I have been asked to comment about the sudden departure of a community of traditional Philadelphia Carmelite sisters from their Carmel in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. They withdrew from their Carmel, established in 1902, and went to another Carmel in Valparaiso, Nebraska.
The Philadelphia Carmel had been struggling, with a reduced number of sisters. They were down to three sisters. In 2017 6 sisters in their 20s-30s came from the famous Valparaiso Carmel, which has been blessed with vocations and 4 came from Elysburg, PA. Traditional Carmelites. The place came to life again.
On their website (maintained by someone outside their Carmel) we see:
All Masses are celebrated by a chaplain of the Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) and are said in the Extraordinary Form. The Carmel is Latin Mass only with all of its sacraments.
I was sent a link to a site that claims some information about the sisters, however vague, which seems to have sparked the request for my comment.
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.
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.
Thus, my spidey-sense is tingling.
I don’t know enough about this evolving situation yet. It is very strange that there would be no public statement.
However, I will make the observation that a document came out from the Holy See’s Congregation for Religious that massively restricted religious communities. For example, convents and monasteries of nuns and sisters who are united in the same rule, region, apostolate, etc., are required to “confederate” together, which seems to undermine their autonomy. The length of formation before profession was doubled.
We’ve also seen that, time and again, “visitors” have been sent to traditional communities and, thereafter, those communities were snuffed out.
I don’t know about the Philly Carmelites, but it is troubling. I hope for good news, soon. Perhaps some thing like, “The Sisters just took a road trip to see their friends in Valparaiso.” Though that doesn’t sound like a very Carmelite thing to do.
I should add this.
The presence of a sound Carmel in a place is a great blessing. I’m convinced that the prayers and work of the sisters brings untold benefits to, for example, a diocese.
If there has been some pressure on the Sisters to give up their traditional ways, thus sparking their departure,….
Let’s wait for some explanation. In the meantime, you might ask the great Carmelite saints for intercession for the good of all, the sisters and the people of Philadelphia.
There come to mind immediately…
St. Teresa of Avila
St. Therese of Lisieux
St. Edith Stein
St. Elizabeth of the Trinity
St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi
St. Simon Stock
St. John of the Cross
St. Titus Brandsma
A priest friend from the area gave me some additional information.
It seems that because of that document from the Congregation for Religious the Carmelites were losing control over their lives. They were being pressured to give up the Traditional Latin Mass and have the Novus Ordo.
UPDATE 21 April:
From a reader…
The Carmel had a visit from the Valparaiso Carmelites that just ended yesterday (4/19) — they were here since at least April 10. The visiting Carmelites were staying at Philadelphia’s cathedral. The Carmelite who did not leave is the Mother Prioress.