On March 24, 2012 St. Edmunds’s Church, North Vancouver, B.C. was filled with excitement and anticipation. History was about to be created! The First Congress of Western Canada OCDS was to take place on this auspicious day.

It was an occasion also to congratulate Fr. Rudolf D’Souza OCD, Pastor of Guardian Angels Parish, on his Silver Jubilee which was celebrated with a grand function in India on February 24, the day of his ordination. Participating in the event were OCDS Community members of Western Canada with family, parishioners and guests who attended to learn more about the Discalced Carmelite Secular Order.

Everyone gathered in the church with the parishioners for the Morning Prayer led by Fr. Jerald D’Souza OCD, Pastor and Provincial Delegate of Western Canada OCDS and Fr. Jerome Mascarenhas OCD, Assistant Pastor. A Eucharistic Celebration followed with Fr. Rudolf D’Souza as the main celebrant and con-celebratants Fr. Jerald D’Souza and Fr. Jerome Mascarenhas. Fr. John Alex Pinto OCD, Pastor of St. Thomas More Parish, Calgary, Alberta arrived just in time to grace the occasion.

In his homily, Fr. Rudolf reminded everyone about the fruitfulness of our spiritual exercises. He said they must help us to grow interiorly and foster love toward God and our neighbor; otherwise, these spiritual exercises would be in vain. Fr. Jerald expressed his best wishes to Fr. Rudolf and Fr. Jerome presented him with a beautiful bouquet of red roses. The OCDS Members of Western Canada also extended their best wishes and congratulations with a bouquet of bright yellow roses presented by Bella Castillo of the St. Joseph OCDS Community, Vancouver.

After Mass, Congress attendees proceeded to the school gym for registration and fellowship over a delightful breakfast spread prepared by the Catholic Women’s League of St. Edmund’s Parish before the much-awaited talks of Teresa Martinez, the guest speaker. Teresa Martinez joined the OCDs 26 years ago and is a well respected member of the OCDS Secretariat, Mid-Eastern Jurisdiction and a pillar of the OCDS Communities.

Touched by the hospitality extended by the OCDS members, Teresa thanked and congratulated everyone for achieving a historical event in our jurisdiction – a milestone to be proud of – the First Congress of the Western Canada OCDS. The theme of the Congress, “Following St. Teresa in the Secular Life” was chosen to allow us to reflect on the aspects of the writings and teachings of St. Teresa of Jesus as they relate to lay people.

The topic of the morning session was “Correct Formation equals Survival” and the afternoon topic was “Living St. Teresa in the Secular World”.

“Vocation in Carmel is a personal gift from God!”, Teresa said. “The vocation in Carmel assists us to live our faith in a more authentic manner and teaches us how to be holy, both of which prepare us for our mission. We are not called just for ourselves to be holy. We are called to Carmel to make our people holy by our example to bring people to God. It is every member’s personal obligation to conscientiously participate in the whole formation to enable us to sanctify the world by our prayers as well as by our example.”

Everyone joined in for an Italian buffet lunch before the afternoon session. Teresa’s inspiration in her second talk, “Living St. Teresa in the Secular World”, came from the Collected Works of St. Teresa de Avila, on Prayer, Interior Disposition in Prayer, Attitudes that Facilitate Mental Prayer, Making a Recollected Prayer, Discursive Reflection and Infused Contemplation. St. Teresa’s writings rose out of her personal story and encounter with God. They bring joy to a soul that’s thirsting to know God, to love and serve Him better.
Each of Teresa’s talks was followed by an opportunity for questions and answers. Our hope is that the experience of the Congress will enliven and deepen our Carmelite life, not only as individuals, but also as communities across Western Canada.

Fr. Jerald thanked Teresa for her words of wisdom, support and encouragement as well as all attendees for their participation in the First Congress of Western Canada OCDS. Molly Diaz, President of the Secretariat, also expressed her gratitude to Teresa and made a presentation to her on behalf of all members.  The Congress concluded with a Sunday Anticipated Mass.

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