Carmelite Sisters

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From the 13th century onward there are instances of women taking the habit and making vows according to the Carmelite Rule (see carmelites). The institution of Carmelite nuns, however, may be said to date from the bull Cum nulla, granted by Nicholas V on Oct. 7, 1452, to (Bl.) John soreth. This bull, which gives permission to receive into order devout women of celibate life, was obtained in connection with the founding of the monastery of Our Lady of the Angels in Florence, Italy, later rendered illustrious by St. Mary Magdalene de' pazzi. Carmelite nuns, who lead a strictly contemplative life, are found in 13 countries. Besides the cloistered nuns, 15 active sisterhoods are affiliated with the order and are represented in 29 countries.

[j. smet]

Carmelite Nuns, Calced (OCarm). Official Catholic Directory #0300. Examples of the affiliation of professed women with the Carmelite Order already occured in Italy in the 13th and 14th centuries. Conversae, or oblates, made vows and were subject to the prior of the local friary, though they continued to live at home. Instances occur in Messina, 1283 (Bonaventura di Misano); Bologna, 1304 (Benvenuta Venturoli); Florence, 1309 (Diana Buzzadelli); Florence, 1374 (Santa Saluccio); Pisa, 1390 (Bonuccia Sardi). Eventually, in Florence, two communities of conversae were formed: the Nunziatina (1453) and St. Mary of the Angels (1454), rendered famous by its most illustrious member, St. Mary Magdalen de' Pazzi. Only in the following century did these monasteries receive the cloister.

On Oct. 7, 1452, the prior general, Bl. John Soreth, obtained from Pope Nicholas V the bull Cum nulla authorizing him to enroll women in the order. The institution of cloistered Carmelite nuns was thus canonically established.

Under Soreth's initial patronization, cloistered monasteries flourished in the Netherlands: Guelders (1453), Nieukerk (1455), Liège (1457), Dinant (1459), Huy (1466), Namur (1468), Vilvorde (1469, still extant). Outside Wallonia, other monasteries were founded in Flanders, but this early development was arrested by the Wars of Religion.

With the assistance of Bl. Frances d'Amboise, duchess of Brittany (14271485), who later entered the order, Soreth introduced Carmelite nuns into France: Bondon (1463), Les Couëts (1476). In France, too, growth was impeded by the religious wars.

In Italy, early growth was promoted by the reformed Congregation of Mantua: Parma (1465), Reggio Emilia (1485), Brescia (1486), Ferrara (1489), Mantua (1492), Trino (1493), Florence (1508). Illustrious members of this group of monasteries were Bl. Archangela Girlani (d.1495) and Bl. Joan Scopelli (14281481). With Spain, Italy was to prove the most fertile soil for the development of Carmelite cloistered life.

The Spanish monasteries did not accept cloister until it was imposed by the Council of trent. An exception is the Incarnation of Valencia, which was enclosed from its foundation (1502). From the life of St. Teresa it is abundantly clear that the Incarnation of Avila, founded in 1479, was not obliged to the cloister. In Teresa's time, the order counted seven communities of nuns in Andalusia, one in Aragon, and three in Castile. Catalonia acquired Carmelite monasteries only in the 17th century.

The supressions of monasteries by Catholic monarchs who did not believe in the contemplative life, by Napoleon, and by the 19th-century liberal governments wreaked havoc among the Carmelite nuns. In the Spanish civil war, 19361939, three Carmelite nuns lost their lives: Mary of the Patronage of St. Joseph Badía Flaquer (19031936), Trinity Martínez Gil (18931936), and Josepha Ricard Casabant (18891936).

At present there are monasteries located in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, the Netherlands, Brazil, Venezuela,

the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the Philippine Islands, Indonesia, and the United States.

From the monastery of Santa Croce, in Naples, the Carmelite nuns came to the United States in 1930. In that year, two nuns arrived in New York and founded their first monastery in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Three other foundations followed in subsequent years: Wahpeton, North Dakota, in 1954; Hudson, Wisconsin, in 1963; and Christoval, Texas (2000, moved from San Angelo, Texas).

Bibliography: c. catena, Le Carmelitane: Storia e spiritualità (Rome 1969). j. smet, Cloistered Carmel: A Brief History of the Carmelite Nuns (Rome 1986). a. m. martino, "Monasteri femminili del Carmelo attraverso i secoli," Carmelus 10 (1963) 263312. See also the special number of the review Carmelus 10(1963) 1312.

[p. h. otterson]

Carmelite Nuns, Discalced (O.C.D., Official Catholic Directory #0420); founded in Spain in the 16th century by St. teresa of avila, the Discalced Carmelite nuns are probably the best known of all cloistered orders of women. From the original foundation at Avila, this branch of the Carmelite reform movement spread throughout the world, and has numbered in its ranks many illustrious members.

Teresa of Avila entered the Carmelite convent of the Incarnation at Avila in 1533, but 20 years passed before she embarked on a completely generous program of spiritual living. As part of her own plan for a more dedicated life, she petitioned her superiors for permission to establish a single convent where a few nuns could follow the primitive Carmelite Rule and eliminate some of the abuses then existing at the Incarnation convent. There was much resistance and reluctance on the part of her own Carmelite superiors, the local ecclesiastical authorities, and the townspeople who feared that another convent would prove a financial burden to the area. But finally, on Aug. 24, 1562, Teresa and three other nuns occupied a small stucco building in Avila, which became known as the convent of St. Joseph. During her difficulties before and following the foundation at Avila, she was greatly aided by the Franciscan peter of alcantara and the Dominican Pedro Ibáñez (d. 1565). Teresa originally intended to found only one convent, but her private revelations and the requests of bishops in Spain encouraged her to establish additional convents for cloistered Carmelite nuns. She spent the remainder of her life traveling through Spain organizing these convents, 15 of which she had founded by the time of her death in 1582. In 1600 there were 47 convents of Discalced Carmelite nuns.

anne of jesus was the dominant personality among the nuns after Teresa's death, and it was she who established the first foundation in the Low Countries at Brussels. Bl. anne of st. bartholomew is credited with having saved the city of Antwerp by her prayers during the siege of 1622. Barbe Acarie (15661618), a noble-woman and mother of six children, introduced the nuns into France in 1604. She herself entered one of the convents in 1614, after her husband's death. Adopting the name of Mary of the Incarnation, she died after only four years in the convent of Pontoise, and was beatified in 1791.

In the 18th century, the order was distinguished by Bl. Mary of the Angels, daughter of a noted Italian family, who died at the Carmel of Turin in 1717; St. teresa margaret, who died at the age of 22 at the Carmel of Florence; and the 16 nuns from the Carmel of Compiègne who were guillotined during the French Revolution in 1794, and beatified by Pius X in 1906. The 19th-century Carmelite from the French province of Normandy, St. thÉrÈse de lisieux, added new luster to her order. Her memoirs, published after her death, became a bestseller in spiritual literature, and Pius XI called her the greatest saint of modern times. A contemporary of Thérèse, a young French nun from the Carmel of Dijon, Sister elizabeth of the trinity, has also attracted considerable attention by her writings.

The first Discalced Carmelite convent in the United States was founded at Port Tobacco, Maryland, in 1790 by a group of nuns from the Carmel of Antwerp. This was also the first foundation of female religious in the original 13 colonies. In 1830 the Port Tobacco community moved to permanent quarters in Baltimore. At the beginning of the 21st century, there were 64 convents in the United States.

The life and work of the Carmelite nun is exclusively one of prayer and penance. There is no active apostolate, since the nuns dedicate themselves to praying for the work of the Church and for the sanctification of priests. Perpetual abstinence is observed, as well as a yearly fast from September 14 until Easter. The Divine Office is recited in choir each day, and two hours are devoted daily to formal meditation. The nuns are cloistered; they speak to visitors only through a grillwork in the convent parlor. A nun remains all her life in the convent she first enters, except when she is sent to join a newly established convent.

Bibliography: w. nevin, Heirs of St. Teresa of Avila (Milwaukee 1959). andrÉ de ste. marie, The Order of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (Bruges 1913).

[p. t. rohrbach/eds.]

Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm. (Ocarm, Official Catholic Directory #0330); a congregation founded in 1929 by Mother M. Angeline Teresa to meet the need for modern methods of caring for the aged. The congregation, distinctively American in spirit, strives to preserve the dignity and independence of the individuals whom it serves. Mother Angeline Teresa, together with six companions who had gained experience in working with the indigent aged as Little Sisters of the Poor, began the community with the approval of Cardinal Patrick Hayes of New York. From 1929 to 1931 the sisters lived in the old rectory of St. Elizabeth's Church in New York City, where they prepared themselves spiritually and planned their new type of work. Toward the end of that period they accepted seven elderly guests and looked for larger quarters. The Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York presented the religious with the downpayment for the property located at 66 Van Cortlandt Park South in the Bronx. Here the sisters maintained the mother-house and novitiate until 1947 when they transferred the headquarters of the community to Avila-on-the-Hudson in Germantown, New York.

The first home, named St. Patrick's, became the prototype of the homes the sisters founded in subsequent years. The sisters plan each new home with a view to providing the best geriatric care for persons 65 years of age and over, without distinction as to race, color, or creed. Affiliated with the Carmelite Order, the sisters live a community life according to the Rule of St. Albert and their own constitutions, which received the initial approval at Rome, July 16, 1957.

Bibliography: b. de lourdes, Where Somebody Cares (New York 1959); "Allies of the Aging," Catholic Nurse 5 (1956) 2832. Dizionario degli Istituti di Perfezione (Rome 1974) 2:402403. j. mead, The Servant of God, Mother M. Angeline Teresa, O.Carm (18931984) (Petersham, Mass. 1990).

[m. p. laporte]

Carmelite Sisters of Charity. (C.a.Ch., Official Catholic Directory #0340); a religious congregation with papal approval (1870, 1880), founded at Vich (Barcelona), Spain, in 1826 by St. Joaquina de vedruna, assisted by Esteban de Olot (17741854), a Capuchin priest. The scope of the institute, whose members assume simple perpetual vows, is education and the care of the sick. Governing the congregation is a superior general, who is elected by a general chapter and who resides in Rome, together with her council. Provincial and local superiors are appointed for three-year terms by the superior general and council. By the 20th century, the congregation had spread from Spain to Italy, England, India, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and the United States. (1955).

In the United States, the sisters engage in the ministry of healthcare, nursing, academic education, parish ministry and pastoral work among Hispanics, immigrants and the homeless. The U.S. provincialate is in Silver Spring, Maryland.

[d. mcelrath/eds.]

Carmelite Sisters of Corpus Christi. (OCarm, Official Catholic Directory #0350); a congregation begun in 1908 when five English converts opened a school at the request of the Bishop of Leicester, England. The foundress was Clare Ellerker, later Mother Mary of the Blessed Sacrament. She remained the head and moving spirit of the community until her death in 1949.

In the beginning, Vincent mcnabb, who took an interest in their work, had formed them into Dominican Tertiaries. When the group grew to 50, they were invited to work in the British West Indies and in Duluth, Minnesota (1920). They then petitioned the Holy See to become a religious congregation, but Rome refused because they were too few in number. Invited a few years later to become Carmelites, they accepted and became an active community in that order, to be known as Corpus Christi Carmelites. In 1958 the community received its final approval from Rome. They have 19 houses in North America, England, and the West Indies. In the United States their headquarters are at Middletown, New York. The motherhouse and novitiate of the congregation is in Tunapuna, Trinidad. The sisters engage in varied work homes for the aged and for children, Cana retreats, high schools and elementary schools, kindergartens, work with retarded children, and catechetical work.

Bibliography: k. burton, With God and Two Ducats (Chicago 1958). a. mullins, The Corpus Christi Carmelites (Dublin 1963). A Great Adventure: The Story of Corpus Christi Carmel, by Some Corpus Christi Carmelites (Trinidad, 1944; repr. Tunapuna, 1976). Dizionario degli Istituti di Perfezione (Rome 1974), 2:406407.

[k. burton]

Carmelite Sisters of St. Thérèse of the Infant Jesus. (C.S.T.; Official Catholic Directory #0380); an American diocesan congregation begun in Bentley, Oklahoma, in 1917. The founder, Agnes Cavanaugh, was born and educated in Schuylerville, New York. In its early years, the community worked in great poverty and hardship among the Choctaw tribe. Gradually, teaching became its most important work, and the congregation now staffs schools in Oklahoma and California. The sisters primarily engage in academic education, catechetics and parish ministry. The motherhouse is in Oklahoma City.

[c. t. carter/eds.]

Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus. (Carmel D.C.J., Official Catholic Directory #0360); a pontifical congregation affiliated with the Order of Discalced Carmelites, founded in Berlin, Germany, in 1891 for the rescue of orphaned and abandoned children. The foundress, Mother Mary Teresa of St. Joseph (Anna Maria Tauscher van den Bosch), a convert from Lutheranism, extended the work to Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and Holland. During her eight years in the United States and Canada (191220), she established 18 St. Joseph Homes for the children of the poor and for the aged of the middle class.

In 1930 the foundress obtained final approbation from the Holy See for constitutions that correspond with the original Rule of Carmel and prescribe a life of contemplation and active reparative charity. Besides homes for children and the aged, the sisters conduct nurseries, kindergarten and day centers. They also offer facilities for weekend retreats and days of recollection, and do house visiting.

The congregation has established houses in Europe, the United States, Canada, and Central America; the general motherhouse is in Sittard, Holland. In the United States, the congregation has three provinces: Northern (headquartered in Milwaukee), Central (headquartered in St. Louis) and Southwestern (headquartered in La Mesa, California).

Bibliography: The Servant of God, Mother Mary Teresa of St. Joseph, tr. b. bittle (Pewaukee, Wis. 1953).

[m. a. enck/eds.]

Congregation Of Our Lady Of Mt. Carmel. (OCarm; Official Catholic Directory #0400) A religious community of women devoted to teaching, nursing, and social service work, founded in 1825 in Tours, France, by Charles Boutelou and Mother St. Paul Bazire. Within a decade, because of persecution, the sisters were forced to disband in France. Mother Teresa Chevrel and Mother Augustine Clero, having volunteered for a foreign mission, had come to the United States in 1833. In 1839 Bp. Anthony blanc of New Orleans invited them to teach in that city. Gradually other schools were established. By 1961 the sisters conducted nine schools and administered one hospital in the Archdiocese of New Orleans and five schools in the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana. At the New Orleans motherhouse they also conduct Mt. Carmel Junior College for the education of their young religious. The congregation was aggregated to the Carmelite Order in 1930. In 1951 the sisters changed from the Rule of St. Augustine to that of St. Albert. They take simple perpetual vows. In 1957 the congregation became a pontifical institute, and in the following year its constitutions were revised accordingly. After 1960 applicants from the Philippine Islands were accepted. and in 1962 the first band of missionaries was assigned to the Philippines. In 1999, the congregation counted 21 foundations with 105 professed sisters.

Bibliography: c. nolan, Bayou Carmel: The Sisters of Our Lady of Mount Carmel of Louisiana (18331903) (Kenner, La.1977). n. j. perchÉ, Détails sur le mort et les obsè de M. labbé É Rousselon (Lyon 1867).

[m. e. romagosa]

Congregation of the Mother of Carmel (Syro-Malabar). The first religious community for women in the syro-malabar church, founded in 1866 by Bl. Cyriac Elias Chavara at Koonammavu, Kerala. Rev. Fr. Leopold OCD, an Italian missionary and the delegate of the discalced carmelites collaborated in the foundation. After the death of Bl. Chavara in 1871, Fr. Leopold directed the community until his transfer from India. In the beginning, the institute admitted members belonging to both Syro-Malabar and Latin Churches. The community was divided into Oriental and Latin groups, following the ritual separation in 1887 of the Catholics under the Archdiocese of Varapuzha. The Oriental group had to face a number of difficulties during the following years until Aloysius Pazheparambil became director of the convents and, in 1896, vicar apostolic of Ernakulam. He strengthened the organization, provided it with a written constitution, and helped in the establishment of many convents. The Congregation continued as independent diocesan communities in various Syro-Malabar dioceses until 1963, when all were united into one Papal Congregation with one superior general residing at the Mt. Carmel Generalate in Aluva.

At that time, the original rules, modeled on those of the Italian Carmelite Sisters of the Third Order Regular, were radically revised and the name of the community changed from the Third Order of Carmelites. The rules underwent further revision in the light of Vatican II and the 1990 code of canons of the eastern churches.

Members of the Congregation take simple perpetual vows and wear a brown or white habit, scapular and veil. In addition to their principal ministries of education and Christian formation, especially of women and children, the sisters also care for the sick and destitute, engage in social and family welfare, and other similar activities. Their charism is defined as "to remain united to God in contemplation and consecrated to him in action."

From a small community within Kerala, the territorial boundaries of the Syro-Malabar Church, the Congregation has grown and expanded in Asia, Africa, Europe and the United States. By the end of 2000, there were about 6,000 members distributed in 19 provinces (12 in Kerala, 7 in other states of India) and 3 regions (all in India outside Kerala). The Generalate is at Aluva, India.

Bibliography: C. M.C. Constitution (Aluva 1998). C.M.C. Directory (Aluva 1996). jossy, c.m.c., In the Shadow of the Most High (Aluva 1997). Indian Christian Directory (Kottayam 2000) 1218.

[a. m. mundadan]