The Carmelite convent in the small town of Reyes, in northwest Bolivia, was founded in 1979 by eight Spanish Carmelite sisters. The bishop at the time would never have dared to hope that one day a congregation of contemplative nuns would settle here, for his vicariate lies in a remote, neglected and forgotten region of the Amazon jungle. But in reality Sister Maria Teresa of the Child Jesus had always dreamt, even as a young novice, of founding a Carmelite convent in the mission field. And 30 years later her dream became reality. The Spanish sisters of the congregation wanted to be close to the missionaries, in order to be able to support them with their prayers, and at the same time they also wanted to give an opportunity to the indigenous population to get to know and appreciate the riches of the contemplative life. And they have succeeded, for the community has continued to grow. In fact, in 1991 they were even able to send a group of sisters to the Carmelite convent in Cochabamba, in the central Bolivian Andes, where the original group of Spanish sisters had now grown old. Thanks to the influx of indigenous Latin American vocations, the Spanish sisters who had originally founded the community were thus able to return home to Spain in 1995, leaving their convent in good, Bolivian hands.
The sisters in the convent in Reyes are young; most of them are aged between 30 and 40 in fact. They support themselves by painting and restoring holy pictures, by sewing and embroidering liturgical vestments and garments and by making and selling fruit preserves and yoghurt. They also grow fruit and vegetables in their convent garden for their own needs. But all this activity only provides for their most basic daily needs.
In recent years the Carmelites have had to face the necessity of carrying out repair work on their convent, which was founded in 1980 and had never been renovated since. The heavy rains, hot sun and high humidity had taken their toll of the building, however, and so the sisters had no choice but to have some essential repair work done. Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, we were able to help their community. In February last year Sister Susana Maria of the Most Holy Trinity wrote to express her great surprise and delight at receiving our letter promising help. Now the repair work has been completed, and Sister Susana has written again to say thank you to all our generous benefactors. “We are so grateful to God, and to all of you at ACN, and to all the benefactors! May God richly bless you all and grant you eternal life! May God, who is rich in mercy, reward you for the good that you are doing in this world. We thank you with all our hearts and will always remember you when our prayers before the Lord.”