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Carmel of Mary

It was over 800 years ago when a group of hermits gathered around the Well of Elijah on Mount Carmel in Israel. Sometime between 1206 and 1214, Albert of Jerusalem crafted a document with 16 articles outlining the rules for monastic life in the group, which is known as the Carmelite Order. A little over 200 years later, in 1452, Prior General John Soreth founded Our Lady of Angels in Florence. It was the first order of Carmelite nuns. Their popularity quickly spread through Belgium, France, and Spain, and fast forward over 500 years to Wahpeton, North Dakota, we find the nuns opening the Carmel of Mary Monastery on Rice Lake in 1954.

These nuns came from the Allentown monastery in Pennsylvania. With their numbers growing every year, they needed to open another center. Mr. Patrick Flood, a professor at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, knew about their situation and had recently found an appeal for more Indian Missions in North Dakota. He wrote Bishop Leo F. Dworschak of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fargo to ask if he had any interest in a cloistered Carmelite order for his diocese. As it turned out, the Bishop and Cardinal Muench had been looking and praying for a way to honor Mother Mary for the year of Marian in 1954. They immediately began negotiations, and a group of Franciscan Sisters soon agreed to sell St. Mary’s hospital for the monastery.

On the Feast of Christ, a group of eight sisters left the Society of the Little Flower and began their journey to the Great Plains. After staying overnight in Fargo, they travelled to Wahpeton, and on this date in 1954 they celebrated the first mass at the new site.

The order still exists today. They value a life rooted in contemplation. They describe this way of life as a commitment to prayer, community, and service, demonstrated by their schedule, which consists of time for prayer, group meals, and manual labor like cleaning or gardening. While the order has probably changed since being started by John Soreth so many years ago, it is remarkable that a group with such old roots in the Holy Land ended up on a peaceful lake in eastern North Dakota.

Dakota Datebook written by Lucid Thomas






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