Around 20 years ago, a Carmelite convent was founded just outside the city of Florida, in the south of Uruguay. Today there are 12 Carmelite sisters here, living a life of perpetual prayer in accordance with the Rule of their foundress, the great saint, mystic and Doctor of the Church, Teresa of Avila.
Today there are 12 Carmelite sisters here.
This thriving community continues to attract young women, drawn by the atmosphere of holiness and the life of prayer. Sister Maria Belén received the habit only recently. „It was a simple and very moving ceremony, during which I made the commitment, with a heart overflowing with joy, to strive to unite myself more and more each day with Christ“, she tells us. Maria comes from a devout Catholic family; her uncle was a priest, and she herself used to give catechetical instruction and play an active part in the life of her parish. „I believed that what I was giving the Lord in this way was more than enough“, says Sister Maria. But then her uncle was killed in a road accident, and in her grief and pain she sensed more and more that God was calling her, that he „wanted her for himself“, as she puts it.
… she sensed more and more that God was calling her, that he „wanted her for himself“…
She began to seek the right way of doing this. Through reading the „Story of a Soul“ by Saint Therese of Lisieux, she came to the Carmel. „When I got to know the Carmel in April 2017, I knew from the first moment that this would be my home. I pray to God to strengthen me with his grace, that I may give myself each day in still greater freedom and generosity. I know that I can only travel this way if I am led by his hand. In union with Saint Teresa of Avila I say, ‚Let us go together, Lord, for wherever you go, I must go also‘.“
This thriving community continues to attract young women, drawn by the atmosphere of holiness and the life of prayer.
But now the convent has become too small to accommodate any more young women. And so the sisters want to build on another wing with five additional cells. But they do not have the money to do so, and so they have turned with confidence to ACN. We do not want any of these young women, who desire to give their lives totally to God, to have to be turned away for lack of resources, and so we are proposing to help with a contribution of 70,000 Euros.
Although Latin America as a whole is described as a „Catholic continent“, in fact Uruguay, the second smallest country in Latin America, actually has a long secular history behind it. In the 19th century all public expression of religion was banned, banished to the private sphere, and the secularist government of the day engaged in numerous deliberate provocations against the Catholic Church. For example, on Good Friday of all days – for Catholics a day of strict fasting and abstinence – the government would deliberately offer free barbecues for all the population.
Ever since 1917 there has been a strict separation of Church and State, formally enshrined in the Constitution. No religious festivals are acknowledged in the public calendar. So it is not surprising that not even half the population of 3.3 million people declare themselves Catholics today.
Uruguay: not even half the population of 3.3 million people declare themselves Catholics today.
As a result, the Church struggles to maintain itself without outside support. The statutory requirements imposed by the state for the maintenance of Church properties are extremely high. Meanwhile, most priests live on the bare minimum. Consequently, your Mass stipends are of enormous help to them.
The diocese of Tacuarembo lies in the northern-central part of the country and covers an area of around 24,000 km². It has 20 priests, who minister to around 100,000 Catholic faithful in 16 far-flung parishes with a total of 85 churches and chapels and a number of different charitable institutions as well. The area is sparsely inhabited and the faithful live widely dispersed.
Uruguay: Mass stipends for 20 priests in Tacuarembo.
We are therefore planning to help these 20 priests with Mass stipends, to a total value of 11,980 Euros. This works out at just 600 Euros per priest for an entire year. These priests will celebrate these Holy Masses for the intentions of those benefactors who have given them.
The Church is under attack around the world. Internal scandals are damaging her credibility. Numbers of priests and religious are falling in Latin America, as elsewhere. Yet at this very time in one of the most anti-Christian countries on the continent, one particular community shines forth like a beacon for the future. They are the Discalced Carmelite Sisters in Florida, Uruguay.
There are twelve Sisters, eight permanently professed, two with temporary vows and two novices. They are young, and other young women are also seeking admission to the convent. Each has her own story to tell, of how God called her, tenderly but clearly, invisibly but unmistakably, quietly but insistently. Each of them could make her own the words of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. “Did not our hearts burn within us as he spoke to us…” (Cf. Lk 24:32). Sister María was just 16 when, in 2013 while on pilgrimage, she first recognised the urging in her heart. “You have given me everything, Lord, and I want to give everything to you.” This was her prayer, even without knowing exactly what God wanted of her.
A radiant bride of Christ: Sister María, 22, in the convent garden.
She was already engaged and loved her fiancé Fernando. Then she met a Carmelite nun. She read the Story of a Soulby Saint Therese of Lisieux. The signs that she was being called to the religious life multiplied, until she said in her prayers “Enough! No more signs please!” She wanted to become a Carmelite, but at the same time she also wanted to be a doctor and mother of a family. Together with her fiancé she prayed a novena to Saint Joseph. A few months later she unburdened her heart to a Carmelite Sister who said, without knowing anything of the novena, “Saint Joseph has sent you here. We prayed to him in the convent for a new vocation.” Her questioning was replaced with certainty. She broke off her engagement. Fernando had already begun to anticipate this,
and also to question his own vocation. Today he is a seminarian in Montevideo. María was 19 when she finally decided to enter the convent. Her friends and even her parents tried
to dissuade her and prayed desperately that she would not enter the convent.
A growing community: three professed Sisters with a novice and a postulant.
But the Sisters were also praying in their convent. One night María wrote a loving letter to her parents, climbed out of the window and knocked on the door of the Carmel. Today she says, “I am happy, happy to be the bride of Christ.” Sister María Belén also felt her heart burning. The more she became involved with her parish, the greater her longing grew to belong totally to God. Then her uncle, who was a priest, died in a car crash. In the midst of her grief she felt the open arms of God. She too read the Story of a Soul and then, two years ago, when she became acquainted with the Carmel, she knew: “This is my home, my doorway to heaven.” Now other young women are knocking on the door. They too want to give everything. But there is not enough space to accommodate them. An extension will make space for five additional cells. This is a sign for us, you could say, for the little online shop they run, selling their embroidery, needlework and handicrafts, will never cover the cost. So we have promised €70,000.