On January 9, 2001, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a Certificate of Incorporation to the Lay Carmelite Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Inc. This legalized the status of the Lay Carmelites of the Philippines as a Non Stock, Non-Profit Religious Corporation.
On March 13, 2001, the TOC National Council officers and the Philippine Commissariat represented by Fr. Tony de la Cruz, O Carm met to discuss the role of the Philippine Commissariat in the TOC and vice versa and the relationship between the 1st Order and the 3rd Order in the context of the Philippine setting. The following positions were agreed upon:
a. The 1st Order and the 3rd Order shall assume the role of co-workers in the life and fusion of Carmel and the Church through prophetic action and contemplation.
b. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd Orders shall compose the Carmelite Family, inspired and nurtured by the Carmel life and mission.
c. Since the three orders have different yet complementing dynamics, they shall endeavor to work independently and interdependently of each other.
d. The 1st Order shall provide spiritual guidance and mentoring services to the TOC through the National Spiritual Director serving as the National Delegate while the TOC shall provide fraternal support to Formation thru the YCPF (Young Carmel Phil Foundation) and undertake search for vocation among young men within their family and community.
Part of the agreement was the complete autonomy given by the 1st Order to the Philippine TOC in the governance of its affairs. Fr. Tony de la Cruz emphasized that the National Spiritual director who will be assigned to the TOC will only give spiritual direction and not get involved in the administration of the TOC. Thus it was agreed by both parties that the TOC National Council under the headship of the National Prior/ess should handle the governance of the 3rd Order.
Meanwhile, the TOC National Secretariat presently maintains a business office at Room 9, No. 22 Kamias Road, Quezon City and has a Savings/Checking Account with Metrobank. It also has an email address – firstname.lastname@example.org and therefore has contact with other TOC Communities in other parts of the world.
On May 1-5, 2001, the National Council in the persons of Fr. Toto Jaranilla, O Carm and Nimfa C. Tangcuangco, TOCarm, represented the Philippines at the International Congress in Rome.
Right after the International Congress, the National Council realized the urgency to introduce and initiate reforms in the Formation Program/Policies of the Order or in the methodology or methods of giving formation. It was the belief of the National leadership that the Philippine TOC needed to undergo a re-orientation to erase or rectify so many misconceptions about the TOC as the lay branch of the Carmelite Order. At the time, many Lay Carmelites professed in the 1980’s and prior years had a different orientation and concept about their Carmelite vocation. Majority thought of the brown dress as their habit instead of the Brown Scapular, thus the attachment and focus being given so much on the brown dress and the externals. At that time too many TOC’s idea of a Carmelite vocation was being anchored on the wearing of the brown uniform and very few truly grasp the real essence of Carmelite Spirituality. In the previous years people joined the Third Order only for the devotional aspect on the wearing of the Brown Scapular.
In November 2001, the National Formation Commission launched the “Back to Basics” Leadership Training/Formation Seminar. The Seminar Objectives were: (a) To enhance the leadership skills of Lay Carmelites for effective formation and (b) To understand and appreciate the call of the Laity, more particularly, the call of the Lay Carmelites to holiness.
On January 26, 2002 the National Formation Commission introduced and presented a new and more effective approach to formation – the RDS (Reflection, Discussion and Sharing) Method. Two major points were highlighted which distinguish this program vis-à-vis the previous formation practice and they are:
1. All the reference materials are locally available. As a matter of fact, most members already have 1 or 2 of the 4 reference materials.
2. The subjects, after being individually reflected on, will be discussed and shared in groups and will not be taught.
The program is corollary to the Leadership Training and Formation Seminar held last Nov., 2001, adapting the same theme: “Back To Basics”. It consists of a series of Study Modules starting with Study Module I, the formation program for Postulants but was required as a “Back to Basics” study program for Novices and Professed members.
The National Council required everyone (no exception) to undertake the “Back-to-Basics” formation study – from Final Professed to Novices. Receptions and Professions were held in abeyance until such time candidates had finished with the “Back to Basics” Module. Completion of the Study Module 1 was required before one could be received and professed in the Order.
The National Council also started requiring Local Councils to undertake preliminary evaluation on Candidates for Reception and Profession and when necessary did interviews with these candidates to ensure that they are ready to be received into the Order and professed as TOCs.
In 2004, the Study Module 2, a program for Novices, was introduced and was required as a “Back to Basics” study module for all Professed members.
Simultaneous with the introductions of these Study Modules and requiring them as “Back to Basics” formation studies for professed members, the National Council also began strictly implementing the rule on attendance and absences. Members who could not cope up with formation studies and regular attendance in community meetings were advised to re-undergo proper discernment of their vocation. Most of the time these members eventually resigned or were dismissed.
As a result of these reform initiatives, TOC members who have decided to remain with the Order at this point have a much different perspective of what a TOC should be; have a much greater knowledge of Carmelite Spirituality and its implications in their lives; have a greater understanding of what a true contemplative means in the context of a Carmelite; are now more prepared to undertake Carmelite Ministries and other challenges brought about by the recent granting of independence to the Philippine Carmel as a separate Province.
Also, the TOC Philippines is growing and continues to grow. As of January 2005, there are six (6) new TOC Communities (Tarlac, Calumpit, Malolos, Makati, Bacoor and Tanay) still without Canonical Approval. Five (5) more new communities (Sta. Maria, Bulacan, Cabiao in Nueva Ecija, San Leonardo, Nueva Ecija, Malilipot, Albay and Five Wounds Parish in Las Piñas City) are in the process of initial foundation.
Through the reforms introduced, the National Council and its leadership, hope to see a more vibrant and dynamic Philippine Third Order Carmelites fully committed to the values of Carmel in the years to come.