Last Thursday, 16th July, in Middle Park, Victoria,
Br Matthew Tonini, from the Coorparoo Carmelite community professed his solemn vows, a life commitment to living as a Carmelite brother. He was also joined by Brs Albino and Marcolino who have previously visited Coorparoo. Due to Coronavirus restrictions, this significant milestone was celebrated in a small ceremony in the Middle Park community chapel with members of the local Carmelite community.
We asked Matthew to share some of his story and experience as a Carmelite with us this week:
Fr Paul Gurr was the first Carmelite I met in my early twenties. He was chaplain to the Benedictine nuns at Jamberoo Abbey and was part of a Christian prayer group who met once a month and prayed in the style of Taize. Fr Paul became a friend and spiritual companion to me and someone whom I kept in touch with during university studies and work in science and education.
As I became more familiar with Carmelite spirituality through reading and conversations I became intrigued by the biblical story of Elijah and his journey of personal companionship with God amidst great turmoil in his life. I also found in Carmelite spirituality a transforming tradition of reflection, meditation and contemplation to which I was drawn. I had a growing sense of wanting to be a part of this way of life and to keep it alive in the midst of our society.
Over the past eight years, you've lived in different Carmelite communities, what has that been like?
I have had the opportunity to live in and visit Carmelite communities in Australia, Timor Leste, Europe and the USA. It has and continues to be a journey of self-discovery. There has been life in its many and varied shades and colours. At the core of each community I have experienced seeking to live a contemplative life through prayer, communal companionship and service. There is a commitment to seek out space for God and one another in our daily living.
What does making this life commitment to the Carmelite way of life mean to you?
As a religious, I make vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to God and commit to living as a Carmelite brother for life. For me, this is an ongoing commitment to living my Christian life of faith, hope and love with our faith community. The Carmelite Rule, one of the documents that guides and inspires Carmelite life, speaks of a Carmelite 'living in friendship (allegiance) with Jesus Christ'. This is a lifetime friendship and in this friendship, as it is expressed in Carmelite life, I find meaning, hope and love that I believe are at the heart of a life well lived. It is a friendship that is always needed in our human family.
What are your hopes for your work as a member of our local school and parish community?
My first experiences of the Mount Carmel community have been one of welcome and support. I am hopeful that I can be part of fostering this living community that seeks to be a witness of faith, hope and love in Coorparoo. I hope to come to know the many people who call this community home and share in its life. And I am hopeful that as we encounter the challenges of our time, we continue to be united by our faith in ways of living that lead us to a shared and deepening awareness of the Love that is our constant companion.