With the loss of so many vocations over the past fifty years, we’ve seen a general (and often severe) contraction of religious orders across the board. Every once in a while, however, you come across an account of a religious order that is actually growing, sometimes explosively so.
The Discalced Carmelites, however, are on the rebound.
Since 2000, the Carmelites have been faced with the sort of challenge many religious orders pine for: a boom in vocations. In that year, the nuns moved into the monastery at Elysburg, Pennsylvania from their original home in Nebraska, which they soon outgrew. They were thus granted permission to take over another declining Carmelite monastery, the Carmel of St. Joseph and St. Anne, in Philadelphia — and filled that one with vocations as well. So finally, with the community having overflowed its lodgings twice, the Carmelites received permission last summer from His Excellency Ronald Gainer, bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg, to expand operations again, this time constructing a new monastery from the ground up.
According to their superior, Mother Stella, “I think the young women are drawn to beauty in the liturgy. They know that if God exists, if God is on our altars, if God is within the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, then He needs to be worshiped as He deserves: with beauty and reverence,” she said of what she thinks draws young women to the Carmelites in particular. “They see that we have that here in our monastery, and they want to be a part of that. They also want something that is authentic, that goes back to the time of our holy mother, St. Teresa.”
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