The Carmelite Friars have been in East Timor since January 1999. Two friars from the Indonesian Province, Frs Gheta and Mandius, lived first with the Carmelite Sisters at Maubara about 60 kilometers from Dili. During the struggle for independence they witnessed the suffering and hardship of the people and the destruction of the country. In 2000 Bishop Belo asked the Carmelites to go to Zumalai.
In January 2001, the Indonesian Carmelites asked the Australian Carmelites to take responsibility for the East Timor mission and the Parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Zumalai. On 15 August 2001, the Australian Carmelites formally took responsibility for the East Timor Mission.
The Carmelite friars work closely with the Carmelite Sisters in providing pastoral care, health and education services and in community building.
The Current Situation of the People of East Timor
- East Timor is the poorest country in Asia
- Life expectancy is just 57 years
- One in seven children die before the age of 5
- 80% of the people are unemployed
- only 15% of people have access to clean water
- About 46% of people have never had any schooling
- 60% of women and 44% of men are illiterate
- The mortality rate is 200 times higher than in Australia
Two Carmelite centres - Dili and Zumalai
There are two main Carmelite centres in East Timor. In Dili, the capital of East Timor, Carmelites have two communities: one for young men in their first two years of formation as Carmelites (pre-novices) and one for novices and professed students.
Titus Brandsma House in Fatuhada serves as the mission centre, pre-novitiate and a transit house for Camrelites travelling to and fron the parish of Zumalai. As well as providing accommodation for four Carmelites, there are six rooms for high school students from Zumalai. There are few senior high schools in East Timor. By providing accommodation in Dili, the Carmelites are making it possible for at least some students from Zumalai to complete their secondary education.
At Hera the Saint Elijah community is the main formation house for young Carmelites in East Timor. Here the novices and professed students live, work and study. The professed students preparing for ministry study at the Diocesan Seminary and other technical centres in Dili. Some of the professed students preparing for priesthood also study in Flores, Indonesia.
In all, there are 36 young East Timorese Carmelites in formation.
The Parish of Zumalai
The Parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Zumalai, is situated on the opposite side of East Timor from Dili. The parish comprises 35 villages with about 16,000 people. The Carmelites visit each of the village centres to celebrate mass and the sacraments for the people. During the wet season it is only possible to visit some of the villages.
In the main centre of Zumalai, the Carmelites are providing resources for the people of the region. There is a primary school with 220 students, health clinic, youth centre and workshop, together with a boarding house which currently enables 13 children from outlying areas to attend school in Zumalai.
Carmelite Mission Support Groups
The Carmelites have established a number of support groups in Australia who are providing friendship and material support to help the people of East Timor.
If you are interested in setting up a group to help the people of East Timor, please use the link below.
For further information about the Carmelites in East Timor, please contact:
75 Wright Street
Middle Park Vic 3205
Telephone: (03) 9699 1922
Fax: (03) 9699 1944