On 16th July 2019, the Solemnity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the Prior General of the Carmelite Order was guest of honour at a celebration in the Welsh town of Lampeter marking the Golden Jubilee (fifty years) of the formal re-establishment of the British Province of Carmelites.
The Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Lampeter, Ceredigion, Wales.
The Carmelite Order first came to England in 1242, and opened its only medieval house of friars in Wales at Denbigh in 1350. The Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s brought the Carmelite presence in England and Wales to an end, though in the following centuries there were several missionary attempts to re-establish the Order. In the early Twentieth Century these efforts bore great fruit, and Wales - like Kent - would prove to be particularly important in the growth of the Order in Britain. In 1936 the friars returned to Wales with a 'Welsh Mission' based at Aberystwyth that spread to Lampeter, Llandeilo, and then over the border to Cheltenham. By 1969 the number of friars had grown sufficiently for the Order to re-establish Britain as a Province (autonomous region).
The congregation gathered for Mass at Lampeter's Catholic Church.
Lampeter, in the county of Ceredigion, was chosen as one of the sites for marking the 50th anniversary of the Province's restoration because its Catholic Church, dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, was built by the Order in 1940 under the leadership of the charismatic Fr. Malachy Lynch, O.Carm. (who would go on to re-establish the Carmelite presence at Aylesford Priory in 1949). Until the Order's withdrawl from ministry in the town in the late 1970s, Carmelite friars played a leading role in Lampeter, including Fr. Bonaventure Fitzgerald who served as Mayor.
The church contains beautiful artwork, including this sculpture of Our Lady of Mount Carmel by Philip Lindsey Clark. The Welsh inscription translates as "Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us."
During his homily the Prior General, Most Reverend Father Fernando Millán Romeral, paid tribute to the Carmelites who had served the Church in Wales, and thanked the laity who had supported the Order in many and various ways.
The Prior General preaching.
Words of congratulations were also read out from the Bishop-Emeritus of Menevia, Tom Burns, and from the Prior Provincial of the Irish Province of Carmelites, Fr. Richard Byrne, who was represented by Fr. Dan O'Callaghan. The Irish Province had been instrumental in restoring the Carmelite presence in Britain.
The parish priest, Fr. Keith Evans, reading the message of congratulations from Bishop Emeritus Tom Burns.
Fr. Dan O'Callaghan reading the message of congratulations from the Irish Carmelite Provincial Fr. Richard Byrne.
The presider at Mass was the Prior Provincial of the British Province of Carmelites, Very Reverend Father Kevin Alban, O.Carm. He was joined at the altar by a number of concelebrants, including the local parish priest Fr. Keith Evans, and Carmelite friars from across the Province. The Gospel was proclaimed by Fr. James Sweeney, O.Carm., who serves as Parish Priest of Llanelli, also in Menevia Diocese.
Fr. James Sweeney, O.Carm., proclaiming the Gospel.
Carmelite friars assist the Prior Provincial in the Preparation of the Gifts.
The Euchristic Prayer.
Among the congregation were parishioners from Lampeter and Aberyswyth, and Lay Carmelites from the Carmelite Third Order Community in Cardiff.
Mass was followed by a buffet lunch.
The buffet lunch included inducting the Prior General into the mysteries of gala pie!
The gathering in Lampeter follows celebrations of the Province Golden Jubilee in Hulne, Northumberland, and Aylesford, Kent.
Text & photography: Dr. Johan Bergström-Allen, T.O.C.