The Days of Prayer at the Carmel
were recently hosted at our local Carmelite Monastery
and a plethora of 3hugs&blessings came flooding through my heart
each of these days!
Helen and I had a grand time attending Mass each day at
the Carmelite Monastery together!
Growing up my childhood home was merely blocks away from the Monastery and I would often ride my bicycle there, tuck it in the south-west corner outside the Chapel, and tip-toe inside to sit in the silence.
Thankfully, my mother never knew of my trips to the Monastery as I probably would have met with a consequence had she discovered I’d gone beyond the “permissible-bike-riding-boundaries.” But even at the risk of disobeying my mother (yes, I took this to confession frequently, giggles…) I cherished these moments I snuck away!
Since moving to our new home just a few short years ago & finding ourselves within the all-too-familiar area, as where Cuppycake & I both shared the same childhood stomping-grounds; I often find myself once again at the Carmelite Monastery. I no longer travel there on a bicycle but instead I have Helen walking by my side! I take great delight in the fact that it is Helen I now tuck in the same south-west corner as where I long-ago placed my pink, white, & purple banana-seat bike before tip-toeing back into the silence! What a relief it is not to worry over any consequences of being discovered in my travels too, as my mother now trusts I understand what to do in on-coming traffic! (Giggles.)
It is easy to understand why I have always had such a tender affection for Our Lady of Carmel. Not only because of the Carmelite Sisters & the impact they had in my spiritual foundation, but growing up our family were also members of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish (just down the road a wee-bit) under the guidance of Rev. Monsignor Joseph Scheffner and for a short time I even attended Our Lady of Mt. Carmel grade school.
I was absolutely spell-bound (with affection) for our Principal, Sr. Norma and also Sister Marie who I had as both my first & second grade teacher. Both were Sisters of the Divine Spirit Congregation and I simply adored them and the habits which were worn by their Religious Order!
Quite magically they had in my child’s view what I judged to be, the most sophisticated habits of all the nuns!
The perfectly pressed, gray-blue, 3/4 length tunics with the peter-pan collars edged in white and silver-grey buttons that ran all the way up the front…were beautiful to me. They even had a co-ordinating jacket in the same grey-blue material to match! And there was the slim matching belt which had their rosaries cinched to them at the side, that neatly tucked into the pocket of their tunic.
And Sister Norma had the largest rosary of them all!
Which always swung gently at her side.
You could always hear her coming down the hall not because of the click of her heels on the polished high-gloss tiled floors, because her shoes of course had rubber soles on them so that she could successfully check on any inappropriate behaviour in the girl’s lavatory! But because of the beads lightly sweeping across her hip with each step she took. As a child it was like Joan of Arc with a sword at her side defending our school from the wickedness & the snares of the Devil! I’m quite sure I sought frequent hugs from her, not only because of my affections but…just for the chance of rubbing the huge beads between my tiny-little fingers!
As a head-covering they wore the more traditional white coif with a long navy blue veil or on special occassions a short (much like a pill-box) hat. And my absolute FAVORITE part were the white gloves and navy blue pumps they wore during the Special Sacramental occassions!
I did not realize until I was much older that although the Sisters were a vibrant part of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School they were not actually members of the Carmelite Order. Giggles. I did not fully understanding yet the difference between Religious Orders, so I believed all Sisters to be one in the same Order! I guess I believed there were the ‘Cloistered Sisters’ of Mt. Carmel and the ‘Teaching Sisters’ at our school and they just lived in different portions of the same Monastery!
Which probably explains why I was initially drawn to visit the Monastery…if only for the opportuinty to hug Sister Norma once again and feel those magical rosary beads between my fingers!
But even though I never could visually see the Discalced Carmelites because they are indeed Cloistered Sisters of the Carmelite Monastery, I still adored them just as much as Sister Norma & Sister Marie. They I discovered, (even still today,) wear the traditional habits of a Carmelite & they are most times bare-footed within their community!
Sixty years ago, desirous of building a seminary in his diocese of Erie, Pennsylvania, the Most Rev. John Mark Gannon sought prayer support for his seminarians and vocations. Turning to the Carmel of Wheeling, West Virginia, the Archbishop extended an invitation, asking that some of the nuns be sent for this purpose.
Led by Mother Mary of Jesus Crucified as first Prioress, six Carmelites arrived in Erie in February of 1957 and founded the Carmel of the Holy Family on a corner of the future seminary property. The last member of these original six, Mother Emmanuel of the Mother of God, recently passed away on April 9, 2016.
I feel so blessed to have had the Carmelite Monastery be such an integral part of my own personal faith-formation and still rely on the prayer-support the Sisters offer me and our family in both trying and celebratory moments.
For the past six decades we have also been blessed to have had the continuous presence of the Divine Spirit Religious Order in our Diocese. Sadly, this wonderful legacy came to an end this past June, as the last remaining members of this religious community left our Diocese. They relocated to the House of Loreto, the motherhouse of the Congregation of the Divine Spirit in Canton, Ohio. Originally founded in 1956 in Erie, the Motherhouse was moved there in 2010. Sr. Colette, one of the last remaining in Erie from her Order, who first began teaching in our Diocese in 1957, finished up her 53 years as Prinicipal of St. James School this past school year and now joins the other Sisters in Canton who have been waiting for her there, wearing the perfectly pressed gray-blue tunics with magical rosary beads at their sides.
I love the Days of Prayer at the Carmelite Monastery!
I look forward to attending them every year!
And on this 3hugs&blessings thursday I am humbled by the heritage of our faith, I am grateful for the presence of the Discalced Carmelite Sisters in our Diocese and I give thanks for the Sisters of the Divine Spirit and the seeds of faith they sowed in my life…that tilled by the prayers of the Carlmelites, ultimately produced an abundunt harvest of faith!
And I do so very hope they will still wear
the white gloves & navy blue pumps from time to time!
“You shall multiply the nation,
You shall increase their gladness;
They will be glad in Your presence
As with the gladness of harvest…”