Basuva Karmeliciu Vienuolynas, Pastuva, Kauno Raj., 4322, Batniavos pastas, Lietuva/Lithuania

Lithuania was under communist control for most of the last century. This meant that teaching of religion was banned in schools and children had to learn the Russian language. Adults who were seen to attend church were in danger of losing their jobs. As a result generations of Lithuanians grew up with no knowledge of God. Any personal questioning was discouraged by the prospect of no employment. It was only in 1990 that the situation began to change.

In the early 90s three young women who had begun to discover God and prayer in their personal lives met. They came to know of contemplative religious life and yearned to have such a community in their homeland. One of them, named Teresa (!), during a visit to Lisieux Carmel asked where they might find such a community. She was put in contact with Darlington Carmel who put the request in the Association Newsletter.

Sr Mary Joseph (in photo) of Langside Carmel in Glasgow felt on reading the request a call to respond. Fr Camilo Maccise (the Fr General at the time) encouraged her to go to Lithuania. She had undergone a providential preparation for the mission! Her grandmother had to leave Lithuania in 1910. She was going to the United States and stopped over with her brother in Glasgow. She fell in love there and never got to US! She spoke to Sr Mary Joseph in Lithuanian when she was a child with the result that today she speaks fluent Lithuanian.

Sr Mary Joseph was joined by Sr Mary of the Incarnation (Golders Green Carmel) and Sr Mavis Therese (Dolgellau Carmel). They set out for Lithuania in July 1994. Their initial accomodation was very spartan - a log cabin which needed quite a lot of work. When one thinks that the temperatures can range between 35C in summer and -35C in winter, the enormity of the undertaking is clearer! Meanwhile the three young Lithuanian women were joined by five others. Of the eight six entered the Carmel and are today Solemnly Professed members. Other women have since joined the community.

The sisters began to build a new monastery shortly after they arrived. Money came from the most unexpected sources! Within four years they had the new monastery built and were able to welcome more young Lithuanians to the community. The founding sisters were joined by Sr Ann Marie from Croatia, Sr. Teresa Margaret from Dysart and Sr Mary Gabriel from Kilmacud Carmel in Dublin.The community is now a flourishing community composed mostly of local sisters. They receive constant enquiries from young women interested in entering and there are several in formation at any given time.

One of these is Sr Daina. She came in contact with the Christian faith at the age of 18 through a friend who had attended a Christian summer camp. She went on to study Lithuanian Language and Literature. During her years at university she felt herself drawn more to prayer. When she qualified she felt called to religious life though she knew nothing of contemplative life. But her spiritual director discerned a call to contemplative life and put her in contact with the new Carmel. She entered at the age of 23 and is now a solemnly professed member of the community

There is a flourishing Secular Order with over 90 members associated with the Carmel. The sisters act as spiritual assistants to the group. The sisters have also bought land for the friars to open a monastery! There is a growing interest among young Lithuanian men in the Carmelite life and a number are in formation. The sisters hope that there will be a community of friars in Lithuania in the near future.

A section of the monastery is available for private retreatants. Such is the demand that bookings new to made four months in advance! The monastery has also an extensive ministry to the poor of the area. Every week they give food bags to 50-60 poor people from the area. At Christmas 120 bags are distributed.