Discalced Carmelites of the Australia Oceania Region


Carmel of Our Lady of Lourdes, Gelorup

Western Australia

In 1968, Mother Maria Immaculata in Bangkok Carmel conceived the idea of sending some Sisters to assist in an English-speaking Carmel where they could improve their English whilst assisting in the host Carmel. Moreover, the experience of life and work in a foreign Carmel would also be a very broadening one culturally for Sisters who had been insulated in Thai culture. The question was which Carmel. The choice fell to Nedlands, Western Australia.

Permission was readily given by the Father General, Fr. Finian Monahan and on April 25th, 1968, the first two Thai Sisters arrived at Nedlands Carmel. They were welcomed with open arms by Mother St. Gabriel and the Nedlands community. In the next four years, four more Thai Sisters followed in pairs to come to Nedlands Carmel.

During the period of Thai presence in Nedlands Carmel, Bishop Myles McKeon of Bunbury diocese in the South West of Western Australia, heard of the large numbers of Sisters in Bangkok Carmel desired a contemplative community in his diocese, and being a good friend of Mother St. Gabriel, he was aware that the Nedlands community did not have sufficient numbers to begin a foundation in the South West. He then conceived the idea of requesting a foundation from Bangkok Carmel.

By Divine Providence, in 1974, Bishop Myles McKeon of Bunbury made a personal visit to the community in Bangkok Carmel. Mother Anne, who had been elected prioress three months earlier, met the Bishop in the parlour, and then called in the six Sisters who had studied English in Nedlands Carmel, and then Mother Anne called in the whole Community. The Bishop could see that it was indeed a very large community, and he then revealed his desire for a foundation of Carmelites in his diocese. The Sisters were not sure whether he was joking or not, and Mother Anne said: “No, no, my Lord!  We can’t go. We don’t know anybody there!” However, two of the Sisters who had lived in Nedlands urged that the foundation be made. Bishop McKeon smiled at the two as they insisted that they knew the Nedlands Sisters, Australia was a beautiful country. So it was that when Bishop McKeon smiled and waved goodbye to the community, he took away with him the assurance that some Sisters did want to make a foundation in his diocese

Right away, the Bishop wrote a formal letter inviting Bangkok Carmel to found a daughter monastery in his Bunbury diocese. The letter from the Bishop was read at Chapter and came as a great shock to many of the Sisters who had formerly seen the proposal of the foundation as a preposterous dream and possibly even just a joke, but were now faced with a serious request and invitation. The issue was discussed at great length at Chapter, with the community given ample time to pray about it, to absorb the idea fully, and to consider whether it was feasible. Finally, after much prayer and lengthy deliberation, the matter was put to the vote and it was passed.

Therefore, seven from the Bangkok community and three from the Chanthaburi community (one of whom was Sr. Agnes from Singapore Carmel who had been helping at Chanthaburi) were called to make the foundation in Bunbury diocese.

Departure Day was fixed for November 4th, with flights booked on Qantas Airlines for the ten Sisters, but even on the departure day itself, the community was still struggling to obtain visas for Srs. Celestina and Elizabeth, both of who had studied English for two years in Nedlands Carmel. The Australian Embassy suspected them of desiring to return to Australia for political reasons! Finally Sr. Celestina proposed praying at the Bangkok Carmel’s grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, as it was under her patronage that the foundation was being made, and after fervently invoking Our Lady’s help, the two Sisters went to the Embassy again. They arrived at 10 a.m. and had to wait until 11 a.m., but then the visa came through from Perth, and the two rushed home to pack.

The foundresses flew into Guildford Airport early morning of 5th November and there at the airport terminal to greet them with a fatherly welcome was our own Bishop McKeon with Fr. G. Crocetti etc. The Bishop told them that he had counted them as they emerged from the plane, rejoicing that all ten had been able to come. After collecting all bags and cases, the group of foundresses was able to pile into four or five cars to drive to Nedlands Carmel. 

There was a tremendous welcome from Mother St. Gabriel and the Nedlands community, who, by some miracle of organization and generous shuffling of their own cells and offices, had prepared individual cells for each of foundresses - 23 strong to sort out their cell allocations and to get the right nun with the right suitcases in the right cell. This was achieved by hilarious communications in good English, bad English, sign language and laughter.

For the next eight months, the foundresses enjoyed the unique experience of sharing the life of Nedlands Carmel while their own temporary monastery was prepared at Dardanup (a small farming centre - 12km from the city of Bunbury). During these eight months they made several trips down to Dardanup to see the operations there. And it gave the sisters time to adjust in Nedlands Carmel to the culture, language and climate. 

The first time, the sisters went in the bus of the Stella Maris Club, accompanied by Mother St. Gabriel. Once arrived in Bunbury, they stopped at the Cathedral to pray and to be shown around by the bishop himself. He then took them to the convent of the St. John of God Sisters, where they enjoyed a marvelous welcome and lunch. Finally their little busload headed off to the Dardanup parish to meet the people and to see the very attractive and historic little convent (formerly a convent of the Sisters of Mercy) where they were temporarily to live. 

There the sisters were given yet another tremendous welcome, as Monsignor Giles and the parishioners of Dardanup took them to their hearts with great rejoicing, humour and hilarity. This was their first meeting, 18th November 1976, with country people of Australia, and they loved the simplicity and joy and hilarity of their welcome, especially Mgr Giles who was like a father to them. The sisters spent almost all day meeting the people, all of whom clubbed together to help supply their needs – dairy farmer, butcher, baker, potato farmer, etc., etc. 

On July 22nd, the sisters finally moved down to Dardanup - their goodbyes to the Nedlands Sisters were full of deepest gratitude.

Dardanup Convent

The new convent – at downstairs where were subsequently closed in the two side verandahs, one side to be a chapel and the other side to be an Altar Bread office. Similarly upstairs the sisters closed in the two side balconies, one side to be a Vestments office and the other side to be a workroom for the Extern Sisters. They did not as yet have enclosure, so that visitors freely came and went until Enclosure Day, November 13th, 1977.

On Dardanup Enclosure Day was marked with great solemnity.  At the enclosure door, the Bishop handed the key to Mother Anne, and the sisters all filed in. After a final deeply grateful wave and bow to the Bishop and the people, they closed the door behind them and Mother Anne locked it with an enclosure key. They felt ecstatic with joy to return to deepest enclosure.

For seven years, they held an annual fete to raise money. The money was to help meet their immediate needs and to help pay for the new monastery which Bishop McKeon planned that they should eventually build. Friends worked so very hard for these fetes, first at Dardanup and then for a few years at Gelorup.

On November 25th, 1981, one of extern sisters, Sr. Marie Therese died peacefully of breast cancer at the St. John of God Hospital, Bunbury.

Gelorup Monastery

Bishop McKeon’s health forced him to retire, and the Perth auxiliary Bishop, Bishop Quinn, became Bishop of Bunbury. Shortly after his installation as Bishop, Mother Anne consulted him about finding suitable land for a new monastery.

The first block of land proposed was at Australind, a suburb fronting on the ocean.  It was a beautiful area but completely flat, and the sisters were warned that they would not be able to grow flowers and vegetables there, the soil being poor and the ocean wind strong and salty. So they continued searching for a more suitable block of land Bishop Quinn drove Mother Anne and Sister Agnes to Gelorup to look at land there where a new road had been cut through.  They viewed Lots 10, 11 and 12, driving slowly up the hill, and at the top found Lot 13 at the end of the road. They all got out of the car there and admired the block, its jungle of huge trees, and its beautiful views down the front and the back.  On a subsequent day the whole community were taken to see the land and immediately loved it.  t was then that the Bishop bought the land with diocesan money and donated it to them.

Then Iris Rossen drew up plans for a new monastery, working in closest co-operation with Mother Anne, Sister Agnes and the community. This was a long, slow, thorough process with a great many changes of plan. Iris worked hard to keep the plan economical but at the same time suitable for the Bunbury climate. She aimed at a beautiful but simple monastery. Once the plans were finalized, the builder asked for tenders from contractors for the clearing of the land where the foundations were to be laid.

In September Bishop Quinn came to lay and bless the foundation stone, while Bishop McKeon and many of the sisters’ friends assisted at this ceremony.  They actually were fully installed by the opening date, March 25th. The day dawned bright and sunny for the big ceremony of their installment and blessing of the new monastery.

On 4th November 2001, the sister celebrated their 25th Anniversary of their foundation in W. Australia.

Our Life

The Rule of Carmel is short and simple, biblically based and centred on Christ. Its spirit is that of the desert: silence, solitude, simplicity and unceasing prayer.  t was originally written for a group of hermits of Mt. Carmel in Israel, between 1206 and 1214. Since then it has inspired Carmelites to a way of life in which one is free to ponder the word of the Lord and to grow in union with him. St. Teresa of Jesus founded her first Convent, St. Joseph’s in her hometown of Avila in 1562. Her vision and spirit created a new family in Carmel where in joyful love her followers could grow in friendship with Christ and be wholly dedicated to the Mission of the Church. Since then the Teresian Carmelites have been contemplative at the heart of the Church.  United with St. Teresa in her lifetime, St. John of the Cross, gives us with her the spiritual foundation of our family in the Church. Carmel has been blessed with many great spiritual guides and Saints including St. Therese of Lisieux, Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity and Edith Stein, who show the power of the Teresian spirit up to our own day. 

The life of Carmel is a balanced Christian and human life. As known for its joyful laughter as for its profound silence. St. Teresa wanted her communities to be joyful because Christ is present in his family gathered together in love. There is time each day for the sisters to have recreation together.

Prayer is central to the identity of a Carmelite, whose life is witnesses to what prayer really means. For St. Teresa, prayer is a love and growing relationship with Christ. To create a spirit of prayer throughout the day silence is generally observed. It provides opportunities for coming into frequent contact with God. Silence, solitary prayer is essential whole meaning of Carmelite life.  As it was said by Pope Leo XIII, “The Spirit of Prayer – to attain this end - three things are necessary: Silence, Retirement, and Mortification without them no prayer and without prayer, Carmel is nothing more.”

The Blessed Virgin Mary is the ideal of our life in Carmel by following her who both kept the word of God in her heart and worked for him. We, Carmelite follow her footstep in serving God. Mary’s presence among us as we are her daughters and sisters pervades our entire Carmelite vocation. It imparts a special Marian tone to our contemplation, sisterhood, evangelical self-denial, and apostolic spirit.

The community daily renews its life and vocation by celebrating the Eucharist, proclaiming the word and singing the praises of God. The praise and gratitude, the remembrance of the mysteries of salvation and the pre-taste of the heavenly meal celebrated in the Mass are extended through the day by the Divine Office. 

Each Carmelite community supports itself by its own work. Our sisters in Gelorup make altar breads and Vestments to earn their living. 

The offices and duties that are necessary for life together are also shared, so that sisters work in the sacristy, kitchen, laundry and garden. 

Priority is therefore given in the community timetable as well as to personal silent prayer such as Eucharistic Liturgy, Liturgy of the hours in common, two hours of personal prayer, Spiritual reading and community works, etc.

Our sisters are enclosed and follow the directives of the Holy See regarding the separation from the world. The purpose of enclosure is that the sisters might be free from distraction and anxiety so they can give themselves totally to the Lord. Their way of life is a hidden one of prayer and self-giving. Those, the Lord calls to Carmel know the blessings of his peace and the freedom He alone gives.

Contact us

Carmelite Monastery
66 Gelorup Rise
Gelorup WA 6230
Tel: +61 (08) 9795  7807
Email: Prioress, Gelorup