Every six years one of the friars is elected to be the Prior General of the Order. This election takes place at an international meeting of the Order called the General Chapter. This is a fraternal gathering where friars from the different areas of the Order come together to reflect as a community on our faithfulness to the Gospel and to our Carmelite charism.
Once elected the Prior General has the responsibility to lead and guide the Order for the following six years. He has to make sure that an authentic spirit of Carmel is present and growing throughout the Order especially in its life of prayer and in the life and ministry of its members.
During the last General Chapter, on 17th September 2019, Father Míceál O'Neill was elected Prior General.
Father Míceál O'Neill was born in 1952 in Galway, Ireland, the youngest of five brothers and the son of Séamus O'Neill, and Mary (Mollie) Moran. Séamus in his early working life was a teacher and then a lifelong member of the Gárda Síochána, the Irish Police Force. Mollie was from a farming background.
At the age of nine he moved with his family to Dublin, and entered the Carmelite Terenure College where he completed his primary and secondary education. He entered the Carmelite Order in 1970 and made his profession in September 1971. He studied philosophy and theology in Rome at Collegio Sant’Alberto and completed his licentiate in spiritual theology in 1978 with a short thesis on Mary Magdalene de'Pazzi, before returning to Dublin and to Terenure College as a teacher and chaplain.
Four years later in 1982, Míceál went to Perú, where he remained until 1985. The experience of parish work in Peru at that time was to have a big impact on his life. He returned to the St. Albert’s International Centre (CISA) in Rome in 1985 to study for a doctorate which he obtained at the Pontifical Gregorian University in 1989, with a dissertation on the emerging spirituality in the Christian communities of Perú, 1965-1986.
That same year, at the 1989 General Chapter he was elected to the General Council, with the new title of Councillor for the South, covering emerging areas of the Order. In his second term as a General Councillor he covered the region of Northern Europe and North America. He also covered the area of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation in those years.
In 2001 Míceál returned to Ireland and worked for a short period in the parish of Knocklyon (Dublin, Ireland) before taking on the role of prior of the community in Terenure College and in later years became the prior of the community in Kinsale (Cork, Ireland). In 2011 he returned to Rome to take up his appointment as prior of the community in St. Albert’s International Centre (CISA), a position that he held until his election as Prior General for the term 2019 to 2025.