KUCHING — The Feast of Assumption 2018 will always be a memorable day for the Carmelite nuns of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Carmelite Monastery as they ‘returned to their beloved earthly abode’ after an absence of two years. It was the day of joy shared by the clergy and the laity alike as they gathered to celebrate the blessing of the newly rebuilt monastery and to fulfil their happy obligation of the solemnity of the Feast.
Archbishop Simon Poh presided over the Mass, concelebrated by Archbishops Emeriti Peter Chung and John Ha together with priests from St Peter’s College and other parishes from near and far. Despite being a working day, the little Carmelite Chapel was filled to capacity.
The Archbishop in his opening remark said that it has been two long years of preparation and waiting for the nuns to return to their monastery. And so, it is fitting that this auspicious day was chosen to dedicate the newly rebuilt monastery to the Lord and to move back.
Later in his homily, Archbishop Simon reflected that Mother Mary is the new ark of the covenant that David, centuries earlier, had carried over the Jordan River back to the Promised Land. Likewise, when Mary visited Elizabeth carrying in her womb baby Jesus, she too crossed a river into the new promised land in Jesus. The Feast of Assumption today is a celebration of the God dwelling among us – made possible through Mary’s fiat – and a promise fulfilled at Jesus’ resurrection being the first-fruits of all who will be following after Christ.
After the Mass, the Archbishop together with Mother Prioress Sr Marie Evelyn proceeded to the gate for the rite of dedication and intercessory prayer before declaring the monastery open. Echoing Jesus’ invitation “come and see” from the gospel reading chosen for the dedication, Archbishop Simon expressed hope that this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit the monastery would lead many young women and men present to join the nuns as Carmelite nuns and friars. Sr Marie Evelyn, on behalf of the community, expressed her heartfelt gratitude to God for the gift of the contributors who have very generously given their time, effort and resources towards the rebuilding of the monastery.
After the doors of the monastery were opened, Archbishop Simon together with Archbishops Emeriti and the priests proceeded to bless the whole monastery before the congregation was invited to visit the revered place. After the Angelus, the door of the Carmelite Monastery of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was closed, signalling the nuns were once again cloistered in their ‘forever earthly abode’.
The Carmelite Monastery is the spiritual power house of the Archdiocese of Kuching that fuels the vibrant life of the Archdiocese. As part of their charism, the nuns pray for the Archdiocese – for the Archbishop, the clergy, the religious and the lay faithful. Many individuals have sought out the nuns, and still are, to pray for their intentions.
The Carmelite Monastery of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was first built in 1948 while the papal enclosure was erected in 1952. When structures of the building began to deteriorate, the nuns rebuilt it in 1979. Another 36 years saw the monastery being infested with termites. Acting on the advice of Fr Angelo Madelo (the Definitor General at the time) and the suggestion of Archbishop Emeritus John Ha, the nuns initiated the plan to rebuild the monastery. In 2016, the Nuns put up at a temporary shelter at Deshon Road offered by a parishioner while the old monastery was being demolished to make way for the new one.
To defray the cost, Christ the King OCDS (Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites) Community and Friends of Carmelites held a successful fundraising dinner on 15 October 2017 to help to pay for the new monastery which cost RM5.9 million to rebuild.
Today’s Catholic Vol.30 No.6 September 2018