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Catholic Vancouver Jul 23, 2017

St. Edmund's honours Our Lady of Mount Carmel

By Agnieszka Krawczynski

Lay Carmelites gather around a statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel at St. Edmund's Parish July 15. For nearly a decade, St. Edmund’s Parish has been the site of a big celebration for the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. (Photo submitted)

NORTH VANCOUVER—A strong devotion to Our Lady is drawing Catholics from across southern B.C. to North Vancouver every year, and it’s gaining momentum.

For nearly a decade, St. Edmund’s Parish has been the site of a big celebration for the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

“I am happy to see every year people come from Vancouver, from Coquitlam, Abbotsford,” said Father Jerald D’Souza, OCD, the pastor of the North Shore parish. St. Edmund’s was full July 15 as about 350 people gathered for Mass, a special blessing, and a free lunch in the school gymnasium next door.

“It’s significant because the parish is run by Carmelites, so it’s the feast of our order,” said Father D’Souza.

There is a lot of love for Our Lady in his congregation, as well as in the broader community. “We are committed to the Blessed Mother. She protects us and guides us.”

The Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, officially on July 16, marks the day Our Lady appeared to St. Simon Stock, a Carmelite, in 1251. She presented him with a brown scapular, an item of clothing religious and lay Carmelites still wear today, 766 years later.

The feast was first celebrated in the 14th century, “but gradually adopted throughout the Order as an occasion of thanksgiving for the countless blessings which Our Lady had bestowed on the Carmelite family, the scapular being a symbol of this and of consecration to her,” said Father D’Souza.

The brown fabric is a “gift from the Blessed Mother” and an “assurance from her that she is there to protect and intercede for us.”

The event is in its eighth year and Father D’Souza believes it is gaining momentum. “July 16 is a feast meant for all. Many people come from outside the parish.”

Every year, the North Shore pastor has invited a bishop to lead the special celebrations. This time around, he called on Bishop Joseph Nguyen, the spiritual head of the Diocese of Kamloops and a friend of the Carmelites.

“I really like to encourage them to promote the devotion of our Blessed Mother Mary,” said Bishop Nguyen.

Bishop Nguyen and Father D'Souza sit with lay Carmelites and participants at St. Edmund's. (Photo Submitted)

Carmelites “bring a new life to the Archdiocese of Vancouver,” where he was ordained a priest and served from 1992 until he was appointed Bishop of Kamloops in 2016. “I worked closely with them. Before they built a vocation house in Mission, they consulted with me, how to build it, so I really enjoy that relationship with them and that’s why they invited me back to celebrate.”

He’s interested in promoting Carmelite spirituality in the Diocese of Kamloops. Currently, there are only four Carmelite sisters living in a cloister in Armstrong.

“Mary is the mother of our Church and ourselves,” he told the crowd of people celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel at St. Edmund’s. 

Mary is also, he emphasized, the “Mother of Sorrows.” 

“With tears, she journeyed with her son to the cross.” At the time, Bishop Nguyen was handling his own cross: wildfires across B.C.’s interior had displaced thousands of people in his diocese and threatened to torch some churches.

“I talked about the meaning of the suffering. If we accept suffering rightly, God can do more beautiful things for us than we can imagine.”