Saturday, 14 August 2021 16:49

Celebrating 20 years together with Timor

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202120ATLWeb300This weekend, the Carmelites are not only celebrating the Feast of the Assumption, but also the 20th anniversary of the Australian Carmelites taking responsibility for the East Timor Mission and the Timorese Carmelites. The Indonesian Carmelites who founded the mission in 1999 and In January 2001, asked the Australian Carmelites to take responsibility for the Timor-Leste mission and the Parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Zumalai. Their request was made in the light of the changing political circumstances in Timor-Leste and the struggle for independence from Indonesia. The Australian Carmelites voted unanimously to accept this responsibility and on 15 August 2001 formally took responsibility for the Timor-Leste Mission and the Timorese Carmelites.

Frs Wayne Stanhope (Prior Provincial) and David Hofman (Provincial Councillor) travelled to Timor with Fr Heribertus Purwanto, the Indonesian Provincial.

In Zumalai we were met by a huge crowd of people. Many young people on motorbikes had accompanied our car all the way from Lepo to Zumalai, about 25km, tooting their horns and yelling out. People lined both sides of the road, waving and cheering. At the gate to the Carmelite compound a small choir sang, ‘Welcome to the Family’ to us and the local king gave a long speech of welcome. Then dancers led us in procession to the main house where there were more speeches and refreshments.

Late in the afternoon of 15 August 2001 an open-air Mass was celebrated at the church during which Fr Heribertus formally entrusted the East Timor Mission to the care of the Australian Province. Fr Wayne formally accepted this responsibility on behalf of the Australia Province.

At that time there were 3 Solemnly Professed Timorese Carmelites (1 priest & 2 deacons), 6 brothers in temporary vows, 2 novices and 10 candidates. Today there are 22 Solemnly Professed (13 priests, 1 deacon, 2 brothers & 6 Solemnly Professed students), 33 brothers in temporary profession and 3 Novices.

The 2004 Provincial Chapter voted to change the name of the Province to become the ‘Province of Our Lady, Help of Christians, Australia and Timor-Leste’.

In 2005 the former ‘transit house’ became the Blessed Titus Brandsma community at Fatuhada in Dili. 2007 saw the opening of St Elijah Novitiate at Hera which now houses formators and simply professed students. In 2010 São Nuno student house was opened next to St Elijah house. It now houses a mixture of novices and simply professed students.

The 2016 Provincial Chapter celebrated that, for the first time since Australia took responsibility for the East Timor Mission in 2001, all Solemnly Professed brothers of the Province were able to attend and vote at the Provincial Chapter. Fourteen of the sixteen Solemnly Professed Timorese Carmelites attended the Chapter. The Chapter removed all restrictions on brothers from Timor-Leste attending future Provincial Chapters. It spent some time considering the implications of the emerging reality of the Province. The Chapter also elected the first Timorese, Aniceto Maia da Costa, to the Provincial Council.

Since then a new Church and boarding house have been built in Zumalai and the 3 parish schools have been renovated.

Writing in the June issue of Carmel Contact that year, newly-elected Provincial, Fr Paul Cahill said, “…my vision is to facilitate the development of the Province of Australia and Timor-Leste into a strong, vibrant and united province that finds new and relevant ways of serving people”.

That remains the hope of us all as we celebrate this anniversary and look to the future.



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