Co-Workers in the Kingdom of God


In her ‘Prayer on growing older’ Saint Teresa of Avila says: ‘Lord protect me from gloomy saints. Keep me reasonably sweet, for a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil’.

The discalced Carmelite Sisters of Barquisimeto in Venezuela are not necessarily all saints, but old and sour they certainly are not – rather they are all loving and affectionate.

And yet these daughters of Saint Teresa do not have an easy life. Barquisimeto’s eleven Sisters also suffer from the poverty afflicting their once oil-rich country, which has been brought to its knees by political and economic mismanagement – and a social crisis bordering on civil war.

The worst thing for them is the lack of medical supplies, which two of the Sisters depend on for their lives. Many foodstuffs are largely unobtainable and even water is in short supply.

Moreover, they have no running water, and they cannot afford to bore a well in the convent grounds. Meanwhile, there is a growing climate of superstition and idolatry in the country, involving the theft of human organs and bones obtained through the desecration of graves.

To avoid this danger, the Sisters have had to remove the mortal remains of their deceased foundress and fellow Sisters from the public cemetery and laid them in a place of safety.

‘Through our prayers we are co-workers in the Kingdom of Love, even in this world’, writes their 37-year-old abbess, Mother Isabel. Five of the 11 Sisters are younger than her. Without outside aid they could not fulfil their vocation and mission of devoting their whole lives to God in prayer.

It is a similar story for the 32 Trappist nuns in Barquisimeto. Sister Lilian has already had two strokes and Sister Bernarda suffers from muscular dystrophy and high blood pressure. The others go without in order to pay for their medication, yet as Mother Paola writes, ‘This will still not be enough. Nevertheless, we continue to pray and work, with joy and hope in our hearts.’

Archbishop Antonio Lopez Castillo of Barquisimeto adds his own plea: ‘Please help. The Sisters are indispensable to the archdiocese. We need the prayers of these Sisters.’ 

ACN is determined to provide the Carmelite and Trappist Sisters in Barquisimeto the little they need to survive.

It is likewise a matter of survival for the Carmelite Sisters in Sebikotane, in the Archdiocese of Dakar in Senegal. Again, as Archbishop Benjamin Ndiayeassures us, their prayer is ‘an enormous support for the diocese, and especially for the seminary where Senegalese priests have been trained for generations’.

But the Sisters need a car, to transport the vegetables grown in their convent garden and the chickens they raise to the market in Dakar, 30 miles (50 km) away.

This is the main way that the Sisters, who come from Ghana, Sierra Leone, Togo, the Cape Verde Islands and Senegal support themselves.

The old car is now worn out by and costing them too much in repairs. We have promised them a new car.

Edward Barrett