CARMELITE Sister Catherine Ann will pray for her beloved country Australia when she sits in the presence of her spiritual sister St Thérèse of Lisieux this month.
Sr Catherine Ann, a member of the Carmelites in Ormiston, on Brisbane’s southern bayside, is one of hundreds anticipating the arrival of the relics of St Thérèse and her parents Sts Zelie and Louis Martin.
The four-month Australian tour of the relics began in Sydney on January 22, and Sr Catherine Ann has a front row seat when they visit her monastery on February 12.
It will be the second time the Carmelite nun has venerated the relics of St Thérèse, though the circumstances are noticeably different.
When her relics visited Australia in 2002, Sr Catherine Ann was not a nun but a youth leader for Broken Bay diocese, hardly knowing about the Little Flower.
“I knew (St Thérèse) was young and in love with God, but I didn’t really know her life and I had never heard of the Carmelite order,” Sr Catherine Ann said.
“I could tell she was an important step on my journey but I wasn’t clear where that was going.
“I didn’t know she would actually lead me to the Carmelite order.”
This time around, Sr Catherine Ann will be kneeling before her spiritual sister in the same Carmelite habit St Thérèse wore in the last nine years of her life.
“For me personally, of course it’s an overwhelming sense of gratitude to God and for St Thérèse for all that’s occurred in the last 18 years since she was last here,” Sr Catherine Ann said.
As she prepares to venerate the relics for the second time in her life, Sr Catherine Ann will ask St Thérèse to intercede for Australia.
“My prayer first and foremost will be for Australia,” she said.
“I think they are coming as a gift of God to say that we are still blessed by God to be called to be his love for the world, to love of God, love of one another and the family.
“St Thérèse is telling that to us in Australia now, to be true disciples, people who live their faith, pray their faith, who witness to the world what love and compassion is.
“The Church now needs healing, it needs moving on, purification, and it needs holy witnesses of followers of Jesus who let Jesus’ light shine through.”
It will be Sr Catherine Ann’s first time venerating the relics of Sts Zelie and Louis Martin, who she said were inspirational saints for mothers, fathers, single parents, people struggling with a mental illness, and children caring for their aging parents.
Born in 1831, St Zelie Martin was a lace-maker who gave birth to nine children, four of whom died at a young age including her only two sons.
She is said to have written that her children were a God-given compensation for the burdens of the world.
“We lived only for them,” she wrote.
“For me, our children were a great compensation, so I wanted to have a lot of them in order to raise them for Heaven.”
While St Zelie sought to provide for her family, her greatest gift was the love for her husband St Louis, who carried on this love when she died at the age of 45.
From then St Louis was a single father, left to care for five daughters, all of whom became nuns.
He was admitted into a mental institution in the final years of his life, and was named the patron of mental health issues following his canonisation.
“They are a very beautiful couple to get to know and read about, especially their dedication to God, their dedication to one another as husband and wife, and their dedication to their children,” Sr Catherine Ann said.
“I think that the real symbol to people today is you can still have God present as the number-one focus in your life.
“I’m really excited that they’re coming and I really hope the impact she had on me, I hope that she and her parents will touch the hearts of many people, bring them to God and (help them) be aware of their own need for God.”