As far as I know, this story is being broken right here. Following is a guest post from a reliable source, with personal knowledge of the situation, who wishes to remain anonymous:
For reasons not totally known at this point, the Carmelite Sisters of Philadelphia have abruptly abandoned their monastery.
According to sources close to the monastery, the sudden move took place over this past weekend. On Friday, after the daily Mass, a van was noticed by the entrance to the monastery used by the cloistered sisters. Later that day, word began to spread that the sisters had suddenly departed. The sisters were reportedly driven to another Carmelite monastery in Valparaiso, Nebraska. One elderly sister is said to have remained behind in Philadelphia but all of the others, believed to be 15 young Carmelites who arrived in 2017, have all departed.
The Philadelphia Carmel of Jesus, Mary, Joseph and Anne was established in 1902, less than five years after the death of St. Therese of Liseux. It has been a treasure for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and for the nation. By the early 21st century, faced with a shortage of sisters, the fate of the monastery was in question. Then in 2017, former Archbishop Charles Chaput welcomed a branch of traditionalist Carmelites to Philadelphia and they accepted. These new arrivals were mostly younger women coming from Nebraska as well as another monastery in Pennsylvania.
With the departure of these 15 Carmelites over the weekend, and the recent deaths of most of the original sisters in Philadelphia, the beloved monastery is left with just one elderly sister and an uncertain future. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has not yet addressed what happened. Catholics in the Philadelphia Archdiocese learning about the departure are devastated. The presence of a Carmelite Monastery is considered to be an honor and a blessing to have within a diocese. Historically, the Carmelites have been major drivers of the Faith and have had, amongst their sisters: St. Therese of Liseux and St. Theresa of Avila – both revered saints and Doctors of the Church. In fact, first class relics of St. Therese of Liseux and her family are in residence at the Philadelphia monastery. During the French Revolution, it was the martyrdom of the Carmelites that ended the Reign of Terror. The Brown Scapular is a noted devotion within the order and with lay Catholics.
Unlike many orders of Religious Sisters, the Traditional Carmelites have been flourishing with vocations in recent years making their departure from Philadelphia especially tragic. Locally, four young women are known to have joined the Traditional Carmelites in Philadelphia since 2017 with others that were in formation.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us.
Impact of Cor Orans?*While we don’t know the reason for the developments in Philadelphia, it is hard not to recall a recent document issued by the Vatican – Cor Orans – targeting communities of contemplative nuns which is what the Carmelites are. Cor Orans instructs monasteries to belong to a “federation of monasteries”, tied together with a similar charism or shared geographical location. This basically erodes the autonomy of individual monasteries operated by individual orders such as the Carmelites. In addition, the length of formation for new nuns, previously six years for Carmelites became nine to twelve years under Cor Orans, which is an impediment to new vocations. Another requirement of Cor Orans is a “religious assistant,” a priest monitoring the monastery in addition to a chaplain, assigned by the federation. This further erodes the monasteries’ autonomy by giving unprecedented powers to the “religious assistant.”
This is Mark again. I contacted the communications office of the archdiocese for a statement, but neither my call nor email were immediately returned. I’m withholding judgment on the matter until we find out more information. I was physically present at the cloister the day the FSSP arrived there in 2017. Trust me, it’s a special place. The FSSP were consequently given a mission just outside the city, at a beautiful large church in Conshohocken. I do hope they’re not next. The only other access to the traditional sacraments in the entire five-county metro is the SSPX outpost in Eddystone, which isn’t even a full time parish. The priest drives down from Connecticut for the weekends, and their chapel holds fewer than a hundred faithful.
If you don’t understand why the antichurch needs to destroy the contemplative orders, start here:
“The Cor Orans document is the death-knell of Carmel. It signals the end of the contemplative monastic life. Not only does it destroy the autonomy of the Monasteries, something Our Holy Mother St. Teresa was extremely insistent about, but it also removes the Superior, dissolves her authority and power, removes the financial independence of each Monastery, and destroys the specificity of each charism… This is a disaster. Especially for Carmel.”
Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us
Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, pray for us