With the introduction of Vultum dei Quaerere and Cor Orans and in order to better understand the way we can put in practice Cor Orans we as a community have considered that the best we could do was to become full members of the British Association. For this reason we asked the President and the Council of the British Association to pay us a visit and explain the way forward for us as a unique community. The President and her council gratefully accepted our invitation. The president and one of her council sisters visited us from 22nd to 25th October 2018. During their visit the President said that every monastery of contemplative nuns should become a member of an Association or Federation by May 2019 or else should need to obtain permission from the Holy See for dispensation. She said that the Holy See has the following two main reasons for making membership of an Association obligatory.
- In order to overcome isolation.
The autonomy and enclosure which characterize our Carmels have tended to produce a level of isolation which can become problematic and is not really in keeping with St. Teresa’s vision for her foundations. From the point of view of the Congregation in Rome, it is impossible for them to keep in touch with every individual monastery. They are aware that there are many difficulties, due to fewer vocations and communities generally becoming smaller and older, and that such difficulties can involve great suffering for sisters. So they see federations as fulfilling a role between the Congregation and the individual monasteries, so as to ensure that no communities are left completely isolated. The federation can provide a means of communication between Rome and the member monasteries, and also among the member monasteries. This does not mean a loss of either autonomy or enclosure, but they are balanced by the value of communion.
- In order to provide help and support when needed.
One of the effects of isolation has been a lack of help and support, meaning that communities have had to try and deal with any problems on their own. It seems that over the years since Sponsa Christi recommended the formation of associations and federations, the Congregation have decided that they work well, and that the best people to deal with problems that may arise for contemplative monasteries are the nuns themselves.
The British Association was founded in 1975. It has brought a real sense of unity among them, and even before Cor Orans they have been able to help one another in many ways, for instance, sharing experience, providing financial support, arranging meetings for initial and ongoing formations and peer support for prioresses and younger sisters. Cor Orans does give greater scope to ensure that serious problems are addressed and that all the sisters receive the formation and support necessary to enable them to live their Carmelite lives to the full.
Our Maltese community has been affiliated with the British Association since 2002 and it had become clear that full membership with the British Association is the most appropriate. After the President and one of her Council sisters visit to our community we sent a formal request for membership, following a unanimous Chapter vote. The British communities have likewise responded unanimously, offering us a warm welcome. Afterwards the President sent a formal petition to Rome.
The official degree from Rome was received on the 15th January 2019 and now our community is officially a full member of the Association of British Carmels. We received a warm welcome in the news section of the official website of the Association of British Carmels. https://carmelitenuns.uk/