It is so sad today to see that some religious communities have to close down because of the lack of vocations coming to its doors! Is there a solution to avoid such a catastrophic situation?
Let me give you an example of one that I just learned about while on mission in Israel. It happened in 1984 in Quito, Ecuador.
A Carmelite Convent named “Carmen Alto” was very poor, and was languishing because of a lack of vocations. All the sisters were old, and the novitiate had been closed for quite a long time. For many years there had not been a single vocation on the horizon! The Prioress, Mother Maria Helena Del Corazón de Jesus, heard about Medjugorje and began to hope again.
One day, an Italian nun of the Dorothea Community, Sister Luicela, visited “Carmen Alto” and mentioned to the Prioress that she was going to Medjugorje with a group of pilgrims. Mother Maria Helena seized the opportunity, and begged Sister Luicela to pray for vocations to their Carmel while she was there. (She was hoping that Sr. Luicela could speak to one of the visionaries and pass the intention on to the Blessed Mother. She heard that you could write letters to Mary and receive an answer from her in your heart during prayer, and that sometimes Mary even answered questions.) So the Carmelite Prioress entrusted a letter to Sr. Luicela with her intention. Such a problem was not new for Sister Luicela because the Dorothea Order also lacked vocations. She gladly accepted the job.
Unfortunately, Sister Luicela was not able to meet with a visionary while in Medjugorje, but she was able to be present during an apparition. When the visionaries shared what the Gospa had said during the apparition, the Sister was amazed! In fact, Our Lady had answered her request before she even expressed it! This is the message Our Lady gave that day: “I will take care myself of the communities that will pray together the full Rosary (all 3 parts) every day for the intentions of my Immaculate Heart, and I will choose their vocations.”
When Sr. Luicela returned to Quito, she delivered the message to the Prioress of the Carmel, who felt in the depths of her heart that this message was for her. At first, she was wondering what Our Lady meant by “the intentions of my Immaculate Heart,” but then she realized: ‘It is clear! The intentions of the Blessed Mother are those of God!’
During the next community chapter meeting, the Prioress suggested to the sisters that they pray the 3 parts of the Rosary together every day. They gladly welcomed Mary’s request. They changed their daily schedule in order to introduce this new feature, and they also prayed the Rosary while they worked. This initiated a period of great Marian fervor in the Carmel.
A few months later, the first vocation arrived, Sr. Maria de Los Angeles, followed by other vocations. So many postulants entered the monastery that the Prioress had to found another Carmel, the Carmel of Santo Domingo in Ecuador, 18 years ago.
As a rule, when a Carmelite Convent reaches a number of sisters greater than 21, they had to found another Carmel. This time in Panama. It goes without saying that in these new Carmelite communities, the tradition of praying daily the 3 parts of the Rosary together remained alive!
During my recent mission in Galilee, the young Carmelite sister who told me this story in Haifa said to me: “I am a fruit of this message and of these rosaries, because I joined the Carmel of Santo Domingo!”
A few years ago, Mother Maria Helena visited a monastery of Poor Clares. After hearing this testimony, the sisters decided to adopt this prayer as well, following Mary’s message in order to obtain vocations. Needless to say that a little while later, new vocations of the Poor Clares started coming in!