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Aylesford marks 60th anniversary of the Carmelites' return
02 November 2009

Aylesford 1949 03
Sixty years after a group of Carmelite friars processed through the Kent village of Aylesford and re-entered their ancient home, the Carmelite Family has given thanks for the restoration of the Order's presence in the priory, first founded in 1242 and sometimes called 'The Second Carmel' because of its significant role in the Order's development.

On 31st October the Carmelite Family celebrated the 60th anniversary of the post-Reformation return of the Carmelites to Aylesford Priory with liturgies and a festive meal.
At 12 noon a Gathering Service was held in the Relic Chapel. Following an introduction from the Prior, Fr. Brendan Grady, O.Carm., there was a sharing of reflections on Aylesford Priory given by Brother Andy Joyce (the newest member of the community), Elena White (who runs Quiet Days at Aylesford and cares for the Pilgrims' Library), Maggie Cascioli and Fr. John Keating, O.Carm. (Councillor General for Europe). These were intersperced with readings from The Rule of Saint Albert, the writings of Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, and Blessed John Soreth. The congregation brought forth candles symbolising their memories, feelings and thanks, and these were then placed on the altar as a sign of thanksgiving for 60 years of prayer, community life and service. The liturgy concluded with Scripture readings, hymns and prayers.

At 2.30pm a Eucharist was celebrated in a full Relic Chapel in thanksgiving for the past 60 years of Carmelite life at Aylesford, and in gratitude to all those who have supported the ministry of The Friars in that time. The principal celebrant at the Mass was Very Rev. Fr. Christian Körner, O.Carm., Vice Prior General of the Carmelite Order, who had  specially travelled from Rome for the event, in the company of the Councillor General for Europe, Fr. John Keating, O.Carm., and the Bursar General, Fr. Kevin Alban, O.Carm.

Processing to the Relic Chapel for Mass

right-left: the present Prior of Aylesford Fr. Brendan Grady followed by previous priors Fr. Francis Kemsley and Fr. Joseph Chalmers

The homily was preached by the Prior Provincial of the British Province of Carmelites, Very Rev. Fr. Wilfrid McGreal, O.Carm. He spoke of the history of The Friars, the return of the brothers in 1949, and the vision of the first prior, Fr. Malachy Lynch, to develop Aylesford as a centre of Carmelite spirituality. Fr. Wilfrid shared something of his own experience as a a novice, and later as prior of the community.

left-right: Fr. Wilfrid McGreal (Prior Provincial), Fr. Kevin Alban (Bursar General), Fr. Christian Körner (Vice Prior General)

After the Mass a celebratory meal was held in the North Barn dedicated to St. Edith Stein. As well as being a festive occasion for the friars and their friends, it was an opportunity to say "thank you" to the staff who work at The Friars and maintain it as a place of welcome and hospitality.

Friars and friends of Aylesford enjoying the festive fare
Today "The Friars" is home to not only brothers of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, but also to a Carmelite Solitary, and is the spiritual home of the Third Order Chapter which meets at Aylesford. Many of the different branches of the Carmelite Family who look to Aylesford as "home" were present for the celebrations.

left-right: Fr. Francis Kemsley, Elizabeth Ruth Obbard (Carmelite Solitary), and Fr. Joseph Chalmers

As a Latin inscription at the entrance to the Great Courtyard at Aylesford reads: "The Flower of Carmel, once cut down, now blooms again with greater splendour." Deo gratias!

Photographs courtesy of Brother Andy Joyce