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Mother Aimee Of Mary And The Carmel Of Hue


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Have you heard of Cholet Carmel? I hope the story of this “special” Carmel will give us inspiration.




Mother Aimee of Mary, was a nun professed in Carmel of Mans and was sent to Hanoi Carmel in 1898.  In 1909, Mother Aimee founded the Carmel of Hue as Prioress.  She was the Prioress of Hue Carmel when BishopMcCloskey wrote to her asking a Carmelite foundation in the Philippines.  In 1922, the community numbered 21 – 6 French and 15 Annamites.  She sent her own Subprioress – Sr. Theresa of Jesus and another nun, also from her community, Sr. Mary Gabriel of the Child Jesus.


In 1923, Mother Aimee’s health began to decline; imposed rest and medicines did not help.  The following year, her health worsened and doctors informed the community that Mother’s heart is about to give up – having served the mission for 27 years in hot climate.  Death is at the door and return to France is the only way for her to survive.


True to her missionary spirit, Mother Aimee wanted to die in Vietnam amidst her sisters and the community unwilling to lose their foundress, proposed to build a little Carmel in the mountains – a sort of sanatarium.  The project was not feasible and in tears, Mother begged her community to her die in Hue Carmel. 


On the Feast of St. Elijah, she was enlightened and understood that it was not her time to die – rather, it’s the time to multiply Carmels in the Missions.  She received an inspiration to return to France to found a Carmel where Carmelite Nuns with special call for the missions will be trained and prepared for hardwork ahead. 


Two Carmelite were chosen for this special work: Mother Aimee of Mary – foundress and prioress and Sr. Jeanne of the Infant Jesus, subprioress.  On January 18, 1925, Bishop Allys gave his consent but no bishop in France wanted to accept such foundation in their diocese.  The two still went back to France. 


Mother Aimee was able to lease an unoccupied Carmel since the community transferred to Boulougne.  This became Carmel of Cholet.  The rescript of foundation arrived from Rome.


Mother Aimee set to work and wrote to Carmels in France; several wrote back and promised to send one or two Sisters to form the first community.  Soon they numbered 10 in the community.  The following year, they numbered 22.


Mother Aimee’s experience in the mission helped her form the future missionaries.  She had seen that often, the French Carmelites sent to Mission did not have a genuine missionary call – they are “running away” piously camouflaged, they came with loaded “baggage’s”: the customs and observances of their own Carmels stubbornly sticking to them, convinced that the custom of their home Carmels were far better than those of the other Carmels.  Mother Aimee suffered from this narrow set of mind.  She was determined to form nuns who would be worthy of becoming living stones no matter which monastery in the missions.  These future missionaries were especially trained for hard work that when nuns were sent to Guadeloupe for foundation, they built with their own hands a good part of their monastery, to the great surprise of the workers!


Mother Aime wrote: “ We, French Carmelites, do not go to the Missions to make our indigenous Sisters good officers, linen Sisters, roberians, etc., but to make them souls of prayer.”  She reacted against Carmels in the missions where “the indigenous Sisters are kept in a state of inferiority.”  “If it was done by the first generation, let it be.  We must stop this way of thinking and initiate our indigenous Sisters in offices of responsibility, even the highest, in the monastery.”


She insisted that Nuns learn quickly the language of their adopted country.  “To form souls of prayer, we must know the language of those who should be initiated into contemplative prayer.”  The study of the language is the first and the most important of their duties, all the rest is secondary.  For the foundress, the programme was simple: Fidelity of the Charism of Carmel and adaptation to the country and its people.  Mother already spoke the language of Vatican II.


Soon, Cholet Carmel was ripe to send Nuns to the Missions.  The day of the departures were deeply moving.  One Nun who is about to be sent to the missions pleaded with her:  “She concluded: “We should have in one hand handkerchief for wiping our tears, and in the other a stick for driving away the dear Missionaries!”  Cholet sent out Nuns to help Hue, Manila, and Kushing.  In 1932, they sent five Carmelites to found Bangalore Carmel in India.  The following year, the Archbishop of Tokyo asked for a foundation and Mother sent her right hand, Mother Jeanne to head the foundation.  In 1935, Colombo Carmel was founded in Sri Lanka.  After the WWII, Dakar Carmel was founded.  In 1950, five Carmelites left for Africa and in 1953, 6 Nuns lead the foundation in Guadeloupe. 


From 1925 to 1953, Cholet Carmel sent a total of 46 Carmelites to the Missions.  25 nuns were to work in the existing foundations of Cholet and the rest were sent to help out in already existing mission Carmels.  Other remained in Cholet to ensure continuity of the work for the missions.  While many applied, others were turned down by Mother Aimee herself since she only wanted the “best.”


In 1967, Mother Jeanne (her faithful companion) died.  Three years after the death of Mother Jeanne, Mother Aimee joined her companion in heaven.  She, who was believed to be dying in 1925, lived for many years for the service of the Missions.


Based on: The Roots of Teresa’s Nuns in the Philippines, Volume 1 by Sr. Mary Teresa Sideco of Lipa Carmel.  Published in 1993.



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