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of the Carmel of
Carmelite Nuns of the Ancient Observance
“I brought you into the land of Carmel, to enjoy its fruits.” (Jer. 2)
In the Divine Plan, it was the zealous General of the Carmelites, the Most Reverend Father Elias P. Magennis, O. Carm., who was destined to undertake the leadership in the vast enterprise of expanding the vine of the Carmelite nuns of the Ancient Observance to the West.
In his zeal for the glory of his Order, and out of love for the Queen of Carmel, Father Magennis had long envisioned the idea of founding a Calced Carmel for cloistered nuns in America. He knew for a certainty that America's young womanhood, those inspired by the Almighty, would be drawn irresistibly to the Marian cloisters, where they would dedicate their youth, and their entire lives, to the holy service of Mary's Son, Our Lord and Saviour, JESUS CHRIST, by fervent prayer, penance, and hidden sacrifice. And so, his choice for the responsibility of such an undertaking fell upon the little Mother Therese of Jesus, and her companion, Sister Clement Mary of the Guardian Angel, while they were yet at the Carmel in Naples, Italy (see Biography of Mother Therese in this regard).
It was on October 15, 1930, the feast of the seraphic virgin of Carmel, Saint Teresa of Avila, that permission was granted by the Sacred Congregation of Religious, whereby the Reverend Mother Therese of Jesus and Sister Clement Mary of the Guardian Angel were canonically commissioned to found a Calced Carmelite Monastery of Papal Enclosure in America. And the two apparently insignificant nuns, relying entirely on the mercy of Divine Providence, did not hesitate to commence their enormous task. Unafraid of the cross-laden future, with twelve heavy trunks that contained "everything but a monastery building," they embarked in Naples, on the steamer "Providence," to sail for the fair land of America.
On NOVEMBER 13, the sturdy "Providence" reached Providence, Rhode Island, the first landing-point, of our two "pilgrims" in the New World. However, it was on the Feast of ALL SAINTS of the CARMELITE ORDER, November 14, 1930, that the actual place of disembarkation was reached at the New York pier.
~ ARRIVAL IN PENNSYLVANIA ~
The fervent Discalced Sisters of Carmel had long been in operation in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. However, His Eminence, Dennis Cardinal Dougherty, known for his outstanding missionary zeal, and for his singular devotion to the "Little Flower" of Carmel, was most pleased to welcome a foundation of the Carmelites of the Ancient Observance into his Archdiocese. This welcome was made all the more certain, since the Calced Carmelites intended to dedicate their new Monastery to this glorious daughter of Carmel, SAINT THERESE OF THE CHILD JESUS
On December 17, 1930, Mother Therese of Jesus, and Sister Clement Mary, were granted an audience with His Eminence, Dennis Cardinal Dougherty, the truly zealous and gracious Archbishop of Philadelphia.
~ GIFT FROM THE LITTLE KING ~
Little Therese, who faithfully looked after her two devoted proteges, was not slow in revealing her consoling proximity on this very memorable occasion, and really, her "roses," upon her two valiant sisters in Carmel she let fall in torrents. Wonderful, indeed, and most significant, too, that on the eve of the Birthday of the Little King, December 24, 1930, the required document was signed by His Eminence, Cardinal Dougherty, permitting Mother Therese and Sister Clement Mary to establish, in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, a Carmel of the Ancient Observance.
"0 Felix Allentown"
The Cardinal Archbishop commissioned the Right Reverend Monsignor Leo Gregory Fink, V.F., Rector of the Sacred Heart Church, Allentown, to assist the nuns in the selection of a suitable site for the new Monastery. Eventually, both His Eminence and Monsignor Fink named LANARK MANOR, a charming, picturesque suburb of Allentown, as the choice site and ideal location for a Monastery, dedicated to the contemplative life of Carmel. Thus directed by Monsignor Fink, Mother Therese purchased the Weibel Estate, at Lanark Manor, which comprised about five acres of land, a spacious residence containing seventeen rooms, a large four-car stone garage, and an artesian well to provide an excellent water-supply.
"SAINT THERESE'S VALLEY"
On May 22, 1931, the two Carmelites motored to Allentown.
It was MARY'S Month of MAY. Plants of various kinds, flowers of indescribable beauty, trees, graceful and stately, shrubbery, varied and unique, presented an almost ethereal sight. Even the terrific heat was tempered to moderation in this serene spot. A refreshing breeze seemed to play about the trees, causing them, especially the tall poplars, to sway gently, and to throw tantalizing shadows, here and there. Sweet-smelling flowers, too, nodded their heads in undisturbed contentment.
Undoubtedly, LANARK MANOR, at first sight, presented an enchanting picture, and Mother Therese said: "It is SAINT THERESE'S VALLEY!" And the nuns were immediately impressed with the majestic silence that prevailed in the scenic valley, a silence broken only by the joyous notes of little birds, welcoming the "pioneers," and warbling their sweet melody to the skies, as a grateful homage to their Adorable Creator. Their perpetual song intensified the sacred stillness, and enhanced the charm of the utter peacefulness and placid serenity that greeted our zealous Carmelites upon their advent into the sylvan valley.
The Development of the New Carmelite Foundation
~ SOME DIFFICULTIES ~
Superbly ideal as the site was, the project of locating this particular vicinity engendered many heartaches.
Not to mention the severance of friendly, sincere ties in Reading, the idea of the "water supply" created a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. The artesian well on the new premises was supplying water to the whole valley, numbering about sixteen or more houses, scattered throughout the area. And this task of supplying water to the surrounding area was no small obligation for the cloistered nuns.
Through the gracious ingenuity of Attorney James C. Lanshe, representing the Monastery, and the refined kindliness of attitude of Attorney Karl Y. Donecker, representing the Lanark Water Association, an amicable agreement was drawn up, protecting the Monastery and its water rights. However, this was not an overnight, task, but, actually, a problem that took several years to untangle, until finally the difficulties were ironed out satisfactorily.
And there were other drawbacks, too, especially the lack of sympathy of many of the neighbors, and even their open hostility. Some were not at all in harmony with the idea of having cloistered nuns dwelling in their midst.
Even Mr. Weibel, the owner of the Lanark Estates, was most reluctant to sell his property to "religious women," and he showed a bitter countenance to Mother Therese and to her companion when they were inspecting the property. But, then, he had never spoken to a Religious in his whole life. His ideas were very strange in regard to nuns. In spite of himself, he was deeply impressed by the charming personality of Mother Therese, and by the unassuming sweetness of her gentle companion.
Later on, when called to the Monastery on business matters, he made this admission: "I never realized that nuns could be so lovely." He showed a respectful esteem for the two foundresses, despite his original ideas.
~ First Mass and Solemn Opening ~
AFTER THEIR arrival at Lanark Manor, on the first three mornings, the two nuns heard Mass and received Holy Communion at Saint Joseph's Church, in Limeport. On the fourth day, May 26, which happened to be the transferred Feast of Saint Mary Magdalen di Pazzi, the First Holy Mass was celebrated in the new Carmel of Allentown by the Prior General of the Carmelite Order, the Most Reverend Father Elias P. Magennis, O. Carm., from Rome. Father Magennis likewise presided at the Solemn Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament, assisted by the Reverend Silverius J. Quigley, O. Carm., and the Reverend Michael J. Christie, O. Carm.
~ HERE DWELLS ETERNAL LOVE ~
What a source of delight, what an uplift of zest and fortitude His Divine Presence brought to His two spouses, who shared the ineffable joy of preparing the lovely and artistic silk trimmings for the Tabernacle. They deemed it a labor of love for the Saviour, and a real privilege to adorn His new Eucharistic Throne.
~ POPE PIUS SENDS HIS BLESSING FOR THE NEW CARMELITE FOUNDATION ~
Mother Therese and Sister Clement Mary were hardly three days at Lanark Manor, when they received a cablegram, coming directly from His Holiness, POPE PIUS XI, who had received the two foundresses in a special audience before they had left Italy.
It read as follows:
Citta del Vaticano May 25,1931
The above was followed by a cable from His Eminence, Cardinal Cerretti, also of the Vatican:
"My Blessing and My Best Wishes-" Cardinal Cerretti.
Another cable arrived, from the Roman Curia of the Carmelite Order, and signed by the Assistant General, the Very Reverend Hilary Maria Doswald, O. Carm.:
"Congratulations and Prayers"
~ FORMAL OPENING OF THE NEW CARMELITE FOUNDATION ~
Monsignor Fink, who had been appointed the Diocesan Visitor of the Carmelites, arranged for the formal opening of the new House, and for an impressive outdoor celebration. The affair was scheduled for June 8th. It was a singularly beautiful event. Solemn Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament was celebrated by Monsignor Fink, on an improvised altar, flanked by stately trees and graceful flowers, on the spacious grounds. The Reverend Charles F. Keller, J.C.D., and Reverend Edward Reichl, M.S.C., assisted the Monsignor. The Very Reverend Patrick Russell, O. Carm., New York City, delivered the sermon.
Over two thousand people were present. Special cars conveyed the people from Allentown, Bethlehem, and vicinity, through special arrangements made by Monsignor Fink. Reading and Philadelphia friends, likewise, came in great numbers. Special buses brought friends and visitors from New York and New Jersey.
In the procession were a great number of the Clergy, also, a dozen or so altar boys, and little girls in white, the children of Mary from Sacred Heart parish, Allentown. Then came our two Religious of Carmel, with downcast eyes, holding in one hand, a blessed candle, and the other was shielded beneath the Brown Scapular. There were a countless number of Sisters, representing the different Congregations in the vicinity, and then, the laity. All carried candles. And it reminded onlookers of the unique processions in the hallowed Grotto of Lourdes in France.
One who was present on this memorable occasion, mentioned that all eyes were turned on the two humble Carmelites, in their coarse brown robes, pure white mantles, and long black veils, looking devout and calm, with their pale, ascetic faces and recollected mien. Their very appearance, everything about them, inspired reverence and noble elevation of thought. Their peaceful, lowered gaze showed no interest in the glamour of the occasion.
They shunned the publicity of it all. And they would have been unspeakably glad to hide in some forgotten corner in their silent cloister rather than to face this glare of the outer world. However, the lamp of Faith burned brightly in their hearts. And Mother Therese's answer calmed the disquietude of her gentle companion: "Sister, this too is the Will of God!"
~ TWO NEW CARMELITE CANDIDATES ~
Who would have dreamed that in this immense throng of people, Our Lord was making His way among the crowd, and secretly, known only to Himself, was selecting two little girls, aged about fourteen and fifteen respectively, to be future candidates for this sacred Carmel, and to be among the first spiritual daughters of Mother Therese! Was it not fitting that Christ should choose His spouses, first of all, from the little town which He so honored, by placing on its border, a Monastery of CARMEL?
~ IMMEDIATE GROWTH OF THE CARMELITE COMMUNITY ~
Shortly after the official opening of the Carmel, a number of candidates presented themselves, so that, be, fore long, the little community numbered about eleven Sisters. Also, four nuns from the Monastery of Santa Croce di Lucca, Naples, were sent to the Allentown Carmel to help out, and after two years, they returned to their Convent in Italy.
To seclude the nuns from the outside world, the entire property was closed in by a nine-foot fence. This protecting wall afforded the much-needed privacy after the expansion work was begun. It met with disapproval among the neighbors, who openly criticized the high wall, and someone went so far as to insert an article in a small advertisement paper in Allentown, questioning the necessity of a high wall to enclose the nuns.
~ MANUAL WORK ~
A large section of the land was reserved for a garden patch. It was tilled at once, and the results showed that Mother Therese and Sister Clement Mary were good farmers. They raised vegetables of all kinds to carry them over the long winter months. But this was simply following securely their Holy Rule, which prescribes that:
Hard work or easy work, the Superiors rolled up their sleeves, and the young candidates were quick to follow their good example, so that all shared in the work of the Monastery.
~ THE CARMELITE NOVITIATE ~
Mother Therese's plan to have the large stone garage converted into the first wing of the real Monastery, was put into effect on April 19, 1934, when the work of construction was begun. On August 19, this building was solemnly blessed by the Right Reverend Monsignor Leo G. Fink, V.F., of Allentown. He was assisted by the Very Reverend Chrysostom J. Anderson, O. Carm., of Chicago, and by the Reverend John F. Wiesler, of Allentown. Then, on September 8, the Feast of Our Lady's Nativity, the first novices were installed in the novitiate wing of the Monastery.
~ THE INTERIOR ~
On the main floor of the Novitiate, we find a large refectory, the kitchen, and a small pantry. The second floor contains fourteen cells, destined for the novices and postulants. These cells flank the long corridor, at one end of which is the little "hermitage" of Our Lady of Peace. Seven additional cells and a large recreation room make up the third floor.
~ CARMELITE CELL ~
The cell is very simple. The furniture consists of a bed, made of two trestles supporting a platform of three boards on which is placed a mattress of corn husks and a straw pillow. A crucifix of wood, a §mall picture of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and another of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, are the only ornaments. The cell also contains a small table, a wooden chair, a holy water font, and a copy of the Rule and Constitutions.
~ THE NEW CARMEL'S MAUSOLEUM ~
Urged by inspiration, Mother Therese wished to provide a suitable burying place for the new Carmel. A little group of nuns undertook the task of building a beautiful crypt of stone. Mr. Theodore Reybitz, a teacher in the Bethlehem High School, together with his several friends, finished the building. As it stands now, the mausoleum looks, from a distance, like a tiny chapel, having little stained glass windows (the gift of Rev. Father Hammeke), and a neat altar in it, in the center of which is enthroned a large Crucifix. Little did the holy Foundress suspect that she would be the first to be interred there.
Had she not directly provided for the vault, the very first Sister to die would have been buried in an outside cemetery, and that would have meant a separation from the very beginning. The foreseeing Mother wished to avoid this. Thus, the timely erection of the crypt found provision ready for the emergency.
~ "NECESSITY HAS NO LAW" ~
The Incomparable Mother of Carmel, MARY IMMACULATE, inflamed many young hearts to respond to the call to the interior life of Her Order, so that it was imperative for Mother Therese to provide immediately for a complete Monastery. Her happy group of nuns, aided by generous volunteers, became diggers, carpenters, plasterers, painters, electricians, and general laborers for the growing Carmel. One Sister even became official "boiler-man."
It must be admitted that sacrifice was not a matter of surprise to these generous souls who, inspired and encouraged by the stimulating example of the exemplary foundresses, welcomed the occasions of self-sacrifice, the countless privations, and untold inconveniences. They worked and prayed together with true fervor of spirit, and despite the enormous activity, Mother Therese and Sister Clement Mary saw to it that they followed the strict observance of the Rule, and kept intact their enclosure as far as was possible in their unconventional surroundings.
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