By Jamie O’Brien and Joshua Low.
The Discalced Carmelite Community at Nedlands have recently celebrated the solemn profession Sr Marie Chrissie OCD of the Holy Trinity.
Celebrating the occasion on Saturday 20 January at the Carmel Monastery Nedlands was Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe sdb, joined by Vicar General the Very Rev Fr Peter Whitely VG, Morley Parish Priest and fellow Carmelite Fr Greg Burke OCD, Nedlands Parish Priest Fr Gavin Gomez and retired priest Fr Greg Donovan.
From a family of two brothers and four sisters, Sr Marie-Chrissie was born in Sabah, East Malaysia and recalled she found the Carmelites’ life of prayer very attractive from a young age.
“I was inspired to become a religious sister from young. My mother used to read to me about the saints and taught me to pray and love Jesus.
“I was so fascinated by religious communities that I decided to write to several of them and asked to be admitted to the religious life at the age of 12, thinking I was old enough to serve God like them,” she said.
“However, they told me to continue my studies for the time being.
“Nevertheless, what inspired me were their words of encouragement and that they were praying for me,” she said.
Speaking during his homily for the occasion, Archbishop Costelloe explained that in our Catholic tradition, reaching right back to the early centuries of the Church’s, existence, religious life has always focused on two things.
“The first is the profession of the three vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. The second, for most religious orders and congregations, is the call to live this way of life within a community,” Archbishop Costelloe said.
“These three vows of chastity, poverty and obedience are often referred to as the evangelical or gospel counsels. This means, firstly, that they come to us from the teaching and example of Jesu,” he said.
“It also means, of course, that they are not expected from every Christian, at least in the sense that not everyone is called to life in a religious order or congregation.
“In recent times, however, a new insight has begun to develop in the Church’s understanding of the religious life, and now we would be more inclined to speak of chastity, poverty, and obedience as evangelical or gospel imperatives, rather than counsels. They are meant for everyone, although the way we live them out will vary from person to person,” he said.
Sr Marie-Chrissie explained that she felt her call to religious life become stronger over the years, following her initial enquiry.
Following completion of her studies of theology and philosophy in Indonesia, Sr Marie-Chrissie visited the Carmelites in Malaysia on the Feast of St Thérèse of Lisieux.
“When I visited the Carmelites in Malaysia, I felt there was something special there in the life of the enclosure. There is a sort of power inside that flows out and I could feel it. This hidden life to me was something beautiful.
“I think I’ve always felt that call from God to be His servant in Carmel, and I felt that it was what I was being called to in the future,” she said.
“There are so many religious congregations, but the Carmelites gave me this aspect of prayer which I related to and found so important.
“It’s a part of their life, where they’re not just living and saying prayers every day, but living the Gospel through their own lives as a community, where in each moment they offer their service to God and the Church.”
Sr Marie-Chrissie entered the Discalced Carmelite Monastery in Malaysia in 2008, where she stayed for six years before being sent to Perth.
Sr Marie-Chrissie explained that that is what she loves about being with the Carmelites; helping the Church with a life of prayer.
She added that though they may be a small community, how they live their lives more closely to the Gospel by loving God and neighbour, is at the heart of the community.
“We know that through our life here living in prayer, we can offer something to the Church. Not just locally, but to the wider Church in the world.
“Just like the example of St Thérèse of Lisieux and her little way – doing simple little things with great love, and having the intention of doing everything for Jesus, no matter how small, because there’s a value in everything; that’s how we contribute to the Church,” she said.
To live in poverty of spirit, continued Archbishop Costelloe, conducting all our relationships with sensitivity, care and respect for each other, and always seeking to discover the will of God and put it into practice: this is the vocation of every Christian.
“But because we are all fragile and weak, and can easily push God to one side and then find ourselves wandering away from him, God calls some people, as today he calls Sister Marie Chrissie, to accept the challenge and the privilege of living in such a way within a religious community, in this way becoming a constant and powerful reminder to us all that the values to which she has committed her whole life are values which the Lord is calling the rest of us, in our own particular situations, to place at the heart of our lives too. “Today, with her solemn profession, Sr Marie Chrissie confirms her desire to be for all of us a kind of sacrament – a visible and powerful sign – of something which lies at the very heart of the identity of the Church as a community of disciples of Jesus: that every single one of us is called to commit ourselves to the way of Jesus – the way of poverty and simplicity, the way of respectful and life affirming relationships with others, and the way of obedience to all that God asks of us each day of our life,” he said.