What is Carmel?

The first Carmelite hermits appeared on the scene in the late 12th century, probably around the year 1191.  They were primarily uneducated lay penitents from the Latin West, with perhaps some priests, who ventured to the Holy Land as pilgrims or Crusaders and chose to remain in Palestine as hermits.  These first hermits lived in deserted places, away from the activity of towns and society, each settling in separate, cave-like dwellings or cells on Mt. Carmel near the spring of Elijah.  They were contemplatives living a life of prayer, silence, solitude and penance with a special emphasis on an intense relationship with Jesus.  The hermits formed a loose-knit community that had no ties with any established ecclesial order, though their dedication to Mary led them to become known as the brothers of St. Mary of Mount Carmel.  By 1300 these lay penitents were recognized as a religious order by the Holy See and given full canonical status as Carmelite friars and brothers.

St Teresa of Avila

The Carmelite Nuns were admitted to the Order in 1452, and in the 16th century St. Teresa of Avila initiated a reform of the Order that began in Spain, spread throughout the world, and led to the establishment of the Teresian Carmel of which we are a part. In 1790, four Carmelite Nuns from Flanders in Belgium crossed the Atlantic Ocean to make the first foundation at Port Tobacco, Maryland. Eventually this settlement of nuns moved to Baltimore. St. Joseph’s Monastery in Seattle was founded in 1908 by a little band of four nuns who ventured from the Baltimore Carmel by train at the request of Archbishop Edward O’Dea. St. Joseph’s Monastery is the 7th Carmelite Monastery to be founded in the United States and the first on the West Coast.