I broke the original story on the Philly Carmel back in April, and I will link to those original posts at the end of this one. I’m not going to try to summarize, because there is too much. What is breaking is this first letter, sent today, from the Traditional sisters at Fairfield, who also speak for the sisters of Valparaiso, NE. Every word of this letter is true:
|From: Fairfield Carmelites <firstname.lastname@example.org>|
Date: June 21, 2021 at 2:02:34 PM CDT
Subject: An Important Update regarding Philadelphia and Elysburg
An update to
our dear friends…
Month of the Sacred Heart June 19, 2021
Praised be Jesus Christ!
We are writing this personal letter to you, all our dear friends, to shed some light on the recent events involving our Carmel of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Once we realized there was both misinformation and misunderstanding regarding Elysburg and Philadelphia, we wanted to relate to you the truth of these matters. We hope this letter will be enlightening and helpful.
First of all, regarding Elysburg, we made a wholehearted attempt to keep two monasteries open in this diocese by splitting our community in half. This proved too taxing on our Nuns and detrimental to the spiritual welfare of our community. Therefore we have brought all our Nuns to Fairfield. This was the original plan, and it has proven the best plan. We apologize that from your perspective it seemed rushed, but for us it was very much a necessity. While it seemed from the outside that Elysburg and Fairfield were two separate entities, Elysburg was in fact leaning heavily upon our support and direction. We found it increasingly difficult to meet the needs of all our young and vibrant Sisters at both locations. Because of this and because of the exciting prospect of being united in time for the beautiful liturgies of Holy Week and Easter, we accelerated our moving plans.
Ideally we would like the Elysburg property to go to another religious group. We had one lined up but it fell through just recently. We will continue to pray that Our Lord will send one to take our place, but we remain at peace with whatever His Will may be. By selling the building, we will be able to reinvest into our present home all the work and donations given during our fruitful years in Elysburg. So while our location has changed a little (same state, same diocese), the community of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph remains faithful to the invitation received from the Diocese of Harrisburg in 2009.
Secondly, we would like to dispel any lingering misinformation about our and the Carmel in Valparaiso’s involvement in the departure of the twelve Discalced Carmelite Nuns from the Philadelphia monastery on April 9, 2021.
As some of you have noted, the Elysburg monastery closed just about the same time as the Philadelphia Carmel. Because of this, there has been some outside conjecture that the two closures are related. However, the two events were enacted for entirely different reasons and were completely un-choreographed.
In July 2017, the Valparaiso Carmel was invited by the small and aging Philadelphia Carmel to help rejuvenate their community. Leaving their beloved Mothers and Sisters and the quiet setting of their monastic homes behind, three of our Nuns from Elysburg and six from Valparaiso undertook this task. Along with the one member of the original Philadelphia community, to whom they became quite close and from whom they received an enthusiastic welcome, these nine Nuns worked together to build a flourishing house of the Lord.
However, there was a looming cloud that threatened what we all thought would be a peaceful and fruitful future. For many years, the Philadelphia Carmel had been part of an association. When our Nuns arrived, it was assumed that withdrawing from this association would be a small matter. After all, the Nuns had been invited by the community and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia with the clear understanding that they were part of a young, thriving, dedicated Order who loved the Extraordinary Form of the Holy Mass and the time-honored traditions of the Discalced Carmelites. As attempts were being made to not only interfere with but to obstruct their way of life, the Nuns tried one way after another to gracefully bow out of this pre-existing commitment. When it became painfully clear that the freedom to maintain their identity as originally promised by the Archdiocese was not being honored, the only option left to the Nuns was to return to the monastery in Valparaiso, Nebraska. They did this in the most correct way possible, fulfilling all canonical requirements.
Contrary to rumors, April 9th unfolded very quietly at the Carmel in Philadelphia. The Nuns, with smiles and a few tears, took their leave of the original Nun (who wished to remain) and peacefully departed. This Sister’s well-being was, of course, an important concern of the departing Nuns, despite her good health and energetic nature. Therefore, the Mothers in Valparaiso requested that a few of us from Fairfield come to stay in the monastery with her to help in any way necessary. We cooked and cleaned for her, helped her with the sacristy and turn, and arranged for the little ducks and bees to be taken care of. All this we joyfully and willingly did. We only left at her repeated assurance that she would be well taken care of by the surrounding lay community (which has indeed been the case: may God reward these good people!).
The Carmel of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in Valparaiso wishes to extend their fullest support and confirmation of what we have related herein. We stand together in our efforts to be faithful to Our Lord and the charism He has given us through Our Holy Mother, St. Teresa of Avila. We humbly beg for your prayers and support in our endeavors. We will keep you all informed of any developments. If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to email FairfieldCarmelites@gmail.com. Catherine Bauer is happy to help and will pass your messages along to us.
Meanwhile, as the good Lord leads our little community up and down the humanly inexplicable ways of His providence, work proceeds well here in Fairfield. We are currently putting in an orchard and building raised stone-beds for our kitchen garden while we watch the refectory and kitchen take shape before our eyes. In even more exciting news, our permanent chapel’s excavation is well underway.
We are enormously grateful to be surrounded and supported by such a wonderful Catholic family as you. Be assured of the continued prayers for you and all your loved ones.
In the Hearts of Jesus, Mary, & Joseph
Mother Stella-Marie of Jesus, Prioress
& the Community of the Carmel of Jesus, Mary, & Joseph, Fairfield
The above letter from the good nuns was written in response to the letter below from the association/federation that the Philly Carmel belonged to prior to the Traditional nuns being brought in, which as mentioned above, has hassled them from the start, and is now trying to crush the Carmel completely. The following letter was sent to every Carmel in the United States:
Date: June 17, 2021 at 6:55:32 PM EDT
|My very dear Mothers and Sisters in Carmel, Praised be Jesus Christ! Once again, I would like so much to greet you individually, but I going to have to have recourse to a “joint” email, trusting in your forgiveness and understanding. First of all, I want to thank you on behalf of Mother Anne and all our Sisters here for the prayers and Masses you have offered for the repose of the soul of our dear Sr. Mary Joseph of the Trinity. She was an incredibly grateful soul; she will continue to show that same loving gratitude even now in the presence of the One she loved with all her heart. I am coming to all of you yet again to ask for a very special remembrance in your prayers for a trip that I must make tomorrow to Philadelphia with our Mother Celine from Loretto and Sr. Gabriela from Flemington. We may stay about a week, but even that is not certain. Father General, (auxiliary) Bishop Fitzgerald of Philadelphia and I have all received replies from Archbishop Carballo in answer to our separate appeals for direction in the very difficult situation in Philadelphia which is not only the result of the Valparaiso/Elysburg (Fairfield) nuns’ abandonment of the monastery and Mother Pia this April, but also the situation of Mother Pia herself. Rome has directed that Mother can no longer remain in the monastery by herself but must re-locate. We need to move her to another religious house in the archdiocese for the time being, not only pending the process of closing the monastery but also in view of another directive that I am not permitted to share with you at present – but one which will need much, much prayer and many sacrifices even before I do. This first endeavor will not be easy either, though, and I am begging you all for your prayers as we are called to try and deal with Mother’s situation and needs with the greatest sisterly kindness, delicacy, understanding and charity. She very much deserves our compassion and support; the events of April 9 traumatized her too. God bless and reward all of you so much for your sisterly love, kindness, understanding and unceasing support. You are in my own prayers daily, offered with much, much gratitude and love, In the Heart of our Good Jesus, Sr. Mary Elizabeth|
Mother Pia isn’t leaving, and they aren’t happy about it. Mother Pia has a lawyer, and they are not going to steal her monastery. Mother Pia, by the way, is not some bed-ridden invalid in need of constant care… not at all. The association, Auxiliary Bishop Fitzgerald, Archbishop Perez of the Philadelphian See, and Archbishop Carballo of Rome, well… I’m afraid they don’t know who they are dealing with.
My money, and prayers, are on Mother Pia. Won’t you join me?
Backstory (three posts from April):
BREAKING: OCD Carmelites of Philadelphia abandon their cloister; flee to Nebraska for unknown reasons
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
UPDATE: Philly Carmelites’ departure confirmed by three priestly sources… so when will kneeling be banned?
Said sources wish to remain anonymous, but I can say they are diocesan secular, not FSSP.
Father Z. picked this up yesterday and posted it, many thanks to him for that. Also to Frank Walker at canon212.com and several other aggregators who picked it up.
Earlier today, Fr. Z. posted an update:
So there you go. New archbishop, new rules, Traditional nuns no longer welcome in the archdiocese. I just asked the communications director for a statement for the second time. I wonder what their standards are for diversity and inclusion, you know?
Because guess who is totally welcomed in the archdiocese?
And the FSSP better watch out, because you can’t have the TLM without a lot of kneeling. The archbishop HATES kneeling.
I only know one thing about new Philly Archbishop Nelson Jesus Perez
He banned kneeling at Mass in the Diocese of Cleveland last year. HERE
Philly archdiocese ends busy week with multiple press releases to concerned faithful
UPDATE 16:49 MST 16 April 2021: Scroll to bottom.
Still not a peep about 15 Discalced Carmelites fleeing the archdiocese for Nebraska, even after multiple requests directly to the head of the communications office.
To be fair, I have received multiple comments/messages that there may be trouble inside the order: A power struggle between confederated houses. It’s likely there are multiple factors in play here, with some within the order and the diocese wanting to enforce Cor Orans, the thermonuclear war on Contemplatives instituted by antipope Bergoglio.
There is also this:
UPDATE: The archdiocese finally responded to my two email inquiries on the situation. A short interaction took place. I paste it all here without comment: