“Do whatever He tells you” -John 2:5
We are all familiar with Mary’s command to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” I reflect on that scripture often because, in leadership, I need to be willing to do whatever Jesus tells me, whether I fully understand or not.
In the Congregation of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, I am beginning my thirteenth year in leadership serving as assistant to presidents Sister Ursula Diasselliss and Elizabeth Fitzpatrick for four years each, then serving as president from 2013-2017. April 29 I began my fifth year serving as president until 2021.
Including the young women in initial formation, the Congregation is blessed with eighty-one members in the USA, Philippines, and Timor-Leste.
Unlike my fifty-two years of teaching when I knew exactly what I was going to teach each day, leadership brings new things each day and, even though plans are in place, I need to be ready to “do whatever He tells me.”
Any day may bring the phone call of an illness or death of a Sister, repairs needing approval on a building, an email requesting prayers, an article to be written, thank you notes or letters, birthday or feast day cards, etc. In addition to any administrative tasks, the main purpose of leadership is to further the mission of the Congregation and to implement the Acts of our General Chapter in January which set the direction for the next four years.
I once received a fortune cookie which read, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” Leadership cannot “just sit there.” We need to “Embrace the future with hope” as our Chapter theme recommended.
How do I spread Carmelite Spirituality and the charism of the Sisters of Mount Carmel? Whether one is in leadership or not, each Carmelite is to live out the Carmelite charism—the gift Carmel is to the Church. Father Glenn Snow, O. Carm. in Foundation Stones suggests three general ways to live out our Carmelite charism: 1. By living in God’s presence, by “being with” God in all that we are and in all that we do; 2. By listening to God’s voice, for God speaks to us words of comfort, words of challenge. How can we do what God tells us, if we do not listen to him? 3. By caring for God’s people, using whatever gifts God has given us. Just as Elijah handed the mantle to Elisha, we, too, must be ready to hand over the mantle to those who come after us. We know that they will embrace Carmelite Spirituality and they will be willing to “Do whatever He tells (them).”
After teaching for forty eight years and caring for my elderly mother for eight years, I tried to discern what service God may have in store for me. After a few months of discerning, I felt that I was being called to minister to the elderly homebound, especially those who had been active in the church when they were younger and healthy. Some had been attending daily Mass and missed receiving daily Communion.
Presently, I have a few ministries which include visiting the sick and elderly, visiting Religion classes at Mt. Carmel Academy and acting as spiritual advisor to a Lay Carmelite community. The spirit of Carmel calls us to be of service to the people of God and to bring with that spirit of contemplation service to those in need.
Visiting the sick, especially after I had cared for my mother in her last years, made me come to the realization that many elderly are not only physically handicapped, but they miss being involved in their church parish which make many feel lonely and useless. My mission is not only to meet with them but to give them time to visit informally and also talk about their love of God and their concerns about family, church and country. Receiving Holy Communion brings them such joy that I feel inspired to live out my vocation in joyful service to whomever I encounter.
My contact with the students at Mount Carmel enables me to share with them the gift of their youth as I try to bring joy to them – joy that bounces back to me. I love people no matter what their age or circumstance. Jesus’ example of his relation with young and old inspire me to bring Jesus to those I am privileged to serve. I love to bring joy to them. Jesus prayed that we may joy -joy to the fullest. I have always tried to bring joy to those I serve – a gift that Jesus has generously given me through the years. Like the prophet Elijah I strive to live out the motto of Carmel: “With zeal am I zealous for the Lord God of Host.”
My ministry as Spiritual Coordinator for our two sisters in Our Lady of Prompt Succor Nursing Facility in Opelousas has been a blessing. My focus is visiting and praying with them with a consciousness that I am to be a Carmelite presence to them as they live away from a Carmelite community. Visiting, praying with them, keeping them abreast with news of our sisters and ministries, celebrating Carmelite feasts and just enjoying each other’s presence is our agenda. When I first visited the sisters at Evangeline Oaks, I brought communion to them three or four times a week. This formed the deeper spiritual relationship among us. Now, the sisters a Catholic home run by Marianites of the Holy Cross I have daily Mass which enriches their daily experience, but which I miss sharing with then. With them, I try to be a Carmelite presence to them and to encourage them to be a Carmelite presence to the other residents at the home.
A secondary ministry has been as a caregiver to one of our sisters in our home, St. Leo Convent. This entails assistance in rising, retiring and giving help at night when needed. This ministry has led me to a whole deeper level of involvement with personal assistance and a more acute understanding of the sisters I serve at the nursing facility.
I have learned that physical and/or mental impairment does not negate spiritual awareness and need. Prayer, especially those of the past, often near the surface of our minds and hearts continue to bring peace, consolation and strength when life experiences are difficult. Respect toward and awareness of the dignity of others are reciprocal; love and affection are as necessary to the disabled, spiritual person as medicine and therapy is to relief of pain; a personal and loving relationship between caregiver and care given is as essential to each as the love and affection of a parent and child.
This I have “learned about” from reading and study; but, this I know and realize through the experiences with these sisters, my mother, and others with nursing needs. It has not always been easy, but the effort has always been rewarding in regard to my own spiritual growth. Jesus does teach us to live as he lived among his people.
One of the gifts I have received through this ministry has been through involvement with an alzheimer’s support group of caregivers. Offering with them a morning of prayer led me to pray, reflect and trust that God would use me in touching their needs. In this prayer and reflection, I’ve been able to share the gifts that God has and is giving me in my need — wisdom and understanding, patience and fortitude, and that much misunderstood gift, fear of the Lord, the grace to strive to do what I am called for others for the love of God.
A saying I’ve kept in heart for years is so true today: It’s hard, but good. Spiritual and physical caregiving is not easy, but it is a blessing!
I grew up in New Iberia, LA, and attended Mt. Carmel Academy in that town for my elementary and high school years. Three months after graduating from high school, I entered the convent, joining the Congregation of the Sisters of Mt. Carmel in 1966, professing my first vows in August, 1969, receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Education in 1972, and professing my final vows in 1974.
I taught school in various places in south Louisiana for about 25 years, until July, 1998. At that time I moved from Louisiana to Darien, IL, (in the western suburbs of Chicago) to begin ministry with the Lay Carmelites. Lay Carmelites (a.k.a. Third Order members) are lay people, both men and women, who have discerned a vocational calling to live out their Baptismal commitment by following a way of life based on Carmelite spirituality. They join established Lay Carmelite Communities. These communities meet once a month to offer continuing support to each other through community prayer and study of the Carmelite way of life. There are over 200 Lay Carmelite Communities connected to the Province of the Most Pure Heart of Mary, scattered throughout the United States and Canada.
In any given year, I drive approximately 30,000 miles to various parts of the country and Canada because my main ministry is to visit each community periodically, offering support and guidance in their Carmelite vocation. Every Lay Carmelite community will get a visit every 2 or 3 years. When I am not traveling, I am busy in the Lay Carmelite Office, usually planning and mapping out my next visitation trip. Though a lot of my time is spent “on the road” it is always good to get back home, and settle back into the rhythm of life in community with Sr. Mary Martin, who has recently retired from active ministry in the Lay Carmelite Office.
I feel very blessed to serve in this ministry. These good people have been such a gift in my life. I am called daily in very concrete ways to share the Carmelite way of life with others and have been so enriched and inspired by the witness of faithful living out of Carmelite spirituality in the lives of the Lay Carmelites with whom I have been privileged to work during these 18 ½ years. My own vocation to Carmel as a vowed religious has expanded and deepened, and for this I am very grateful.
Let all that you do be done in love (1 Corinthian 16:14). This Bible passage is a perfect reminder for me as I perform my new ministry in the foreign land here in the US. My calling and willingness to serve is truly rooted in my love for God defined through the people that I work with. I know that whatever ministry I am involved in, challenges and difficulties will set in. But I am also certain that there will also be new learning. I am positive that every step I make will be well taken care of by God. I am inspired to do new things for the ministry because I consider it as a special favor offered to me by God. I’m looking forward to further during the next four months immersion in Mount Carmel School of Abbeville.
My new ministry in school gave me good impression. I received a warm welcome and I felt a sense of belonging. I am glad gaining new friendships through those shared smiles and warm greetings. I am truly interested to know how things will work for me as I meet wonderful people in school especially that I am assisting the teachers in Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten classes. I enjoy being with the kids in pre kindergarten and kindergarten working as a teacher’s aide. I feel blessed having been given the chance to observe each class from first grade through eighth grade. I appreciate the kind of discipline that they impart to the students. And I admire also the good sense of student and teacher interaction. It is also a grace- filled experience to learn teaching strategies of the teachers. I really appreciate the kind- hearted gestures of the students and the teachers having my presence with them. I savor the experience being with them because I learn something during my observation period. I realized that the ministry in school would be a meaningful and worthwhile experience for me. I recognize that those seemingly ordinary and simple moments have given me joy and gladness. Every day is always a learning process. Each moment has
taught me to appreciate the gifts of each one: the students, the teachers, and other school staff. I find joy being with the kids because they are teaching me to have a joy, a gentle, and a loving spirit. I believe that the children will teach me in all sorts of things. I realized how Jesus was delighted to be with children when He said, “Let the children come to me” (Matthew 19:14). The children are truly a gift and ministers of love. I was touched by the pureness of their hearts especially when we have the prayer service inside the chapel. I meet God through them. The routines of my daily tasks being with the kids have shaped me to show inclusive love. Indeed, the children add color and joy to my day to day experience in school.
The language may seem challenging for me at this time because of the different accent and expressions I have to deal with. But soon I will get accustomed to the language. I am willing to do the tasks given to me because I know this will help me grow more in my chosen vocation. And I believe that every service offered to others is a matter of the heart. I have to pour out my heart into it. I believe that my relationship to God is in accord with the relationship I have with His people. All the experiences integrate my community, service and prayer life. An Important lesson for me now is to live the grace at the moment, be grateful and be just a person that God wanted me to be.
The Congregation of Our Lady of Mount Carmel welcomed three young women who joined our Lived-in Aspirancy Program in Timor-Leste starting this month of February.
The Sisters of Our Lady of Mount Carmel met for their Thirty-sixth General Chapter at the Carmelite Spirituality Center in Lacombe, Louisiana from December 27, 2016 – January 3, 2017. Thirty-six sister delegates from the U.S., Philippines, and Timor-Leste participated in the Chapter proceedings and re-elected Sister Lawrence Habetz, O. Carm. as president of the congregation. Sisters Maria Sheila Undang, Janet LeBlanc, Elizabeth Fitzpatrick, and Kathleen Farrelly are the executive councilors-elect for a four year term of office, which will begin April 29, 2017. Sister Maria Sheila Undang will serve as assistant to the president. The sisters will gather for a private installation of the new leadership during the Eucharistic Celebration at the Motherhouse Chapel, New Orleans, on April 29, 2017.
When convoking the General Chapter, Sister Lawrence Habetz prayed with the sisters, their Chapter Prayer, adapted from St. Teresa of Avila: “Yours I am, for You I was made; what do you want of me? Yours we are, for You we were made; what do you want of us?” Referencing the words of Alfred Lord Tennyson, she asked that these sacred days of Chapter give us the will “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield,” and the courage to “Embrace the Future with Hope,” the chapter theme.
Sister Lawrence Habetz, O. Carm. attended St. Joseph School in Rayne, LA and Fenton High School in Fenton, LA and graduated from Mount Carmel Academy, New Orleans, LA. She received her B.S. in Secondary Education from Loyola University, New Orleans and her Master’s Degree, MTS inMathematics from Catholic University in Washington, D.C. Sister taught for 52 years at St. Dominic, Mount Carmel High School in Lafayette, St. James Major, Mount Carmel Academy, and Brother Martin High School in New Orleans. She served for two terms on the Executive Council as
Assistant to the President from 2001-2009 and president from 2013-2017.
Sister Maria Sheila Undang, O. Carm. will continue to serve as assistant to the president and corporation secretary. As a member of the Philippine Region, she served as Regional Treasurer of the Sisters of Mount Carmel, Administrative Assistant and Treasurer of the Sisters of Mount Carmel Catholic School in Quezon City, Philippines, and formator for the junior professed sisters. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from the Institute of Formation and Religious Studies in Manila and a Master of Arts in Theology. She served as Department Head at Holy Child Hospital in Dumaguete City, Philippines prior to her administrative duties in Quezon City. She is currently enrolled in the Loyola Institute of Ministry.
Sister Janet LeBlanc, O. Carm. currently serves as president of Mount Carmel School of Abbeville. She served as principal of Mount Carmel School of Abbeville, teacher and principal of Mount Carmel High School in New Iberia, teacher at E.D. White Catholic High School,
Thibodaux, LA and Mount Carmel Academy, New Orleans, LA. She attended Mount Carmel School of Abbeville and Vermillion Catholic High School in Abbeville, University of Southwestern, Lafayette where she received her B.S. in Health and Physical Education and St. Thomas College in St. Paul, MN where she received her Masters of Arts Degree in Administration and Supervision. She previously served as executive councilor from 2005-2013.
Sister Elizabeth Fitzpatrick, O. Carm. currently serves as Vicar for Religious for the Archdiocese of New Orleans and will continue in her ministry as she will serve as executive councilor. Previously she served as executive councilor from 2001-2005 and as president of the congregation from 2005-2013. She attended St. Dominic School, Mount Carmel Academy, Dominican College where she received her B.S. in Home Economics Education, Notre Dame in South Bend, IN where she received her Master of Arts Degree in Theology. She was awarded a certificate of Theological Studies from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley and an Archdiocesan Religious Education certificate in spiritual direction. Her previous ministries include teaching at Mount Carmel Academy, her alma mater in New Orleans, Mount Carmel High School, New Iberia, and E.D. White in Thibodaux, LA, and at Notre Dame Seminary for 16 years. Through her leadership the Intra-Carmelite Formation Program was established which brought together Carmelite men and women in formation in the Discalced Order and the Order of Carmel.
Sister Kathleen Farrelly, O. Carm. returns as executive councilor for a second term. She resides in Lafayette and ministers in counseling and spiritual direction and Victim Assistance Coordinator for the Carmelite Priests in Middletown, NY. She is part time Co-Director for Vocations for the congregation. She graduated from Mount Carmel Academy, New Orleans, LA. Sister received a Bachelor of Science degree in General Business from University of New Orleans, a master’s degree in Social Work from Southern University, New Orleans and is certified in spiritual direction and retreat work from Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska. Sister has served as social worker at St. Bernard Elementary in Breaux Bridge, Cathedral Carmel Elementary, Lafayette, where she was religion administrator, and Mount Carmel Academy, New Orleans, where she also taught freshman religion.
The Congregation of the Sisters of Mount Carmel has served in Louisiana since its foundation in the U.S. in 1833. In 1962 the sisters established a mission in the Philippines. A new mission in Timor-Leste was established in 2013.
In addition to their missionary work, the sisters currently minister in catholic education in elementary and high schools and child care centers, in health care and parish ministries, in spiritual direction, retreat work, Lay Carmelite coordination, art, peace and justice, vocation ministries, as well as in a Non-Government Organization of the Department of Public Information of the United Nations.
I suppose I should begin today by singing Sister Ann Carmel’s “Mule Song”—but I will spare you that and just remind you that at 103 she could still sing “And the mule said, ‘Hee-Haw, Hee-Haw.”
We remember today her deceased parents, Albin Joseph Segura and Adelaide Llewellyn Eaton Segura; her deceased brothers: Marnell, Charles, and Brother Richard, FSC and her grand nieces and nephews who are here with us today. We thank Sister Ann Carmel’s nephew, Charlie Segura from New Roads, LA and her cousin, Mary Olga Newbig from Plaquemine, LA, for their faithful visits; we welcome her other cousins, relatives, friends and her Sisters in Carmel.
How do you scope 103 years in a few minutes? I will try!
In a conversation Sister Clare had with Sister Ann Carmel, Sister Clare asked her how she was feeling. Ann Carmel said, “I feel like I am dying.” Clare said, “And how does that feel?” Ann Carmel, not losing her quick wit said, “I don’t know, I never died before.”
Sister Ann Carmel was a master artist. The title of her Master’s thesis was “Portrait Painters of Today” and the title of her MFA thesis was “Painting—A Revelation of Inner Being.” That was Sister Ann Carmel, a revelation of inner being. In addition to her MFA and MA from Notre Dame, she earned a BS at USL, a BA in English/French and a Bachelor of Music in Theory-Voice-Instrumental, both from Incarnate Word in San Antonio, TX. She also received her teacher’s diploma from Loyola, New Orleans. She taught biology, vocal music, English, social studies, and art in Mount Carmel schools in Thibodaux, Lafayette, Abbeville, and New Iberia. Sister Ann Carmel taught any subject she was asked to teach—and went to college to get further information needed. She was a ‘Renaissance Woman!’ She graduated cum laude and received many art awards throughout her career. Sister Ann Carmel served as directress of postulants and novices from 1962-1967.
In 1996, the Baton Rouge Advocate carried an article about her. It was entitled, “Painting with Passion—A Desire, Not Therapy.” Ann Carmel painted with passion. In 1995 the Lafayette Advertiser reported that Sister Ann Carmel was a guest speaker at the celebration of the 75th Anniversary of Women Suffrage. Sister Ann Carmel was seven years old in 1920 when Women’s Suffrage was passed. The other speaker at the 75th anniversary was Lindy Boggs. Ann Carmel wrote poetry, music and lyrics to many songs which we have on file. She wrote many of her reflections. Her Easter Triduum and her reflections on the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary are particularly inspiring.
I would like to conclude with the poem, “Peephole of Heaven” that Sister Ann Carmel wrote in 1995.
I peeped through the peephole of heaven—
And what then did I see?
The angels dancing with Mary—
And peeping at you and me.
I peeped through the peephole of heaven
And what then did I see?
The Father, the Son and the Spirit
Smiling at you and me.
I peeped through the peephole of Heaven
And what then did I see?
The Spirit gliding through the peephole,
To dwell in you and me.
With Him came the Father
With Him came the Son
Creator, Redeemer, Spirit—
Blessed Three-in One.
Fill our minds, our hearts, our souls—
Father, Spirit, Son—
Make us burn with love for You
With You, make us one.
In closest unity—
For all Eternity—
For all eternity.
With 103 years of living and 83 years of vowed life, Ann Carmel can now peep through the Peephole of Heaven and intercede for us. We thank Sisters Clare Cramer, Cheryl Scheaffer, Barbara Nell Laperouse, the sisters at St. Leo convent, the staff at Evangeline Oaks Guest House and all who cared for her. We thank Father Pat Williams, our presider and homilist; Peter Weilbaecher, our musician; Diane Kratochvil, our cantor; and to all of you who have been a part of Sister Ann Carmel’s life. We thank you for joining us today to celebrate her full life. The burial will be in St. Louis Cemetery #3, 3421 Esplanade Avenue for your GPS. We invite you for the reception back here at the Motherhouse, second floor dining room, following the burial.
Please silence all electronic devices as we begin liturgy. We thank Sister Paula Marie Derise for coordinating the liturgy and Sister Kathy Farrelly for making the arrangements with Martin and Castille Funeral Home in Lafayette.
Please rise to greet our presider, Father Pat Williams, and join in the opening hymn, “Be Not Afraid,” found in your program. –Sister Lawrence Habetz
Dear Friends of Carmel,
Greetings of Peace and Love.
This year the Sisters of Mount Carmel have joined the iGiveCatholic program of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. iGiveCatholic is an online giving day for all Catholic communities. It is a call to share our blessings with the Church and those the Church helps and supports in our communities. Giving Tuesday is a special way for us to celebrate our unique Catholic heritage. #iGiveCatholic on #GivingTuesday is the first ever day of Catholic Giving in our nation.
Your donations will be used to support the mission of the Sisters of Mount Carmel in Timor-Leste. We are now in our third year since founding the mission. One of the ministries of the Sisters of Mount Carmel in Timor-Leste is teaching catechism to the children in the villages. Our immediate needs are for classroom supplies and equipment for the catechism classes in Timor-Leste and additional funds for their feeding program. The sisters are teaching the children in their chapel since the
y do not have a classroom. Since most of the people in the villages are poor, children do not have proper nutrition which is why the sisters need funds for their feeding program every Sunday after their catechism classes.
This year the global day of giving will be on November 29, 2016, Tuesday from 12:00 midnight until 11:59 p.m. Between November 18th and 28th you can donate in advance of the giving day. Your credit card will not be charged until November 29th. All transactions are secure and donations are tax deductible. Join us in showing that Catholics are the most generous givers. What better way to thank God for his continued blessings than to give back to our community? Help us spread the word about #iGiveCatholic to your friends, family, and colleagues by email and social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
To learn more about and to support the mission of the Sisters of Mount Carmel, please go to https://igivecatholic.org/d…/sisters-of-mount-carmel-lacombe.
On behalf of the Sisters of Mount Carmel, I thank you, in advance, for your continuous support of the Sisters of Mount Carmel’s Timor-Leste mission.
May God bless you for your love, prayers, and support of the Sisters of Mount Carmel. Be assured of the prayers of the sisters for each of you and your family.
May you and your family have a Blessed Thanksgiving Day!
Prayerfully in Mary of Carmel,
Sister Maria Sheila Undang, O. Carm.