The Lay Carmelite Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary (historically known as the Third Order of Carmel) is an association mainly of lay persons. Its members, responding to a special call of God, freely and deliberately commit themselves “to live in the following of Jesus Christ” according to the charism, traditions, and spirit of Carmel in union with the Prior General of the Carmelite Order. The members, though not in Religious Life, choose to live out their baptismal commitment according to the spirit of the Carmelite Order. Members are brothers and sisters of the Carmelite Family and share in the same call to holiness and in the same mission of the Carmelite Order.
The Carmelite Order is enriched by the faithful who, inspired by the Holy Spirit, order their lives according to the Gospel and in the Carmelite spirit. The Third Order and the other forms of Carmelite laity influence the spirit and the structure of the entire Carmelite family (Const. 2019 n. 114)
In the Order, a General secretariat for the laity has been established. The General Councilor with responsibility for this area is Luis Maza Subero, O.Carm. The global plan for the Secretariat can be found below:
GENERAL SECRETARIATE FOR THE LAITY
Never be afraid to go and bring Christ, into any environment, reaching out to the existential peripheries, and those also who appear to be farther way and more indifferent …. The Lord seeks everyone, wanting everyone to be able to feel the warmth of his mercy and love. The Lord tells us to be missionaries in the place where we live …. Because it is always good the share the joy of the Gospel. (ChV 117)
Every lay Carmelite is like a spark of love thrown into the forest of life: they must be able to enflame anyone who approaches them. (Third Order Rule, n.44)
The fruitfulness of the Carmelite charism is a reason for great joy. It is a proof of creative fidelity of people who under the influence of the Holy Spirit accept it with discernment and gratitude. Many people today take their inspiration from the Rule of St. Albert, thus adding to the Carmelite Family. In that family we find a plurality of ways of living in accordance with the charism: friars, nuns, affiliated congregations, Third Order and different expressions of lay life that seek their inspiration in Carmelite spirituality.
The diversity in the ways of living out the charism of our Order is an encouragement to us to open up new spaces for lay Carmelites, to foster their lay vocation which includes the three elements of formation, prayer and action aiding them to become witnesses to the lay mission in our society. Lay Carmelites are called to share in the mission of the Church and of our Order. In the words of Pope Francis, “we walk together, learning to listen and to discern, through our listening and our sincere dialogue with everyone”.
The mission of the lay Carmelite is caught up with the preferential service of the poor, living in close contact with the vulnerable and marginalised in our society. The Lay Carmelite must walk the streets, and be a Gospel leaven to those we meet there, supporting the initiatives of the Church and of our Order, as a Church that goes out, acting like the Prophet Elijah who defended the true face of God, denounced injustices and lived in the presence of the God revealed in the gentle breeze, prophets who know how to discern, where the Lord is, receiving from the Lord the gift of discernment (…) for the mission (…). “When the Lord chooses to give us a mission, and has work for us to do, he prepares us so that we can do it well, in the same way that he prepared Elijah” (Francis, Homily, 13th of June, 2014).
The concrete plans for 2019 to 2025 are as follows:
- Provide, through the Secretariat for Laity, a formation manual for lay Carmelites, making it available to all the lay communities, to help them in their formation in such aspects as mission, prayer, fraternity, solidarity, and care for our common home.
- Organise gatherings of formation directors of Third Order groups and of other expressions of lay Carmelite life on local and regional levels.
- Accompany the Carmelite Family in a spiritual process of synodality and discernment that will be an impetus to a pastoral and missionary conversion of the lay Carmelite faithful.
- Organise an International Meeting of Lay Carmelites during this six-year period, as a space for sharing experiences of the Carmelite vocation, its formation processes, and the ways in which in different situations, the Carmelite spirit is lived out. The Congress will be prepared with the help of an instrumentum laboris and will be held before the next General Chapter of the Friars 2025, with a view to formulating proposals for that Chapter.
- Develop communication and collaboration with the International Commission for Youth, in order to work on aspects that are common to both working groups.
- Foster the Carmelite charism among the people, with our preferential commitment to the poor, the vulnerable and the excluded.
- Raise awareness in our shared mission in the different situations and places that the Carmelite family finds itself, to promote the kind of evangelisation that will help us to grow in communion of life, of goods, sharing who we are, what we have, the great gift of the Carmelite charism.
- Update the register of groups of Lay Carmelites, as a way of increasing communication and collaboration between them.
- Develop, for Lay Carmelites, a strategic plan of communication in order to face the challenge of a digital culture, as a means of evangelisation, with a view to helping formation and communication among the different lay Carmelite realities in our Order.
The members of the General Secretariat are as follows:
- Luis José Maza Subero, O.Carm
- Maria Monica Feifei Enhudjiana, TOC (Indonesia)
- Amos Ochieng TOC (Kenya)
- Michele Bonanno, TOC (Italy)
- Rosario María Vera Martin, TOC (Betica, Spain)
- Paolo Daher, TOC (Brasil)
- Aideen Ryan, TOC (Ireland)