Carmelite sisters moving from Capital City

After 53 years, the last of the Carmelite sisters will be leaving their Jefferson City monastery at 2201 West Main St. in December.

After 53 years, the last of the Carmelite sisters will be leaving their Jefferson City monastery at 2201 West Main St. in December. Photo by Kris Wilson.

They have shared the ministry of providing altar bread to parishes across Missouri. Now they will share a home.

The three remaining sisters at the Carmelite Monastery, 2201 Main St., will move to the Benedictine Monastery in Clyde on Dec. 2, ending the order’s 53 years in Jefferson City.

The Benedictine sisters, with whom the Carmelites have worked, invited the elderly sisters this summer.

“What is most important to us as contemplative religious women will be shared in common: the chapel, daily Liturgy, library and our love for and dedication to prayer,” said Prioress Mother Marie Therese DuBois.

Several developments in recent years caused the Carmelite community to consider its future, including fewer women entering vocations, the age of remaining sisters and the loss of several sisters.

In 2006, when the sisters were separated for a time due to significant rehabilitation of their monastery, their number was nine.

“Each time we gathered to share our reflections and where we sensed God was leading us, it became clear that continuing to maintain our identity as the Carmel of the Diocese of Jefferson City was to be a major part of the criteria in choosing a future,” said Mother Marie.

In March, several Benedictine Sisters of Clyde visited the local Carmelites to discuss the production and distribution of altar breads.

In July, the Prioress General and Local Prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Clyde formally invited the Carmelites to move to a residence next to the northwest Missouri monastery’s chapel, where they also will have access to a skilled nursing facility.

“All of this has been a steady process through which the Holy Spirit has revealed to us a life-giving alternative for our community,” said Mother Marie.

The Carmelites visited Clyde recently and joined the Benedictines for the Liturgy and Divine Office. That gave them opportunity to experience the semi-enclosed life there.

The result of that gathering was a “greater appreciation of each other’s spirit as well as a deepening of our own,” Mother Marie said.

It has become increasingly common for Carmelite and other communities of women religious to relocate to convents of other canonical religious groups due to reduced numbers, health needs, declining physical plants and other issues, said Dan Joyce, diocese communications director.

In 2011, the Carmelites reached out to Sister Kathleen Wegman of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, who is the Delegate to Religious, to help the sisters examine their priorities, needs and future.

“We all felt strongly that living faithfully our ministry of prayer for the Diocese of Jefferson City continued to be our call, wherever that would take us,” Mother Marie said. “Our zeal to be faithful to our call and charism was always a guiding force.”

“This has been a very difficult decision for us, but we believe it is God’s loving will and this choice will enable us to move forward more gracefully,” said Mother Marie.

The Most Rev. John R. Gaydos, bishop of Jefferson City, said that “while they will be in a different place, I am pleased that the Sisters of our Carmel will be continuing their mission of prayer for the people of the Diocese of Jefferson City.”

The sisters moved to the Diocese of Jefferson City from Santa Fe, N.M., in 1960, following an invitation from the late Bishop Joseph Marling. Although they are an independent community, they have received some support from the diocese.

The Carmelite chapel has been open to the public 6:30 a.m-4:30 p.m. daily for services, private visits or a quiet setting. Nearly three dozen community members attend daily morning Mass there.

The building will remain Carmelite property.

Despite their troubles, the sisters have continued to live their life as faithfully as possible, she said.

“Our limitations are ever before us each time the three of us gather for the chanting of the Divine Office and the various customs called for in our Constitutions,” she said.

This move will enable them to continue their regimen of communal prayer, study and sacrifice for the benefit of the universal church. Although their new home will be in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, the sisters will continue to remember the Diocese of Jefferson City in their prayers.

“As my predecessor, Bishop Joseph M. Marling, noted at the beginning of the Carmel’s ministry in 1960, their continued presence ‘is a constant reminder that we, too, are to fix our eyes upon heaven, and that the more we turn our backs upon the world, the greater will be our happiness and peace,’” Bishop Gaydos said.

The Carmelites will move Dec. 2, following a Mass of Celebration on Dec. 1 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph.

Accompanying photo: Carmelite Jefferson City monastery


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