of the most boring passages. We went on to other readings, and other forms of family prayer, but I've never forgotten that family trip through the Scriptures.

13 posted on 02/17/2011 2:57:35 PM PST by ArrogantBustard (Western Civilization is Aborting, Buggering, and Contracepting itself out of existence.)
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To: NYer

What joy in that young woman’s face.


14 posted on 02/17/2011 3:02:01 PM PST by I still care (I miss my friends, bagels, and the NYC skyline - but not the taxes. I love the South.)
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To: ArrogantBustard

I think we’ve been through the whole Bible - even Leviticus and Deuteronomy, all of First and Second Chronicles, and the distribution of the land in Joshue - and many books more than once. But we read Scriptures in the morning.

Maybe I’ll start reading the Iliad during supper.


15 posted on 02/17/2011 3:03:10 PM PST by Tax-chick (All that, plus a real-meat cheezburger and wine.)
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To: Tax-chick
Maybe I’ll start reading the Iliad during supper.

In Greek, of course ...

16 posted on 02/17/2011 3:05:33 PM PST by ArrogantBustard (Western Civilization is Aborting, Buggering, and Contracepting itself out of existence.)
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To: ArrogantBustard

We’re not ready for that yet ... we know only the present tense of verbs.


17 posted on 02/17/2011 3:06:58 PM PST by Tax-chick (All that, plus a real-meat cheezburger and wine.)
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To: Judith Anne

That reminds me ( I have no idea why-but it’s a good story, imho) of when I was 11 or 12 and it was time for me to leave for school. I couldn’t find my tie, which was a required part of my uniform and I was terrified to have Madam angry with me again. I admit that I was a serious drama queen as a child, and I haven’t progressed much, I confess.

Anyway, my mother was calling me as I was about to miss the bus again, and I was frantic.

I dropped to my knees, closed my eyes and prayed. When I opened my eyes I saw my tie, which had fallen under a chair. If I hadn’t been on my knees I would never have seen it. I felt that the Saints had intervened.

Shortly thereafter we went on Retreat for a week, and I thought that I was destined to be a nun. There are times that I still feel that way.


18 posted on 02/17/2011 3:22:15 PM PST by trisham (Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.)
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To: I still care
What joy in that young woman’s face.

***************************

It's a beautiful thing to see!

19 posted on 02/17/2011 3:23:41 PM PST by trisham (Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.)
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To: I still care

The joy on a nun’s face is truly a sign of grace. I’m on the mailing list for one order of nuns. I always study the pictures in the fundraising letters to see that joy.


20 posted on 02/17/2011 3:24:23 PM PST by married21 (As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.)
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To: Tax-chick

That’s a wonderful idea.


21 posted on 02/17/2011 3:24:25 PM PST by trisham (Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.)
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To: trisham

What a great story!


22 posted on 02/17/2011 3:32:37 PM PST by Judith Anne (Holy Mary, Mother of God, please pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.)
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To: Judith Anne

Thanks. I’ll bet you liked the part where I confessed to being a drama queen the best. Am I right? :)


23 posted on 02/17/2011 3:37:26 PM PST by trisham (Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.)
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To: trisham

My favorite granddaughter (please don’t tell anyone) is also very ...ahem... demonstrative.


24 posted on 02/17/2011 3:38:59 PM PST by Judith Anne (Holy Mary, Mother of God, please pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.)
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To: Judith Anne

There’s something to be said for it. :)


25 posted on 02/17/2011 3:47:14 PM PST by trisham (Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.)
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