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Singing sisters: ‘You are loved by God'

Carmelites from Los Angeles radiate heavenly light' during performance in Coral Gables

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The Carmelite Sisters choir that performed at Little Flower in Coral Gables consists of sisters from five communities working in Florida and California in ministries that include teaching, school administration, health care and retreat centers.

Photographer: MONICA LAUZURIQUE | FC

The Carmelite Sisters choir that performed at Little Flower in Coral Gables consists of sisters from five communities working in Florida and California in ministries that include teaching, school administration, health care and retreat centers.

Carmelite Sister Mary Scholastica enters Little Flower's Comber Hall holding a candle to begin the concert.

Photographer: MONICA LAUZURIQUE | FC

Carmelite Sister Mary Scholastica enters Little Flower's Comber Hall holding a candle to begin the concert.

From top to bottom, left to right, the Carmelite Sisters performing included Sister Giana, Sister Teresa, Sister Juanita and Sister Rosalie Nagy, principal of Archbishop Coleman Carroll High School in Miami.

Photographer: MONICA LAUZURIQUE | FC

From top to bottom, left to right, the Carmelite Sisters performing included Sister Giana, Sister Teresa, Sister Juanita and Sister Rosalie Nagy, principal of Archbishop Coleman Carroll High School in Miami.

From top to bottom, left to right, the Carmelite Sisters performing included Sister Isabel, Sister Maria Goretti and Sister Lourdes.

Photographer: MONICA LAUZURIQUE | FC

From top to bottom, left to right, the Carmelite Sisters performing included Sister Isabel, Sister Maria Goretti and Sister Lourdes.

CORAL GABLES | Not the typical Hollywood stars, the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles nevertheless radiated a heavenly light as they prayerfully sang of God’s love for everyone.

They opened their concert at the Church of the Little Flower in Coral Gables carrying candles and chanting the Salve Regina — just as they do on Saturday evenings at their convents back in California.

Fifteen sisters flew in for the program April 19 in Comber Hall. The youthful group performed three of their original songs, including “Regina Caeli” and “Lean into the Wind,” which is also the title of their seventh CD.

As they sang, a spirit of love enveloped the space with their peaceful presence and smiling faces.

Refreshingly countercultural in their brown and white habits, they opened with their song “Every Life Matters.” Its lyrics: “You were made for more than this, He has a plan for you. Every life matters from the first to the last, to your final dying breath. You are needed. You are wanted. You are loved by God.”

The sisters also passionately sang their creed in the song “This I Believe” by Matt Crocker and Ben Fielding.

“It gives foundation and direction. There is a lot of Holy Spirit power in that song today,” reflected Sister Marie Estelle afterwards.

And from “Lean into the Wind” they challenged attendees: “Are you here to love me? Your heart undividing, relax the grasp of all that you clasp, be rich in me. I’ll fulfill these plans to be, embrace in faith, there’s no other way, go deep with me.”

The Friends of Carmel Miami, led by Carmen Sanchez, organized the concert for their annual fundraiser. With introductions by Wayne Russell, it included various others jazzy, solemn and inspirational styles, from contemporary to traditional, such as “The Rose” by Bette Middler, “Smile” by Angela York, “Blessings” by Angela Story and even “God Bless America.”

Proceeds benefited the Carmelites’ apostolates of health care, retreats and education. Three sisters each work at St. Theresa School in Coral Gables and Archbishop Coleman Carroll High School in Miami.

The Carmelites pray and sing together daily from grace at meals to the Liturgy of the Hours.  

“It’s not like we are trained professionals — for us it really is like singing to the Lord,” said Sister Mary Scholastica, director of mission and advancement. “We put all our voices together and it’s like a blending of those who are strong and those who are weaker; and the energy and prayer behind that makes it come across in a way people tell us is very beautiful.”

She explained that their general mission is “fostering the spiritual life of people we serve, really everybody we come in touch with. There is something about music that touches the soul in ways that sometimes words cannot.”

The order held its first concert in 2010 for the jubilee year of an eldercare facility. Fox News publicized it and ticket sales quickly doubled. They then staged a 40-sister choir concert in 2012 for 1,400 people.

Sister Scholastica, 35, said they have received many offers for other projects given the media fascination with nuns but are very selective in choosing only those in line with their mission.

And they’re not ready to quit their day jobs: the 2012 concert required long night rehearsals after busy days as nurses, teachers, administrators and educators. “So how it all comes together is a work of God,” she said.

But Sister Marie Estelle, a nurse at a Carmelite facility, said she feels rejuvenated in her ministry through such special performances and believes the Holy Spirit is indeed calling them to reach out and spread God’s love through music.

“When you are part of singing and praise it draws you up and out from yourself and it puts perspective on the trials of life so that you can enter into that which is really true, good and beautiful. And it’s uplifting to our own souls and we want to draw other souls through our singing to that same experience of God, of his love for them,” she said.

“Sometimes we don’t understand what we are going through and it can be very hard but to realize truth, goodness and beauty exist. When we cling to that and we center our hearts on that we can continue to live the next day hand in hand with the Lord who we know is with us.”

Many concertgoers also felt the Spirit.

“Everybody we spoke to afterwards said it was a very beautiful, very spiritual. They loved it,” said Cris Garcia-Casals, board member of the Friends of Carmel Miami.

She has several of the CDs and often gives them away as gifts. A former St. Theresa parent, she said she has received spiritual guidance from the sisters in her relationship with Christ and joined the Friends of Carmel as a way to support them and grow through Carmelite spirituality.

“They are a shining example of what it is to be Christ-centered and have faith and how we can apply it. They have a beautiful way of communicating it to lay brothers and sisters,” Garcia-Casals said.

Attendee Elda Arellano met some Carmelites through her oldest granddaughter who is preparing to join the order. She said she also finds them to be very loving and authentic.

“I think their choices and enthusiasm with which they sing are just the embodiment of what they represent and feel and what they think about our Lord and how they live their lives,” said Arellano, a member of St. Brendan Parish. “I was very happy to see so many people here in their support. They really need it but also are deserving of support — they do wonderful work.”

For information or to purchase a CD visit leanintothewind.com or www.carmelitesistersocd.com.