Members of The Leaven on retreat in Hull in 2011.
The Leaven - known officially as The Institute of Our Lady of Mount Carmel - is the Carmelite Secular Institute in Britain for single women who wish to live a consecrated life in their own homes and workplaces.
The Leaven was founded in 1949 by the Carmelite Prior General Fr. Killian Lynch, O.Carm., when the Carmelite friars returned to their ancient home at Aylesford Priory. Formally affiliated to the Carmelite Order in 1965, The Leaven offers a deep experience of Carmelite spirituality to its members, who profess the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience.
What is a Secular Institute?
As early as the 19th Century there were groups in the Church living a Secular Institute lifestyle, but it was not until 1947 that Pope Pius XII issued the letter Provida Mater Ecclesia which set the seal of approval on Secular Institutes.
These institutes are groups, whether lay or clerical, whose members live in society and profess the evangelical councils of celibacy, poverty and obedience.
The Leaven Secular Institute is affiliated to the Carmelite Order and is a self-governing body of diocesan rite, subject to the Archbishop of Southwark (since the Institute was founded in that diocese).
The Leaven is a member of the National Conference of Secular Institutes.
Leaven is the yeast hidden and silently working in the dough to make it rise, just as the life of Leaven members is hidden in society. Jesus said "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven which a woman took and mixed in with flour until it worked all through the dough" (Matthew 13:33).
The Leaven shares the rich heritage of the Carmelites. The order, one of the oldest in the Church, started with Crusaders and pilgrims to the Holy Land who chose to live a hermit life around the Well of Elijah on Mount Carmel. They dedicated their life to Mary, Mother of Carmel. Later, in Europe, the hermits became friars who lived a contemplative apostolic life. It is this way of being Christian that is followed by The Leaven whose lives are rooted in a life of prayer.
The life of Mary, Mother of Carmel, is the model for members of The Leaven, and the zeal of Elijah the prophet is an inspiration to those who seek close union with God in a world seemingly hostile or indifferent to God.
Way of Life
Members try to live and reflect the Carmelite charism of prayer, community and service in our secular life. Our prayer includes the Divine Office, silent prayer, and spiritual reading each day. As community all members meet for two separate weeks of retreat each year. Local groups meet more frequently as circumstances permit. And our service to others takes place in our own local communities.
Members of The Leaven wear no external sign, nevertheless their consecration is total.
This does not involve uprooting a candidate from where she lives and works. Preliminary formation is carried out over a period of at least 2 years by personal contact and correspondence. After this time temporary vows of obedience, poverty and celibacy may be made. These are renewed annually for 5 years and then Final Vows may be taken.
To read a report about The Leaven's annual retreat in 2010 please click here.
Members of The Leaven addressing the European Lay Carmelite Congress in 2014.
In November 1949 the Carmelite friars returned to their medieval home at Aylesford Priory in Kent, and the founder members of The Leaven were privileged to be present on that historic occasion. The birth place and first home of the Institute was the Gate House at Aylesford.
Aylesford Priory Gatehouse: The Leaven's first home
Members of The Leaven sharing friendship.