Carmel Nuns from Infanta, Quezon, Philippines (courtesy of Sr. Dulce Inlayo) Carmel Nuns from Infanta, Quezon, Philippines (courtesy of Sr. Dulce Inlayo)  #SistersProject

Sr. Dulce: Celebrating 100 years of Carmelite presence in the Philippines

As the Filipina Carmelites celebrate 100 years of service in the Philippines, the Prioress of the Infanta Carmel in Quezon shares her Order’s mission to foster the spirit of faith and provide an oasis of prayer to help people encounter God.

By Rechilda Estores

Sr. Dulce Inlayo, OCD, a Filipina Prioress of the Infanta Carmel, lives by her mission to serve God in the congregation of Discalced Carmelites of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, a community of cloistered contemplative nuns in the diocese of Prelature of Infanta, Quezon, Philippines.

Establishment of Infanta Carmel

The Infanta Carmel was founded in 1981 by the Federation of Carmels in the Philippines and the late Bishop Julio Xavier Labayen, OCD, as a response to the call of Vatican II for renewal in religious life.

“Five Carmel volunteers responded to the invitation of Bishop Labayen, to found a poor, simple and inculturated Carmel in the Church of the Poor,” Sr. Dulce told Vatican News.         

Bishop Labayen with the pioneering nuns of Karmelo (courtesy of Sr. Dulce Inlayo)
Bishop Labayen with the pioneering nuns of Karmelo (courtesy of Sr. Dulce Inlayo)

Through personal relationships with the poor, the Carmelite nuns formed their charism and were “evangelized by the poor,” she added, “The Carmel took evangelical poverty as its foundational charism.”

Along with this, Sr. Dulce said that Philip Sainz de Baranda, then the Father General of the Infanta Carmel, also motivated the Carmelite nuns in their mission. “Continue to live your lifestyle, to be a witness to simplicity of life, in your buildings and surroundings, and being very close to the poor,” he encouraged them. “Bear testimony that this way of life is possible for Carmelite nuns.”

100th anniversary of Carmel in the Philippines

Sr. Dulce highlighted the significant role of St. Teresa of Avila in their congregation. “St. Teresa of Avila is considered the foundress and mother of the Teresian Carmel. Together with a group of nuns from the Monastery of the Incarnation,” Sr. Dulce recalled, “she founded the first monastery of Discalced Carmelite Nuns, the St. Joseph’s Monastery in Avila.”

Sr. Dulce expressed that they also commemorate the founders of the first Carmelite convent in the country. “This year as we celebrate the 100th year of the Carmelite presence in the Philippines. It is fitting to also remember the French Carmelite nuns who founded Jaro Carmel, the first Carmel in the Philippines,” she said. “At the present, there are now 22 Carmels in the Philippines and 1 in Kuching, Malaysia which belongs to the Philippine Federation of Discalced Carmelite Nuns.” 

The Heart of Prelature of Infanta (courtesy of Sr. Dulce Inlayo)
The Heart of Prelature of Infanta (courtesy of Sr. Dulce Inlayo)

Pure Love and Constant Prayer

Sr. Dulce also pointed out their responsibility to serve the Church in love. “Our vocation as Contemplative Carmelite nuns is to be love in the heart of the Church and to express this overflowing love through our mission as praying hearts in the mystical body of Christ, the Church.”

She recalled a saying of St. John of the Cross, who helped St. Teresa of Avila in her mission to found the Discalced Carmelites: “One act of pure love is more beneficial to the Church than all other works combined.”

“Our apostolate is prayer. With our minds and hearts centered on Jesus, the love of our life, we offer to our Triune God a pleasing sacrifice of unceasing prayer from the rising of the sun to its setting, while carrying in our hearts the needs and intentions of the Church, especially our priests and the poor,” Sr. Dulce added. “Our apostolic fruitfulness as Carmelites springs from our deep and intimate friendship with Christ.”

Sr. Dulce also reiterated the words of Pope Francis’s Apostolic Constitution Vultum Dei Quarere on Women’s Contemplative Life which stated, “Women’s contemplative life has always represented in the Church, and for the Church, her praying heart, a storehouse of graces and apostolic fruitfulness, and a visible witness to the mystery and rich variety of holiness.”

Devotion in God

The Filipina Carmelite expressed her heartfelt gratitude to God for the 29 years she has dedicated her life totally to Christ.

“I consider my Carmelite vocation as the greatest blessing in my life. For with this gift, came countless blessings,” she continued. “Thanks for the gift of Carmelite vocation. I find meaning and joy in my life as a Carmelite nun.”

Sr. Dulce said she hopes to offer a light of faith for others. “Pope Francis calls us beacons that guide the Church, torches that illumine in the darkness, and sentinels heralding the morning.”

She firmly believes that her duty as the Spouse of Christ in leading people to the Church will be fulfilled in her life. “To save souls and draw them to God, that moves me to serve the Lord. Is there an end to love?” she asked. “Even death would only be a continuation of a life of love.”

Faith and Filipino values

With her many years of contemplative life, Sr. Dulce seeks to help other women communicate with God. “Let us be grounded and rooted in our dignity as God’s beloved and our identity as Filipinas, and as women religious,” she encouraged. “Let us celebrate, be grateful, and give witness to the joy and beauty of belonging totally to Jesus.”

She added that her life as a Carmelite also embodies what she sees as Filipino values. “Central to our life as Carmelite nuns are the values of interiority, authenticity, prayer as deep friendship, and intimacy with Christ, which are also Filipino values.”

In conclusion, Sr. Dulce expressed her belief that true Catholic faith is experienced through faithfulness to God. “Our life of hidden union with Christ in God, in silence of cloister, in poverty, and in simplicity of our life gives witness to the eternal truth, in St. Teresa’s words that ‘All things are passing. God alone is enough’.”

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23 May 2023, 10:27