“My soul glorifies the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.” Luke 1:46
My name is Sr Mary Olivia Kelly of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus. I made my Solemn Profession of vows of Chastity, Poverty and Obedience on the 3rd September, 2016, in the Carmelite Monastery of the Nativity, Tranquilla, Knock, Co Mayo, certainly the happiest day of my life.
With great joy in my heart and rejoicing for all God has done in my life, I will share with you a little of my journey that led to this sacred day.
I come from a beautiful family of 5 children, 3 brothers and 1 sister.
I was brought up in a home where prayer was nourished by the daily rosary, angelus, grace before meals; Mass on Sundays was a special time, going to Mass as a family.
My parents were exceptional and powerful witnesses in my life. They always proclaimed a God of tender love and gentleness to me. They were involved in many charities in our local area, always helping others, and inviting all into our home. I had a very happy childhood, being involved in everything from Athletics, Basketball, Rounders, Kung Fu, Button Accordion, Horse Riding, Irish Dancing -the list is so long.
When I was 19, I was home one weekend from College in Dublin and my Dad experienced a severe pain in his side. The next day he was diagnosed as having extensive liver cancer. My beautiful Dad died 6 weeks later. This was the most traumatic experience in my life. My world fell apart. I missed my beloved father so much and began asking myself deep questions over and over again; Now I realise what a great grace this was to be asking myself these questions at such a young age, Does God exist? Does heaven exist? Is my Dad in heaven?
About one year after my Dad passed away, Mum suggested that we go to Medugorje, as she knew how much we were grieving for our father. So my two brothers and I joined 50 other young people from Sligo. It was the best week of my life, August 1997. On the third day, I had a huge desire to go to confession & queued up for hours. The priest was an American Franciscan, Father Philip, a really holy priest. He was hearing confessions for several hours, and was nodding off asleep as he heard mine. He asked me to say my act of contrition holding a small crucifix in my hand. As I did so. I had an overwhelming experience of God’s love for me. This moment of grace changed my life instantly. I walked out of that confessional a new person, I was different. I had such a desire now to spread Our Lady’s messages of Medugorje and to allow other young people to experience the love of God in their lives.
So I began to bring youth pilgrimages every year, sometimes twice yearly, as part of St Michael’s prayer group. Our spiritual director was Fr Jim Murray, Carraroe, Sligo, who guided all these sacred weeks of prayer in Medugorje. How many lives were changed during these weeks, witnessing hundreds of young people come back to their faith! I began living Our Lady’s messages, her 5 little stones of praying the daily Rosary, monthly Confession, fasting on Wednesday’s & Friday’s, daily Adoration, daily Mass and reading Holy Scripture every day.
In 2002, as I was climbing Croagh Patrick with a friend on Reek Sunday, I felt within me that God was calling me to religious life. Through much discernment and prayer and the encouragement and support of family, friends, priests and especially my spiritual director, Fr Jim Murray, I decided I had to try. I did several live-in experiences in other monasteries. Then in 2009, I did a month live-in with our Community here in Knock.
I experienced such an immense peace in my heart that I knew this was it, this was where God was calling me to live out my vocation in life. I felt so at home in Knock and I entered on 13th May, 2010, feast day of Our Lady of Fatima. It has been an amazing 6 years of graces and blessings and it is such a gift from God that I am living what has been deep in my heart for so many years. I am living my dream. All my desires and dreams are fulfilled in my commitment to live a life of perpetual chastity poverty and obedience. The vows are very sacred, they unite me to Jesus Christ in a most intimate way by enabling me to become more and more like Him, as this was the way He chose.
I believe that it was through living Our Lady’s messages that God fulfilled His will in my life. Our Lady guided me to her Order, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and what an honour it is to be her daughter and wear her sacred habit. Carmel is all Mary’s.
“All of us who wear this sacred habit of Our Lady of Mount Carmel are called to prayer and contemplation because that was the first principle of our order..,it can truly be said that “Carmel is all Mary’s.” ( Fr Finian Monahan, Teresian Charism)
I am now part of a wonderful community of 19 nuns; we have been blessed with new vocations. We are under Mary’s gaze and it is a gift to be on the Shrine grounds.
“In the end we will be examined in love.” St John of the Cross.
Everything we do in our daily lives, “is assumed, sanctified, used by Christ for the redemption of the world”, (John Paul II 1980, to contemplative nuns). All leads to love.
St Thérèse describes our life more eloquently then I ever could, she says: “Love gave me the key to my vocation. I saw all vocations are summed up in love, and that love is all in all, embracing every time and place because it is eternal. I have found my vocation it is to be love in the heart of the church.”
Over these days of celebration I had the one opportunity of meeting many friends and neighbours, to thank them for all their support and love over my years of formation. Most of them I hadn’t seen since I had entered, so there were many questions. The most frequently asked questions were: What is life like for you? Can I see you now that you have made your final profession? Do the rules change now and can you get out? Prompted by these thoughts from my dear friends I will share with you a little, as succinctly as I can, the joy of living a cloistered life.
Our life is one of prayer, contemplation and separation from the world. It is a sacred space where silence, and solitude are nurtured. Everything about my life as a Carmelite leads towards this total gift of myself in love.
It is a life of communion, communion with God and communion with everything God has created. Solitude and silence, the nucleus of our cloistered life, draw me deeper and deeper into communion with the Most Holy Trinity and everything that He has made.
As my communion and love grow within me for all humanity, I am led to a deeper silence and solitude interiorly and exteriorly. It is a call from within, a call to be with my Beloved; my heart sings in silence and is so alive in this sacred hidden land of Carmel.
It fulfills all my desires to be in solitude, to be still and wait on the Lord of my life. I am separated from the world physically, but within I hold every human person with love before the Blessed Trinity, interceding with joy for all my brothers and sisters whom I love. Everything I do, everyday, is offered up for the redemption of the world. It’s such a privilege to be able to stand here and intercede for humanity. I’m willing to give my life for that and it is such a joy. Any sacrifice I make to deepen this hiddenness just makes my prayer and my offering all the more powerful and true.
What a gift it is to be called to Carmel! I believe the Lord is calling many young people to this life of prayer and contemplation; may they come to know the beauty of this invitation from the Lord and have the grace to respond.