Religious Charism

Religious Charism and Pastoral Ministry
by John F. Russell, O.Carm.


At the time this article was written, Father John F. Russell, O.Carm., was associate professor of systematic and pastoral theology at Immaculate Conception Seminary, Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey. For the previous twelve years he lived in the Carmelite community which serves St. Therese of Lisieux parish in Creskill NJ.

In preparing a position paper on "Carmelite Identity in Parish Life" it became increasingly obvious that focus on the Order's charism alone would never yield an adequate response. The basic teaching of Vatican II's "Decree on the Renewal of the Religious Life" continues to offer a foundational and insightful direction.

    The appropriate renewal of religious life involves two simultaneous processes: (1) a continuous return to the sources of all Christian life and to the original inspiration behind a given community and (2) an adjustment of the community to the changed conditions of the times. [1]

This article will offer reflection from a Carmelite perspective on these fundamental principles in view of pastoral ministry. Such an exercise may serve the broader horizon of renewal in religious life and pastoral ministry. The general principles of renewal mentioned in number two of the decree on religious life have been incorporated in this article within the parameters of a hermeneutical quadrant.

[1] Walter M. Abbott, S.J. (General Editor), The Documents of Vatican II (New York: Guild Press, 1966), p. 468.