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Prioress of Morristown Carmelite monastery meets Pope Francis during his apostolic visit to Malta

This article was published on April 28, 2022 by The Beacon, Diocese of Paterson

Photo/Vatican Media

MEETING IN MALTA  On April 3, Carmelite Mother Therese Katulski, prioress of the Monastery of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel in Morristown, met Pope Francis during his apostolic visit to Malta, where the Discalced Carmelite Sisters have another monastery for the cloistered order.

Prioress of Morristown Carmelite monastery meets Pope Francis during his apostolic visit to Malta

By CECILE PAGLIARULO, Reporter for The Beacon

MORRISTOWN  The Discalced Car­mel­ite Sisters at the Monastery of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel here live far removed from the hustle and bustle of the world. Here fingertips are used to pray the rosary rather than send a text message. Behind its closed walls, the sisters, a contemplative religious order, spend their days praying for all in the Church and in the world. In recent years, the Morristown monastery has experienced continued growth and created a new community in Malta, a southern Euro­pean island country, in 2016 to serve the Church there. The country has apostolic roots going back to the time when St. Paul the Apostle was shipwrecked there. While there is a strong Catholic presence in Malta, similar to some European countries, times are changing rapidly. Earlier this month, Pope Francis made a two-day apostolic journey to the country. Highlights of the visit included meeting with Malta governmental officials, prayer meetings, meeting with migrants and Holy Mass. Attending the outdoor Holy Mass on April 3 at the Granaries in Flori­ana, Malta, along with 20,000 pilgrims was Carmelite Mother Therese Katulski, prioress of the Morristown and Malta monasteries. She attended the Mass with several Carmelite sisters who serve in Malta. “The Mass was very beautiful and we have been praying for the Pope,” said Mother Katulski. “It was a very joyful atmosphere in Malta during the Pope’s visit. A lot of pilgrims approached us since many have never met us and they would say, ‘Oh, you’re the American nuns.’ ” While attending a papal Mass was really special for Mother Katulski to her surprise after the Mass, she along with several superiors from various religious communities in Malta were given the opportunity to meet Pope Francis after the Mass. Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta arranged the meeting with the Pope. Reflecting on her brief meeting with the Pope, Mother Katulski said, “When I told him I am a Carmelite nun, the Pope said, ‘I need to pray for you and I need you to pray for me.’” The Pope also presented Mother Katulski with a beautiful rosary. However, shortly after the meeting, a pilgrim came up to her and asked her for the rosary. Mother Katulski said, “I gave it to her. She was very happy. While it would have been nice to keep the rosary, I feel blessed I was able to meet the Pope and that is a memory I will cherish forever.” Mother Katulski is back in the Morristown monastery following her visit to Malta and she feels blessed about the visit to Malta and how the contemplative religious order continues to grow. “We are grateful to God to see this growth within our community,” she said. “Some years ago, we only had a few nuns and now, so many want to seek this contemplative vocation. This is an actual miracle to see this happen.” In 2016, Carmelite Father Pius Sammut, spiritual adviser for the Morristown sisters, suggested Malta as a place to begin a new community and asked Archbishop Scicluna of Malta for permission, which he granted. Currently seven sisters are assigned in Malta. Two of the sisters are in formation. The Morristown Carmel was founded in 1926 by Bishop John O’Connor of Newark, who wanted to build a monastery in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary in thanksgiving for the jubilee anniversary of his episcopal ordination. Mother Mary Magdalene of the Carmel in Wheeling, W.V., came to Morristown on Dec. 30, 1926, accompanied by her spiritual director, Paulist Father Henry O’Keeffe, and four sisters. The chapel, dedicated to the Most Holy Trinity, was consecrated on May 17, 1941. Among the prelates at the ceremony was the then-Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen. In the past year, three Carmelite sisters professed solemn vows before Bishop Kevin J. Sweeney and in recent years, new vocations have increased the number of sisters to 20. The Discalced Carmelites wear simple rope sandals and a brown habit living a life of fasting, prayer and sacrifice, secluded from the world around them behind the monastery walls. Each day is prayer centered with small periods of time devoted to necessary house or yard work. The day begins at 5 a.m. with prayers said individually and as a community. Most of the time is spent in silence, breaking it only for prayer or song during brief times for afternoon and evening community recreation. “The world and the Church need prayers,” Mother Therese told The Beacon. “There is a reason why God is calling so many young women to serve him through contemplative orders.”

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