Since 1978 Father Bruce Clark ocarm has been serving communities in Australia and East Timor. Ordained in 1985 at 29 years of age, today Fr Bruce is the Director of Formation and Novice Master of the Carmelite Order in East Timor. Based in Hera, 30 minutes from Dili, the capital of East Timor, he is actively involved in educating, forming and supporting over 45 young East Timorese men to one day become Carmelite Brothers and Fathers. To celebrate Fr Bruce’s 60th birthday, the Carmelites featured his work in East Timor.
“From a very young age I wanted to be a priest. I had met a number of Carmelites, and I knew they were a warm community. The whole tradition of the Carmelites - prayer, service, community - was embodied in the people I had met. So when I was 21 I joined the Carmelites and was ordained on 1st June 1985.
My hope has always been to serve God through serving people. I am driven by the enthusiasm I have for what I am doing and the commitment within me to community.
In 2011 I was given the opportunity to take up a ministry of serving in East Timor. My role is to help guide and mentor young men on their formation journey to become Carmelites.
I oversee the students’ formation which means meeting with them, having classes or organising classes for them. I teach them about Carmelite spirituality, the history of the Order, general spirituality topics, and even what we call “human development” topics, to do with sexuality, celibacy and things like that.
I get them to discover their own gifts and talents and to strengthen their commitment. If this life is for them, then they give themselves fully to it.
By putting everything into it their gifts will automatically overflow into the community by various means and ways.
The energy of the young men is infectious. I can see them wanting to do something with their lives, or to at least experience life in some way and get a better sense of the world. They involve themselves with the spiritual side of the Carmelite journey such as praying and Mass. As brothers living together they take responsibility for things, they support each other and care for each other when they are sick. They are connected not only to each other but to community. So when someone dies they go and pray with the family. When someone is getting married, they celebrate with the family.
There aren’t many Australians here so I represent Australia to them. But in Australia we are all different, so it’s up to me to interpret how I see and represent Australia to them. I try to keep the information coming in, like putting the Carmel Contact newsletters up along with historical photos of our Order and photos of their Timorese brothers in Australia, so they can share in their journey.
I feel that I am like a father, or at least a big brother to them - it’s a nice feeling. I hope I am teaching them the importance of their Carmelite vocation, living their Carmelite values and trying to do it in a way that’s positive, life-giving and maybe enjoyable.
We are meant to help others to grow and share in the abundance of God’s life. So if we are growing in our own capacities just by being faithful to who we are, we are helping others do that, and we are
being encouraging directly and indirectly in all sorts of ways.
I’ve always wanted to live a prayerful and compassionate life, while giving something back to community. East Timor feeds both my hope and my enthusiasm as I watch these young men interested in wanting to learn to be part of the Carmelites story and history. I suppose it challenges me to give it my best and be faithful to it and to them.”