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Trini Carmelite professed final vows in the US

Brother Jonathan Steele O Carm, professed his Final Vows (August 26) at the National Shrine Our Lady of Mt Carmel, Middletown New York. The thirty-year-old is the eldest son of Norbert and Paula Steele, teachers by profession, and was a member of the Santa Rosa, Arima parish. His work life has been varied and his last job was as a teacher of Integrated Science, Human and Social Biology, Mathematics and Religion at Corpus Christi College, Diego Martin. Br Steele talks to the Catholic News about his journey to The Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel.

Solemn Profession of Vows

Q: You are about to make your Final Profession, what thoughts cross your mind ahead of this momentous occasion?

I was writing my vows; we have to handwrite them even though we follow a formula. These are the vows I will profess on Friday. Right at the start it says, ‘I Bro Jonathan Steele, led by living faith and firmness of will, consecrate myself totally to God’, and that thought of giving myself totally to God, all that I am, all that I have, that is the main thought in my mind right now and to think this totality that I am giving is really so little, it is really a speck of dust. Yet, God in His great love looks at this little offering and accepts it, so there is a sense of gratitude that I feel right now that God looks so lovingly on this offering I am giving. In the first place, He was the one who gave me the gift I am offering back to Him so right now it is just a sense of gratitude and recognising the love of God accepts the gift that I hope to give to Him with these vows.

Q: What influenced your decision to join the Carmelite Order?

God probably had this in His plans for all of eternity. My vocation story in a nutshell is I always wanted to have a family of my own. Then one day at a day of empowerment with Fr [Trevor] Nathasingh, he was preaching about how we needed priests and I said, ‘Okay Lord, I am willing, I am willing to be a priest’ and I went to the diocese, and I was told to take a couple of years. I was like, ‘I said yes, you said no, great, let’s move on’. I was doing a Bible course and somebody said they were studying to be a Third Order Carmelite and immediately I felt a sense of peace and I asked, ‘What is that?’ and as I read a little bit, more and more, I realised the Carmelite spirituality resonated with my spirituality so I just found where I belong and I think it is a grace that God has guided me to a space He had carved out to me in His body.

Q: Any specific moments that influenced your desire to give your life to God in this way?

I grew up in [the] charismatic People of Praise prayer group. A lot of my formation came from there. I grew up in Santa Rosa parish, Arima; a lot of formation came from there as well. As a matter of fact, there is a story I had alopecia areata (patchy hair loss) so my hair would drop, and I had bald spots. After a few years, it just disappeared; I was healed, cured, nobody knows how. But after applying to the Carmelites, I was finishing the application process, there was a good friend of the family Mrs Timothy and she would say ‘you belong to Our Lady’ and I said, ‘Aunty Andrea I am joining the Carmelites’ and she said ‘well, I always knew you would be there’ and she said ‘remember when you were sick and you had alopecia areata, well I went to Betania where Our Lady had appeared and I offered you up to Our Lady of Mt Carmel. Our Lady healed you, so I always knew you were going there’. As I look back, I see so many ways the Carmelite saints and Our Lady have been journeying and forming me and bringing me to this point now where I in turn can say ‘yes’ and live that yes to God’s call in my life. I always say a vocation has three yeses. One is God has to say ‘yes’. I think Aunty Andrea praying for me and God interceding for me that is God saying ‘yes’, and secondly, we have to [say] ‘yes’. So that movement for me in the day of empowerment, ‘Lord I am willing’ that is the second ‘yes’. The third ‘yes’ is the community, the Church has to say ‘yes’. I am very happy the Carmelites, this community of brothers has said ‘yes’ to me.

Q: Share some struggles, challenges along the way

There are always challenges and struggles. I see challenges and struggles as opportunities to love God. St Therese [of Lisieux] said ‘all is grace’ and I am growing in that vision to see all is grace. For me personally, I could get anxious about things. Sometimes that made me lose a little patience but more and more, as I see how little I am, how much I fail, how much I fall short, that I am growing in patience, growing in these virtues, be more charitable….There are always struggles but I think once we keep our eyes focused on Jesus, we will be alright.

Q: What gifts do you bring to your vocation?

Gifts? (laughs)…more and more I think it is God who provides all. I don’t know that I would say I have any gift. One of the things I am grateful for is to be able to see the gifts in others. I have been blessed to see living saints, people growing into saints and their gifts, good preachers and so on. Yes, more so humble people, holy people, righteous people. People who are very charitable, always willing to help. I hope I can continue to grow especially in the gift of charity that the more profoundly I come into this realisation of God’s love. I too will become more and more charitable to others. I don’t know that I am particularly gifted in any area, hopefully in prayer that I will be able to pray for people as a Carmelite …and that I am growing in this charism.

Q: What’s next after the profession of vows?

This is both the easiest and I guess the hardest to answer. Very simply, after profession of vows, I still have two years of studies at Catholic university to finish the programme that I am in. Then there is the Master of Divinity, degree in theology. On a deeper level, what is next is always deeper discernment and figuring out where God is calling me. I know this semester I will be working with the lay Carmelites in Washington DC and so at least for now, I know that is one place God is calling me. In other places, I hope to continue to listen to the voice of God so that He will guide me to know where He is calling me in every moment.

Learn more about the Trinidad Carmelite Friars HERE