Have you ever seen a procession of all the Religious Orders in the Church? Did you recognize that the Carmelites were first? Why is this? Carmel takes its inspiration from the ancient Prophet Elijah and Mary, the Mother of Jesus and Patroness of the Order.
The Original Carmelites
The original Carmelites were hermits who settled on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land where St. Elijah the prophet had lived in Old Testament times. In 1204, they received a rule that expressed clearly their charism “to meditate day and night on the law of the Lord and to watch in prayer.” Today the Discalced Carmelite Nuns live as hermits in community, following the inspiration of St. Teresa of Jesus, reformer of the Order in the 16th century.
In response to the plight of the Church and world of her time St. Teresa sought to live the evangelical councils to the best of her ability. For this reason she founded monasteries where the nuns would be able to follow the “primitive rule” of the Order. She desired that these monasteries be houses of prayer where Jesus would find true friends. She writes in the Way of Perfection, “ . . . all I care for is that as the enemies of God are so many and His friends so few, these latter might at least be good ones” (cf. Way 1:2) Today there are sixty-six Discalced Carmelite Monasteries in the US.
Carmel of Little Rock
The Carmelite nuns in Little Rock were founded in 1950 from the Carmel of Loretto, PA in response to an invitation from the bishop of Little Rock, Albert Fletcher. The first mass for the new community was celebrated August 22, 1950 and one month later the Carmel was canonically erected.
During the early years the young community had it’s full share of trials living in a temporary house not suited for a monastic way of life. They also had the disadvantage of being located next door to the School Board offices that were actually bombed in 1959 during that volatile period of the equal rights movement. Providently this led to the relocation of the community. In the late summer of 1959 the community moved into their new monastery built on property donated by the diocese, 22 acres of wooded land.
The most outstanding feature of the monastery is its rather large chapel with its steep roof situated against a backdrop of pine and oak trees. The first mass was offered there on September 19, 1961. Bishop Fletcher and his successors, Bishop Emeritus Andrew McDonald and Bishop Peter Sartin, have all been true pastors to the community giving guidance and helping in many other ways. Most recently Bishop Sartin blessed the entire building and the grounds upon the completion of the renovation.
We are a community of 14 at present, including one sister in formation for the extern vocation. We give thanks and praise to God for his gracious providence to our community for so many years. We are blessed to be a house of prayer in this mission diocese of Little Rock, where we strive to be “daughters of the Church” as Our Holy Mother St. Teresa desires us to be. Our privilege is to intercede through our daily life of prayer and sacrifice, love, sorrow and joy on behalf of the many who request our prayers, for our Holy Church and for the whole world.