Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania has announced that a second community of Discalced Carmelite nuns will be established in the diocese. The new community will be founded from the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph of Valparaiso, Neb. They come to the Diocese of Harrisburg because of a constant increase of vocations to their monastery that has caused crowding.
Their community is currently at 33; the maximum number of nuns in a Carmelite monastery is about 21. The Valparaiso, Neb., Carmelites join the Danville Carmelites and the Dominican Nuns of the Perpetual Rosary in Lancaster as the third contemplative community of nuns in the 15 counties of the Diocese of Harrisburg.
Bishop Rhoades said, "I feel incredibly blessed that we will now have three contemplative communities of nuns in our diocese. We welcome the Carmelite nuns from Nebraska whose lives of prayer and asceticism in the cloister remind all of us of our call to holiness. To these Sisters, I extend my deep gratitude for their coming to our diocese and for their prayers for all of us. Their presence and prayers are a gift to us from the Lord! May God the Father bless these, His daughters, consecrated for the glory of His Name!"
Mother Teresa of Jesus, Prioress of the Valparaiso, Neb., Carmelite community, expressed these thoughts: "We are very excited and grateful to make a foundation in the Diocese of Harrisburg. True to our Carmelite vocation our main work is our prayer life. We are praying for Bishop Rhoades, the clergy and all the faithful of the Diocese of Harrisburg, and we will do even more so upon our arrival."
Sister Joan Lundy, Prioress of the Carmelites of Danville commented, "We warmly welcome Mother Teresa and her Sisters to the Harrisburg Diocese. We are happy that the monastery will continue as a house of prayer for that has been the wish of so many people. We are grateful to Bishop Rhoades and to Father [William] Waltersheid for the close contact they have had with us, this past year, in preparing for the transfer of the monastery and its property to another community of Carmelites."
Father William Waltersheid, Diocesan Secretary for Clergy and Consecrated Life, commented, "We are grateful to the Carmelite nuns of Danville who continue their great offering of prayer as they have since 1953 and we offer our gratitude to the Carmelite nuns newly arriving so that this great legacy will continue."
The new foundation of Carmelite nuns comes from the Diocese of Lincoln. They came there in 1999, with roots reaching back to Las Vegas and San Francisco in the United States, Guadalajara and Puebla in Mexico, and Caravaca in Spain. The monastery in Caravaca was one of the original foundations of St. Teresa of Avila.
The nuns will be living temporarily in St. Peter Convent on West Avenue in Mount Carmel while they work to ready the monastery for habitation. This is a case of history repeating itself. When the nuns arrived from Loretto in 1953 they lived in a home on East Avenue in Mount Carmel until the monastery was built in 1961.
Carmelites trace their origins from Old Testament times as the nuns consider themselves daughters of the Prophet Elijah. At the time of the Crusades, the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel who lived an eremitical life on Mount Carmel in Palestine came to Europe. St. Simon Stock who received the Brown Scapular from Our Lady was elected Prior of that Order in Aylesford in England in 1247. The first recorded appearance of Carmelite nuns was in 1452 when a community of nuns was granted affiliation with the Carmelite Order. Under St. Teresa of Avila, with the help of St. John of the Cross, the famous reform of the Carmelite Order of nuns was accomplished. It is to this group that both communities of discalced Carmelite nuns in the Diocese of Harrisburg belong.
Discalced means "shoeless" and refers to the fact that these nuns wear sandals as opposed to shoes as a sign of poverty and sacrifice. The nuns will live a strictly cloistered life setting themselves apart from the world in order to dedicate themselves to God and His saving plan. By means of their prayers and sacrifices, Carmelite nuns participate vitally in the redemption of the world. In imitation of Mary the Mother of God who stood at the foot of the Cross, they are intimately united to the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
The separation of the cloister attunes the heart of the Carmelite nun to the Heart of Christ and the needs of people. Freed from noises and distractions, the Carmelite nun becomes more aware of the struggle of people today to know and love God. She then offers herself in prayer and sacrifice for the salvation of all. No radio, television, newspaper or Internet is permitted, in order to avoid distractions from their life of prayer and sacrifice. While walls and grilles separate them from the world, their hearts are not bound but, rather, radically freed to love God and neighbor.
Printed with permission from The Catholic Witness, newspaper for the Diocese of Harrisburg.