On April 6, 2016, a Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated by Most Rev. David Walkowiak to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Discalced Carmelite Monastery in the Diocese of Grand Rapids. Joined by 10 other priests, the Bishop told the assembled: “The confidence and consolation it gives us to know there are people who are pursuing the love of the Lord alone, and this is the focus of their lives, it gives us a model and an inspiration to do as much as we can in the same direction.”
The sisters also joyfully announce the reception of the habit and the new religious name of Miss Caley Nolan, now Sr. Mary Christina of the Holy Eucharist. Her family attends a local parish and her cousin also happens to be a priest in the Diocese!
The monastery is under the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a title dear to the sisters’ hearts for their foundress and 15 other nuns were forced to flee Mexico during the persecutions in the early part of the last century. They were founded by the Carmel in Queretaro, Mexico, and after many separations and stops, were welcomed to the diocese by Bishop Joseph Richter in 1916.
Their epic journey to Michigan is an incredible story. Their foundress, Mother Mary Elias of the Blessed Sacrament, was a woman who anticipated what was to come, prepared for it, faced it with courage and went back into the lion’s den time and time again to bring her sisters to safety.
Mother prayed to St. Therese, the Little Flower, not yet beatified, to help them out of their difficulties. She promised her that she would do all in her power to spread the Carmelite Order if they were spared. One day, Mother and another sister were led to a large yard to be executed. She knelt, saw the guns and heard the fire. When she regained consciousness, they were able to escape and though there was blood on their clothes, they were not injured. St. Therese had truly saved them.
From the little seed in Grand Rapids came foundations in Mexico (1919, 1936, 1940, 1950), Buffalo (1920), Schenectady (1923), Detroit (1926), Littleton (1947), Traverse City (1950), Iron Mountain (1950), and Denmark, WI (1992). She truly fulfilled her vow to the Little Flower to extend the order whenever she had the opportunity!