Twenty years of finding joy in Carmelite spirituality

By Wendy Shaw

Building a more intimate relationship with God through prayer and reflection is the aim of the Carmelite Secular Order. 

For 20 years, it has been meeting at the Carmelite Monastery in West Launceston. 

Now the Secular Order is hoping to spread the word so that more people become aware of its charism, traditions and special events, including a forthcoming weekend retreat. 

Sandra Walkling is the co-ordinator of the Launceston Carmelite Secular Order. She has been a member of the Carmelite Order for 36 years.  

“I was part of the Carmelite community in Varroville, Sydney before my husband and I moved down here in 1999,” she said. 

“It was in 2003 that I was asked to form a group here in Launceston by the Friars as well as by the Mother Prioress at that time.” 

Sandra explained that Seculars ‘living in the world’ are called to the same charism and tradition as the nuns and friars and are full members of the Carmelite Order. However, their mission is to live their faith and Carmelite vocation in the midst of and through their secular lives. 

“In our families, in our work and professional lives, in parishes, in nursing homes, in the supermarket, on buses, wherever we are, as prayerful people, living in awareness of God’s presence, we bring this presence into all these situations and therefore bring this presence to others,” she said. 

When St Teresa of Avila founded the Discalced Carmelite Order in the 16th Century, society was far more restrictive than today, Sandra said.

“In the world of the Spanish Golden Age, society was not very inclined to the ‘independence of women’; rather, it was just the opposite. Men were in control, and women had to adapt.

“St Teresa found she also had to contend with the Spanish Inquisition which scrutinised all her writings throughout her life as a Carmelite nun. However, her charism was such that she attracted many vocations throughout all of Spain. 

“It is obvious that God’s divine providence was at work and the Carmelite Order has now spread to every part of the globe with foundations of friars, nuns and seculars.” 

Carmelite spirituality is not so much about doing certain things but rather about being a certain kind of person. 

“It affects every aspect of our lives, and every relationship or interaction we have with others,” Sandra said. 

The Carmelite nuns in Launceston, who celebrated the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Order in Tasmania this year, offer the Secular Order their prayerful support and the use of their monastery for monthly meetings. 

“If you feel or desire to have a deeper and more intimate relationship with God, this could be your calling to be in the Carmelite Order. Come and enquire. You will be guided throughout your spiritual formation before you become a full member,” Sandra added. 

People from around the state are welcome to learn more about Carmelite spirituality and personal prayer at a weekend retreat at the Emmanuel Centre, Launceston, on 24-26 November. Fr Paul Maunder, a Carmelite Friar based in Sydney, will present the topic “The Way of Perfection: St Teresa of Avila, Mystic and the First Woman Doctor of the Church”. The cost of weekend is $300, including meals and accommodation.  

For details on the Carmelite Secular Order or the forthcoming retreat, including bookings, please contact Sandra Walkling on 6331 4991.  

Tags: Launceston, News