Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 29, 2008
Lay Carmelites live in God's presence
Members' vocation includes service to others, obedience
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"We sacrifice time, talent and treasure for the benefit of our families and society at large.”
- Linda Poznanski
Group members, though not in religious life, are people who have chosen to live out their baptismal commitment according to the spirit of the Carmelite order, which takes its inspiration from the figures of Our Lady and the prophet Elijah. Mary is the model of perfect discipleship while Elijah is an example of prophetic action and a life spent in service of God.
According to Linda Poznanski, a lay Carmelite since 1988, group members live a way of life characterized by prayer and intimacy with God and make perpetual vows of obedience and chastity, according to their state of life.
They also promise to share their gifts and talents in roles of service to their brothers and sisters. Catholics who join the group must undergo a period of formation before being professed.
“This is not just a social club; when you are professed into the third order it’s a vocation for life,” explains group spokesperson Heather Alexander.
“The only reason people would leave is if they are transferred away, or if they die, or they can’t come because of infirmity. We do consecrate ourselves to Our Lady’s work for the rest of our lives. It’s a journey for life.”
At the Sept. 18 Mass, the group also celebrated the 800th anniversary of the giving of the rule of St. Albert to the Carmelites. Albert Avogadro, patriarch of Jerusalem in the early 13th century, united the hermits of Mount Carmel into one community and wrote a rule for them.
A person who becomes a lay Carmelite accepts the rule of St. Albert, which is a practical means of living in the presence of God while living in a society that often rejects God, explains Poznanski, who is married with two adult children.
“This contemplative way teaches Carmelites to see God in others and the world around, and claim the gift of courage to proclaim him to a world where justice is denied to many.”
"The Carmelite way of life is a school of prayer.”
- Heather Alexander
Dorothy Phillips, the founder of Edmonton’s Marian Centre, started a group of Catholic men and women who met at the Marian Centre in 1957. The following year, the group was formally recognized as the Edmonton chapter of lay Carmelites, known as Our Lady of the Way.
“Third Order Carmelites around the world have their roots recognized by Rome. We are part of the worldwide family of Carmel,” notes Poznanski.
Since its establishment Our Lady of the Way Carmelites has received and professed 73 members.
Alexander, a mother of four and member of St. Vital Parish in Beaumont, learned about the group in the early 1980s through a WCR advertisement announcing a meeting at the Marian Centre. She attended and immediately felt a sense of belonging.
“I’m home,” she said to herself. “This is where I belong.”
Today she is happy she joined. “In my 25 years in Carmel I have noticed quite a change in myself,” Alexander says. “The Lord has transformed me. For me the Carmelite way of life is a school of prayer,” she adds. “It’s sort of as if Our Lady is the headmistress and she takes you into her home and under her wing and she teaches you the way she prayed, the way she related to God.”
Poznanski says lay Carmelites are each called to actively participate in the Church’s ministry.
“The rule of St Albert leaves it to each Carmelite to find a meaningful apostolate,” she explains. “We practice stewardship. We sacrifice time, talent and treasure for the benefit of our families and society at large.”
She says members of the Edmonton group volunteer at the Marian Centre, some serve in parishes on parish council, others are involved in lay ministry, RCIA and the Catholic school board.
Group members are mostly married or widowed and mostly women, their ages ranging from early 30s to mid-80s. Only two men currently attend meetings.
“We are open to anyone who is willing to look for a path to perfection and lay Carmelites find that Carmel is a path to perfection through prayer and obedience to the will of God,” Poznanski says.
At their monthly meetings at St. Andrew’s Centre, the group prays the Liturgy of the Hours and studies the saints and “how their message is still relevant for them today and how we can live the charism of Carmel in the world.”
Lay Carmelites wear a ceremonial scapular every time they meet. “That’s the only habit that we have,” Alexander notes. “It’s brown and made of wool — it represents the Lamb of God.”
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