Carmelites a shining light of faith in Tasmania for 75 years

As the Carmelite community prepares to celebrate the 75th anniversary of its foundation in Tasmania, Prioress Mother Teresa Benedicta of the Cross OCD, reflects on the enduring power of prayer and outlines her hopes for the future of the community.

By Wendy Shaw

The presence of the Carmelite community in Tasmania has contributed richly to the faith lives of Catholics for 75 years.

The anniversary of the establishment of the Carmelite Monastery of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is being marked with a number of special events, including a Jubilee Mass on 17 June at the Carmelite Monastery in West Launceston.

It will be a time for prayer, reflection and thanksgiving for the six founding nuns, under the leadership of Mother Mary Teresa of Jesus as Prioress, who arrived in Launceston on 15 June, 1948, and those who have followed since then.

The founding six came from the Carmelite Monastery at Glen Osmond in South Australia, responding to a request from the then Archbishop of Hobart, Ernest Victor Tweedy.

They established a new Carmel in Longford and later moved to West Launceston in 1975, to be nearer to the priests and people.

Current Prioress Mother Teresa Benedicta of the Cross OCD said: “All the essential aspects of our life are the same as they were 75 years ago: a life of prayer understood and lived as intimate friendship with Christ, and lived in a delicate blending of silence and solitude, community life, manual work and recreation.

“Any charism can only be lived in the present time, so of course, life for us now involves some aspects of modern life that were not around in 1948 – computers, for example. And the type of work we do has changed insofar as we are no longer in a rural setting as at Longford where farm work was dominant. But the similarities would far outweigh the differences.”

Another constant for the enclosed order is the presence of Sr Mary of the Holy Ghost, now 94, the oldest of the community’s seven sisters. The youngest is 24.

“We are especially blessed to have one of our original foundation members still in our midst, Sr Mary of the Holy Ghost, who came on the foundation from Adelaide as a 19-year-old novice in 1948,” Mother Teresa Benedicta said.

“Sister is a wonderful inspiration to us all and a precious link with the 75-year history of our community. God willing, Sister will in turn celebrate her 75th anniversary of her religious profession of vows in December this year.”

The Carmel has provided enduring support, encouragement and prayers for the Catholic community in Tasmania.

Mother Teresa Benedicta said: “I hope the presence of Carmel in our State has helped Tasmanians to gain a deeper love for prayer and a greater faith in the power of prayer in their lives, as well as a deep sense that they are not alone on their journey of faith; we are here praying for them, supporting and encouraging them to seek intimacy with God in the midst of their busy lives, as they grow in holiness in their own vocations.”

Looking to the future, the Prioress hopes for new Carmelite vocations to grow an ever-stronger community and presence of prayer in Tasmania.

“I also hope that coming generations of Tasmanians will discover the beauty of the Carmelite charism through contact with us and that they will discover a place they can find peace and prayer here at our Launceston monastery,” she added.

Carmelite spirituality is based on “the beautiful dogma of the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity in our souls”, the Prioress added.

“We seek to live in a deepening awareness of God’s presence in our lives, in friendship with Him, and from that communion of love with Him, to channel His love and mercy to others through prayer. The Carmelite seeks to live with and for God alone, but in so doing, she is deeply inserted into the very heart of the Church’s mission to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to all people.

“Our life is centred in the celebration of daily Mass, and flows in to praise, adoration and thanksgiving offered to God through the Divine Office prayed in Choir seven times a day, as well as the distinctive feature of St Teresa’s Carmels, two hours of silent prayer, one morning and the other in the evening. As well as seeking union with God in our own lives, Carmelite prayer has an essentially apostolic focus, especially praying for the Church, the Holy Father, and very specially our own archbishop and priests, as well as the needs and intentions of all people, especially here in Tasmania.”

Catholics are encouraged to share the Carmelite life by: enrolling in Our Lady’s Perpetual Lamp Association; joining the Auxiliary mailing list; requesting prayers; and wearing the brown scapular which is made and sold at the monastery. See for details.

Mother Teresa Benedicta added: “We wish to express our deep gratitude to all our friends and benefactors whose generosity and support has enabled our community to take root in Tasmania during these 75 years, and which continues to help us live our hidden life of prayer today, relying on divine providence for all our needs.”

Jubilee celebrations

The 75th anniversary of the Foundation of Carmel in Tasmania will be marked with a Jubilee Mass of Thanksgiving, celebrated by Archbishop Julian Porteous, at 9.30am on Saturday, 17 June at the Carmelite Monastery, West Launceston.

This coincides with both the Solemnity of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the anniversary of death of founding prioress Mother Mary Teresa of Jesus, who was from the well-known Holyman family of Launceston.

Prioress Mother Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, OCD said: “In the spirit of the jubilee, there will be a rare opportunity for those who attend the Mass to greet our Sisters in the visitors’ parlour after Mass which will also avail us the opportunity to thank personally our friends and benefactors for their unwavering support.”

The community will spend time over the jubilee weekend reflecting with gratitude on the past 75 years.

There are also plans for special Masses on the foundation day, 15 June.

“We hope to have our regular morning Mass as a Sung Votive Mass of Jesus Christ, Eternal High Priest, as a way of highlighting the special place prayer for priests has in our charism, and also a private Mass later in the day in our burial vault offered for our 17 deceased Sisters who have made an outstanding contribution to our community over these 75 years,” Mother Teresa Benedicta said.

“We are also hoping to have a Holy Hour for vocations in our chapel that evening.”

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