Vocation as woman religious? Traditional Carmelites nuns.

I get questions from young women interested in religious life but with a traditional expression.   I received this and thought to share it with you.

Hello Fr. Z!
I hope all is going well. When I saw you recently in DC, we spoke about the Carmelites (O.C.D) in Elysburg, PA. You asked that I send you more information on them for you to post as you get asked for suggestions of religious orders by young ladies from time to time. Here we go:

The Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph was founded in 2009 as an off-shoot of the Nuns in Valparaiso, NE. They are attached to the Extraordinary Form, while in full-communion with Rome and the Bishop of Harrisburg, PA. There are now 21 Nuns in this community with an average age of 30! They chant the old Office in common, wear the habit and are cloistered. They are truly devoted to a life of prayer and penance out of love for the Lord and keeping especially in mind, Priests and Seminarians.

It is this love of praying for Priests and Seminarians (and their outgrowing of their current monastery and its constant, costly maintenance issues) that has aided in the decision to build a newer and larger monastery, closer to Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. (Building on would be just as expensive.) They are planning to move to Fairfield, PA which is 23 minutes away from the Mount! It would be greatly appreciated if you would post the fact that they are in need of benefactors to make this happen. They already have the land picked out and the money for its purchase, permission from the Bishop and permits in process. All they need is money to actually build! I am sure there are a few readers who would be able to help, even a little. No amount is too small.

Inquiries from young women and donations can be sent to:
Rev. Mother Stella-Marie of Jesus
Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
430 Monastery Rd.
Elysburg, PA 17824

God reward you Father! And thank you for your blog, which I mentioned when I saw you, greatly helped me in my own vocation discernment.

P.S. The Sisters do not have their own website, but a support group does with some more information: www.friendsofcarmeljmj.org

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Packrraat says:

    I am so glad to hear this news. Before this group of Carmelites were in Elysburg, there was another group of Carmelites there, half of whom had moved from a monastery in Wheeling, WV, that was plagued by acid mine water drainage. I knew some of those women for almost 40 years. I’ve been to the monastery in Elysburg a number of times over the years. At one time, I had wondered if I had a vocation with them. But, marriage entered the picture. Plenty of opportunity for sacrifice there too.

    The former group of nuns changed back in the 60’s, shortening their habits, getting rid of the turn and the spikes on the grill in the speak room. They regularly came out of the enclosure to visit with their guests and eat meals with them. To me, a very sad situation. Actually, rather alarming. What’s the point of having an enclosure if one is not actually enclosed? They lost their attractiveness.

    Then, a few years after my best friend there died and I lost track of the whole group, I heard of this new vibrant group that came from their overflowing monastery to Elysburg, keeping all that was truly Carmelite. And I REJOICED.

    I have no money to donate, having given quite a bit to Fr. Gordon MacRae’s legal defense, but I will continue to pray for them.

  2. Liz says:

    Packrraat, I’m so thrilled that you are giving money to Fr. MacRae’s legal defense fund. We are praying so hard for his appeal court date coming up.

    Father, thank you for sharing this about these wonderful nuns. I didn’t know and I am so happy so that we can donate and being praying for this intention.

    I appreciate your blog so much. There is so much I wouldn’t know about if it weren’t for this blog. God bless you!

  3. OlorinServusDei says:

    I attend Mass at Carmel of JMJ every Sunday and have been doing so for about 2 months. It is truly heaven on earth! The nuns have the most beautiful voices! It was where I discovered the Mass of Eternal Youth. I will be immeasurably sad to see them go, but glad that they will have facilities and a location conducive to contemplative life. I will have to drive to St. Michael’s FSSP parish in Scranton, which is an hour away compared to a half hour, but as I understand some people must drive two hours or greater each way for Sunday Mass in the Extraordinary Form, I have nothing to complain about. May God continue to shower blessings upon Carmel of JMJ and grant them many vocations!

  4. ReginaMarie says:

    I am so happy to hear a plug for these wonderful Carmelite Brides of Christ! Some dear friends of ours have a daughter who entered the order (in Valaparasio) a couple of years ago…she is now Sister Guadalupe of the Holy Eucharist. On the few occasions they have been able to visit briefly with her, they said they have never seen her so happy & that the convent was filled with young women like her!

    Another wonderful (& growing) & traditional option whom we are blessed to know are the Sisters of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery (Burton, OH). They are a Byzantine Catholic women’s monastery in the Eparchy of Parma, living in & drawing others into the spousal love of Christ through prayer & hospitality.

    From their website, they are “dedicated to a vigilant life of prayer and hospitality according to the traditions of the Christian East. Laying down our lives in imitation of the Bridegroom, we joyfully embrace the monastic virtues of poverty, chastity and obedience. We participate in the dynamic love of the Trinity by sharing a life of prayer, work and recreation at our monastery. Meditating on Scripture, especially the Song of Songs, and immersing ourselves in a life of personal and liturgical prayer, we enter into a spousal relationship with Christ the Bridegroom. Looking to the Theotokos as our model, we open ourselves to the Divine life of the Holy Spirit, bearing forth fruit for the Church and the world. Our monastery provides a spiritual garden and a bridal chamber in which we draw others into this same life-giving relationship with Christ the Bridegroom.”


  5. Augustine Thompson O.P. says:

    This carmel is a foundation from the Monastery of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in Valparaiso NE (http://www.lincolndiocese.org/directory/women-religious/217-carmelite-sisters). The Valparaiso Carmel has also founded (3 years ago), a community in the Oakland CA diocese. They are in Kensington CA (http://carmelites-of-kensington.blogspot.com/). I am fortunate to be one of their part-time chaplains. A student from my Province’s theological school (http://www.dspt.edu/), has entered the Kensington Carmel and received the habit in the fall. This coming Holy Week, the liturgies at Kensington will all be according to the traditional Dominican Rite, and mostly solemn Masses.

  6. APX says:

    I wish they’d expand into Canada, or we’d at least get some Carmelites that follow the 1991 constitutions. Many convents seem apprehensive of the Visa process. Does anyone know the cut-off age for these Carmelites? I assumed it was 30 rather than 35 since the majority of orders who use the older rites of the Church seem to be 28-30.

  7. truthfinder says:

    You mean 1990 constitutions. All Canadian Carmels follow the 1991 constitutions, at varying levels of austerity. I’m not sure about the age cut off for the JMJ Carmels, but there are apparently quite a few Canadians in the convents, so they can’t be too wary of the visa process.

  8. The Masked Chicken says:

    The cut- off for friars is 45 years of age in at least one province. For nuns, it can vary. A friend of mine became a Carmelite nun in Michigan in her 50’s. They want mostly young nuns, however, and I suspect it might be because they want the vigor of youth and some people think that obedience is easier for young people (which I dispute – obedience is a virtue and can be developed at any age).

    The Chicken

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  10. steveesq says:

    I just had to reblog at exmagnasilentium.wordpress.com
    Thanks for sharing this information, Father!

  11. gramma10 says:

    St.Teresa of Liseux, St. Theresa of Avila and all the other Carmelites I cannot name are praying from Heaven for the latest younger generation to have open hearts to God’s call!
    There is a vocation boom now and the small sprouts are beginning to bloom!
    Praise God!

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  13. lmgilbert says:

    Our daughter entered Valparaiso in 2007. In 2009 the monastery was bursting at the seams, with something like 36 nuns in a convent built for 21, so they made a foundation in Elysburg. Again in 2012 they were back up to about 36 nuns and made a foundation in the Oakland area-Kensington. Again, now in 2015 they are back up to 34 nuns and will very likely make a foundation this summer. In fact, they have to. In other words, Valparaiso is making a new foundation every three years. The constitutions specify that 21 is the maximum number—unless they are going to make a new foundation, so I will be very interested to see how many nuns are left in that monastery after the next foundation. If it is 22, there will be yet a new foundation probably another three years out. This is really a phenomenon.

    My wife and I have visited all three monasteries and have had visits with the whole community in each of them. There is the same spirit of joy in each house. The same sympathetic listening. The humor, of course, is different from house to house, but there is plenty of it.

    And on the whole they are all very young, some as young as 18. I would be surprised if the average age in each house was above the 20’s

    And what is the attraction? Really, I think it is authenticity, for Rev. Mother Teresa seems to be interpreting the rule the way she thinks St. Teresa of Avila would have her nuns live in this age. The thinking seems to be, If ths way of life has made saints of so many women down the ages, perhaps it will make a saint of me.

    They have the full habit in each house. All the offices are in Latin. The Mass is usually in Latin. When the present chaplain at Valparasio first encountered the nuns after they came from Las Vegas to Valparasio, NE in 2001 ( I think) and after he had observed them for a while, he described their life as Ora et Festa. And another priest said they seem to have the perfect balance of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection in their lives ( or words to that effect).

    One young nun we know there describes the life as Heaven. On. Earth. One could almost say the same for being a parent of such nuns. The day our daughter entered Mother Teresa told my wife and me, “We are all your daughters now.” This was very funny to me at the time, since she is about ten years older than me, but it has proved true. We are Mom and Dad Gilbert to every nun in all three houses, and if we have correspondence with any of them, that is the way the envelope is addressed. “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.” Of course, this verse is usually applied to the person entering religious life, but I am convinced that when a parent willingly surrenders his child to the Lord for a vocation to the priesthood or religious life he becomes heir to the same promise. Otherwise, where did all these daughters come from?

  14. andia says:

    i just emailed you for advice on this…thank you so very much!

  15. Worm-120 says:

    Does any one know if there are such traditionally inclined orders in Canada?
    I have had difficulty finding some that aren’t in the states, and often there website states not being a US citizen as an impediment

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