For 50 years, Carmelite Mother Maria of Jesus Crucified’s prayers and devotion have borne much fruit

Story and photos by

Kathy Cribari Hamer

Correspondent

November 22, 2013

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Jubilarian Mother Maria of Jesus Crucified, OCD, sits in her wheelchair behind the grate at her order’s monastery during a Mass celebrated in her honor.

It was a Golden Jubilee, yet the honoree, in white cape, a crown of flowers, and brilliant smile, had the aura of a young woman at her first prom. Her face seemed far too young and radiant to have lived a half century in a Carmelite Monastery.

But it was true. Mother Maria of Jesus Crucified, the former Patricia Anne Brinkley, having entered in 1961, and professed her first vows in the Carmelite Monastery when it was located on Sunset Terrace in Fort Worth, was marking 50 years since her final vows.

“As a young girl you were called to be a bride of Christ,” said the homilist and concelebrant, Father C.M. Trinkle of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, and Mother Maria’s first cousin. “Your life before you went to Carmel was anything but routine.” He retold many stories of his cousin. “One of the most interesting was that you played on the CYA team, and that was tackle football. As you know, young girls just didn’t do that at that time.

“That’s why she’s in a wheelchair,” he quipped, and the assembly exploded with laughter.

“You were the field general — the quarterback. I guess in some remote way, you were prepared to be the prioress of contemplative nuns. This is a stretch, but all things work for good for those who know God. When you took your helmet off, and your hair flowed down, your opponents were spellbound, and left the field. They had been beaten by a woman.”

A sense of celebration always permeates Arlington’s Carmelite Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity during the month of October. The nuns celebrate the feast days of two important patron saints: St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Oct. 1, and St. Teresa of Ávila, Oct. 15.

But this year, Oct. 12, the monastery was extraordinarily joyous, because this event was spiritual, personal, and monumental. The nuns, lining up in the choir, were fairly bursting with happiness and visible affection for Mother Maria. The assembly, seated outside the grate, glowed with enjoyment of the moment, watching the ceremony unfold.

Many in that congregation remembered the nuns from their days near downtown Fort Worth, and they had supported the sisters’ move to the larger monastery in Arlington. The Very Rev. Luis Castañeda, OCD, provincial for the Carmelites’ Oklahoma Province, celebrated the Mass, and was joined by Diocesan Administrator Monsignor Stephen Berg, Fr. Trinkle, and other priests supportive of the nuns. Deacon Joseph Webber of the Diocese of Dallas, another of Mother Maria’s cousins, assisted in the liturgy.

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Mother Maria’s cousin Father C.M. Trinkle of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, (right), delivered the homily and concelebrted the Mass in his cousin’s honor. Other priests were from the Diocese of Fort Worth and the Carmelites’ Oklahoma Province. They were assisted on the altar by Fr. Trinkle and Mother Maria’s other cousin, Deacon Joe Webber of the Diocese of Dallas (left), who also proclaimed the Gospel at the Mass.

The Jubilee Mass included the jubilarian’s renewal of the solemn vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty, professing them in the hands of the prioress, Mother Anne Teresa.

The ceremony included three symbols. The celebrant blessed a candle, lit from the Paschal candle, and the prioress presented it to the jubilarian, saying, “… accept this candle as the wise virgin’s lamp of watchful faith.…” A wreath of flowers was blessed and placed on Mother Maria’s head, as the prioress said, “I give you this crown as a sign of God’s tender love .…” Finally, a flowered staff was handed to the jubilarian as Mother Anne Teresa said, “I give you this staff as a sign of hope….”

Mother Maria’s older sister, Barbara Powell was present for the liturgy, along with her sons Stephen and David Powell. Barbara and Patricia and their younger brother Edward, Jr., (Sunny) were all 17 months apart; Patricia turned 80 July 14, and Sunny passed away in 2000 at the age of 65. Their mother was Episcopalian and their father Southern Baptist, converting to Catholicism in the 1920s.

The children went to Catholic schools, and Barbara said “My little sister was so talented! She was like the Pied Piper — so many friends followed her around. We were in awe of the priests and nuns, and my sister was always at the church door.”

Barbara recalled how her sister told her family she planned to be a nun.

“I was married in 1955,” Barbara said, “and that Christmas my sister recorded a Christmas carol for each member of the family.” Then she made it known to the family that she was going to the Carmelite Monastery in Kentucky. We drove her to Louisville in 1956, and she stayed there until 1958, Barbara said. She needed foot surgery and went home, later teaching at Our Lady of Nazareth Elementary School until 1961 when she went to the Carmelite Monastery in Fort Worth.

“My little sister stays close to me in spirit all the time,” Barbara said, “through the wonderful prayer system the nuns have.

In his homily, Fr. Trinkle spoke directly to his cousins, “I would like to say it’s a privilege to be here with my cousin [Dcn.] Joe Webber and his wife Kay. They are very dear to me, and you know God does have a sense of humor. He called three characters like us to us to the diaconate, the Carmelites, and the priesthood! So, God doesn’t always choose the strongest to be those who proclaim his word.”

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Mother Maria renews her vows as the Very Rev. Luis Castañeda, OCD, provincial for the Carmelites’ Oklahoma Province blesses her.

The Gospel for Mother Maria’s Jubilee, was from John 15:1-8: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from me, you can do nothing.”

In his homily, Fr. Trinkle spoke seriously about this, directly to Mother Maria. “Your body in Christ, was to bear fruit in me,” he said, “a branch that was withering on the vine. It is probably true that what I am about to say, you will defer and say you didn’t. But then, there are some things that need to be told for all to hear: that a life lived for God and others does bear fruit. Your love for me in Christ has helped me to be what I am today.

Fr. Trinkle shared his vocation story, how when he was in high school, his cousin sent him a book, The Ascent of Mount Carmel. After reading the book, he said a great desire of a contemplative life formed in his own heart. That desire led him to discerning the priesthood, but during that time, he recalled a darkness setting in. While in that darkness, he shared how he called the monastery and asked to speak to his cousin.

“The prioress at the time was Mother Mary Margaret. She let me call here to, at that time, Sister Maria, and I would pour my heart out to her, because I didn’t know what to do,” he recalled. “And during one of the many conversations we had, when my life was on the verge of despair, she suddenly stopped talking and paused and said, ‘CM, if necessary I would give my life for you.’

“And she did.”

“Your many sufferings,” he told his cousin, “over the years have helped me carry my crosses, and the countless crosses of others, as well.

“Words could never adequately convey the gratitude I have for what God’s Son has done for me, and all of us, in his passion, death, and Resurrection. And that He has consecrated hearts [like Mother Maria’s] who are willing to do the same, in imitation of her spouse.”

Mother-Maria-BUTTON.jpgIt was a Golden Jubilee, yet the honoree, in white cape, a crown of flowers, and brilliant smile, had the aura of a young woman at her first prom. Her face seemed far too young and radiant to have lived a half century in a Carmelite Monastery. But it was true. Mother Maria of Jesus Crucified, the former Patricia Anne Brinkley, having entered in 1961, and professed her first vows in the Carmelite Monastery when it was located on Sunset Terrace in Fort Worth, was marking 50 years since her final vows.

Published (until 11/22/2063)
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