History

In 1885, a big, brusque, forty-three year old Scotsman moved his family from their home in Canada to a small town on Puget Sound called Seattle. 

Malcolm McDougal was a man of vision who made and lost several fortunes in one lifetime.  In his judgment, Seattle would be the city of the future in the Northwest.  Because of the failing health of his adored wife, Mary, he was prompted to leave their home in Orillia, Ontario, and come to Seattle.  This move would prove to be pivotal in the history of our Carmel as you will see!

Mr. McDougal left home as a young man to seek his fortune in the rough logging camps of lower Ontario.  He was the youngest of ten children, a tireless worker who seemed to thrive on challenge and hardship.  He was also an extremely devout Catholic. If he missed Mass out in the Canadian woods, he attended two Masses on the next Sunday when he came back into civilization.

Even as a boy, his mature judgment and forceful character inspired honor and respect in his superiors, and he was soon placed in charge of large crews of men.  Success came rapidly, and by the time he was a young man, his various interests in the timber industry placed him in the front ranks of Canadian lumbermen.

He and Mary McRae were married on Wolfe Island, Ontario, by the Bishop of Kingston in 1872.  God blessed this union with five children, two of whom died in infancy.  It was after the death of their youngest child that he determined to move his family to a more favorable climate.

After spending a few months in a Seattle hotel, the McDougals leased a house at the corner of Third and Spring Street.  A year later, they bought a home on Yesler Avenue near Holy Names Academy where Rosemary and Anna were enrolled.

In 1887, Mr. McDougal bought a 360-acre tract of land 13 miles south of Seattle and there built a large house, which soon became their permanent residence.  They called their home Orillia after their home in Canada.
The two girls were sent to the Visitation Nuns’ Academy in Tacoma, but there were no Catholic boys’ boarding schools in the area for their ten-year-old son, Alphonse.  A family friend, Rev. Charles Mackin, S. J., Rector of a Jesuit school for boys in Spokane, offered to take responsibility for Alphonse.  In the fall of 1889, Alphonse was sent to Spokane to receive his education.

A precocious, strong-willed child, Alphonse was killed in a tragic accident the following spring.  While following a group of young Scholastics from nearby Gonzaga College, over a bridge one hundred feet above a riverbank, the boy missed his footing and fell to his death.

The very week of his death, Alphonse had written a story for the school in which he tells of a little boy who fell down the stairs, and woke up in the arms of St. Joseph.  From childhood, Alphonse had an unusually deep devotion to St. Joseph.  The day Alphonse died was the feast of St. Joseph, and this fact strengthened the family’s devotion to this great saint.
Four years later the family was to lose another member, but not by death.  Anna Albinus, by now twenty years old, had been seriously considering a religious vocation.  She learned about Carmel through a Jesuit priest in California.  At the time, there were only four American Carmels: Baltimore, St. Louis, New Orleans, and Boston.

After corresponding with the Baltimore Carmel for some time, she made her decision to enter.  On December 8, 1894, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, she entered the monastery and later became known as Sister Cyril of the Mother of God.

The McDougals made yearly trips to Baltimore to visit their daughter.  After the death of his wife in 1907, Mr. McDougal, weary of the trips across country, wanted to sponsor a foundation on the West Coast in memory of his wife.  He made this suggestion to the Prioress while visiting the Baltimore Carmel, but nothing was acted upon.  Unknown to Mr. McDougal, the bishop of Seattle, Bishop Edward O’Dea, also had a desire for a Carmelite Monastery in his diocese.

As luck would have it, both men were brought together one evening to discuss some business matters.  In the course of the conversation, Mr. McDougal mentioned his yearly trip to visit his daughter and shared with the Bishop his dream of a Carmel on the West Coast.  Personally, he felt that California would be the best place for the foundation because of the weather.  Bishop O’Dea said, with a twinkle in his eye, “If you make that foundation in California I’ll excommunicate you!”  Mr. McDougal replied, “Well, if you want them here, you’d better act right now.”  The Bishop wired the Baltimore Carmel that very night, and invited them to Seattle.  On February 20, 1908, the Baltimore Chapter nuns voted to accept the proposal for the new monastery.  During a visit with the community on March 18, Cardinal James Gibbons of Baltimore gave his permission and blessing for the new foundation.  Four nuns were selected to become the foundresses of the West Coast foundation:  Prioress, Mother Raphael of Divine Providence (Adelaide Keating), Sub-Prioress, Sister Cyril of the Mother of God (Anna Albinus McDougal), Sister Agnes of the Immaculate Conception (Mary Agnes Kelly); and a postulant, Clara Bienlein.  Clara became Sr. Mary of the Heart of Jesus and lived until 1977.

Upon hearing the positive results of the Bishop’s request, Mr. McDougal chose a small site on Capitol Hill, in Seattle, for the new monastery.  He signed the deed to the property on May 9, 1908, the Feast of the Patronage of St. Joseph.  Afraid of the reaction of the neighbors to having a monastery in their midst, he let it be known that he was building a residence “for his sweetheart,” leaving everyone free to think what they would and himself free to concentrate on the task at hand.  Each day he would be waiting for the day’s ration of wood and supplies for the new monastery with red marker in hand.  Every piece of lumber that went into the building had to pass his inspection.  If he detected a flaw in the plank, he would mark it with a red check and that piece of lumber was rejected.  His critical eye has been well rewarded.  Today, one hundred years later, the building is still in use.  It is now the Sonshine Inn, a rehabilitation center run by Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission.

Several months later, on July 1, 1908, Mr. McDougal arrived in Baltimore to escort the little party to the West Coast.  On July 3, in the midst of a tremendous heat wave, they began their journey by train across the country to their new home in Seattle.

Arrival in Seattle

They arrived in Seattle to make the first foundation on the West Coast--the seventh in the nation--on July 8, 1908.  Although construction of the Monastery was well underway, it was not completed; therefore, the community decided to remain at the McDougal home until all arrangements were made.  On the morning after their arrival, they celebrated Mass at the McDougal home and were paid a visit by Bishop O'Dea, who kindly granted permission for the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament in their little Chapel.

Mother Raphael described their living quarters and life at Orillia:  "We have rooms on the upper floor and only go down for Mass, for our meals which are private and for a little exercise in the evening.  We have a dear little piazza just out of one of our rooms where we can sit in the afternoon.  The view from all points is very fine, and Mount Rainier can be seen from nearly all the windows."  Their days of waiting at Orillia passed peacefully and happily.  They rose at 4:45am, made their prayer, said their office and assisted at Mass as nearly as possible at the usual times.  They had their recreation regularly and spent the ordinary time of silence in sewing, writing, and other necessary work.

Four months after their arrival in Seattle, the Monastery was completed, and on December 7 they left Orillia and set out for Seattle.  The next morning Bishop O'Dea celebrated Mass, blessed the house, and "preached a fine sermon."  Both the Chapel and the Monastery were then placed--as were twelve of St. Teresa's original foundations--under the patronage of the glorious St. Joseph.

This first monastery of St. Joseph's in Seattle was located at 1808 18th Avenue on the corner of 18th Avenue and East Howell Street on Capitol Hill.  It was a large two-story, red brick building which looked more like a large home than a monastery.  Since the bricks for the enclosure wall were unavailable and workmen were still in the garden, the sisters remained inside the monastery until May, not even venturing outside.

Mr. McDougal and his oldest daughter, Rosemary, remained very devoted to the community.  On December 26, 1915, however, after assisting at Benediction at the monastery, Mr. McDougal became seriously ill.  A room was prepared for him in the out-quarters of the monastery and every attention given him, but when he did not rally after a few hours, a priest was called to administer the Last Sacraments.  He died at midday on December 27, 1915, the following day, of a heart attack, at the age of 73.  His passing was deeply felt in Carmel, and his charity will never be forgotten.

Carmel grew slowly but surely.  After Mother Raphael suffered a severe stroke, Bishop O'Dea relieved her of her duties on November 11, 1919, and Mother Cyril was appointed prioress.  While she was prioress, she corresponded with the prioress of the Santa Clara Carmel in California, which was founded a few months after the arrival of the sisters in Seattle.  It was from Mother Agnes of the Santa Clara Carmel that the Seattle nuns learned about Mother Aloysius of the Boston Carmel with whom she had been in the novitiate, and who was to play a special part in the growth and development of St. Joseph's Carmel.

Servant of God Mother Aloysius

Soon after the death of Mother Cyril in July, 1933, Bishop Shaughnessy appointed Mother Ignatius of Jesus (Marie Louise Mootz) as prioress.  Young and inexperienced as an administrator, Mother Ignatius felt the need of assistance from another community.  It was at this time that our Carmel was privileged to have intimate contact with one whose cause for beatification has now been introduced.  Mother Aloysius of the Blessed Sacrament arrived here in July, 1934, and remained with the sisters until October, 1936.  Her parting words were, "Sisters, see that God is loved above all."  Her motherly concern for the Seattle Carmel continued after her departure and became the source of enduring friendships with many eastern Carmels.  She subsequently established a Carmelite foundation in Concord, New Hampshire.  The Seattle community loved her dearly and felt it keenly when God called her to Himself in April, 1961.

The New Monastery

It was in the early sixties also that plans in Seattle were being finalized for the construction of a new St. Joseph's monastery.

The monastery on Capitol Hill was not well designed for Carmelite life.  The property consisted only of three-fourths of an acre; during World War II, houses were built right up to the enclosure wall; and eventually apartment buildings were constructed on the south and north sides, permitting little privacy in the garden.

Shortly after the death of Mother Cyril, Bishop Shaughnessy recommended looking for a new location, and after his visitation in 1950, Archbishop Connolly also encouraged the sisters to locate a new site.  The sisters decided to establish a building fund as they pursued the search for a reasonably-priced location.  Finally in 1956 a suitable five-acre tract (the present site) recommended by the Archbishop was purchased.  However, funds for the building were non-existent.  It was through the good will and unflagging efforts of many devoted friends, together with the Archbishop's concern in asking each parish to give one-half of the Christmas collection of 1962 to this cause, that our project got underway.  Mr. Ralph O. Lund, the patient and understanding architect, drew the final plans which met with the approval of all concerned.  Work began on June 24, 1964, and on July 12, 1965, the sisters were in their new home.  The following day the Archbishop offered Mass for the community and blessed each room.

On July 16, 1965, Archbishop Connolly celebrated a pontifical Mass during which Carmel's friends joined with the sisters and the priests of the archdiocese in a public act of thanksgiving.

In July, 2008, we celebrated the centenary of the founding of our Carmel.