As you may already know, for the past twenty-five years, I have been living in private vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in conformity to Christ, under our local Catholic Bishop. My earnest desire was that I could be part of a traditional Catholic Religious community, and live as a nun. I have always wanted to live in total dedication to God.
For many years, my vocational path was very difficult, since I did not have the spiritual support I needed, and I was not able to find my place in the church, or in a traditional Religious community. Due to my disability, I could not find admittance; also, my spiritual gifts and calling did not seem to fit with already existing communities.
However, in living the vows, I have discovered great fulfillment and joy. Likewise, for the past ten years, I have been living as a committed Carmelite. My life is dedicated to loving service, and to intense inner prayer. As Carmelites, we pray for the needs of the world, and take the world’s suffering as our own. We strive to spread Christ’s love in simple ways, by living in God’s presence from moment to moment. Living as a Carmelite has brought me supreme happiness!
Yet, as years have passed, my longing for fellowship and spiritual community has never diminished.
Also, in the past few years, it has come to my attention, that many people, like myself, who are in unusual and/or limiting circumstances (i.e. persons with disabilities, persons incarcerated, or persons restricted from traditional community life due to age) also desire deeply to have opportunities to live in community and in Consecrated life, but that options for such a life, for people in such limiting circumstances are not often available.
Nonetheless, at long last, after many years of waiting, good things have begun to take shape.
In the past few months, a small group of persons throughout the country, three of whom have disabilities; another person who is incarcerated, and one person who is older, have come together, and are forming a virtual community of prayer via internet, correspondence, and telephone.
We are doing this work with the help and support of our local Catholic Bishop, and under the guidance of a Carmelite advisor. The official name of our community is Community of Hope, and our first set of written by-laws has been approved. It will take several years for our community to be fully established as a formally recognized Catholic Carmelite community within the church, and there is much prayer, discernment and work to be done. However, this work is very important, since it is opening doors for people who desperately need to feel connected to the wider church at large, and it is providing comfort, hope, fellowship and avenues of service, for people who have been cut off from such opportunities for years.
One of the persons in our community is a hearing and sight-impaired woman. Spiritual materials must be put into Braille for her to read, and in order for Virginia to have a meaningful conversation, someone must take the time to communicate through a special telephone operator, who can transcribe the spoken word into Braille, so that she can read it and respond.
Imagine what it is like to be in prison, and to want to live a good and holy life of deep dedication, but materials for spiritual enrichment, and spiritual fellowship are not available to you! People are often afraid to reach out to persons with disabilities, since they may not know how to approach or help such persons. People are also afraid to reach out to people in prison, since they may feel endangered or threatened. However, in both situations, such persons need a chance. They have gifts and they must be included in the church’s wider ministry at large.
In this newly forming community, persons from other denominations will also be welcomed to have opportunities to fellowship with us, since there will also be a provision in our organizational structure that will allow us to have Associate members, who can share in whatever parts of our spirit and life they feel they can connect with, without having to change denominations.
We have various practical needs, in order to get this community established.
At present, I am acting as the Founder, together with a co-founder, who is incarcerated in Michigan.
Each day, I am putting materials into Braille, and transcribing or relaying spiritual readings and letters from community members around the country; so that all the community members can get to know each other and form as a group.
Each day, I am talking to people all over the country, giving them spiritual support, and sharing spiritual nourishment with them. Such a ministry is important, since persons with disabilities often cannot travel, or seek out spiritual fellowship on their own.
In the near future, I will be traveling to meet with our co-founder in Michigan, and Lighthouse needs money to assist with the above-mentioned needs.