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RG 09: Aisquith Street Monastery, 1831-1873 (AISQ)

 Record Group
Identifier: RG 09-GAMMS.8

Scope and Contents

The move to Aisquith Street on September 13, 1831 and the subsequent incorporation, in 1832, in the State of Maryland, as "The Carmelite Sisters of Baltimore" marked a new phase of American Carmelite history. At Aisquith Street the Carmelite nuns would take up the apostolate previously offered by the first head of the Church in Baltimore, John Carroll. Driven by financial necessity and aware that the fourth bishop of Baltimore, James Whitfield, was correct in assuming that they could not "beg for alms" in the political and religious climate of the time, the Carmelite Sisters were willing to take up the apostolate of teaching--albeit with reluctance. In October of 1831, they opened the "Carmelite Sisters' Academy for the Education of Young Ladies." It would be the fourth academy for Catholic young women established in the United States. For the next twenty years,three or four nuns taught in the school, while the rest of the community maintained a kind of psychological distance.

In a house remodelled to serve the needs of a monastic group of women, the sisters pursued the traditional Carmelite life as they had lived it at Port Tobacco. With the only surviving member of the original founders, Siste rAloysia Matthews, and a quickly growing membership, they attempted to create an important monastic setting in the very heart of Baltimore.

First to be prioress at Aisquith Street was Sister Angela Teresa (Mudd); she would be followed by Sisters Gertrude (Bradburn), Delphina (Smith), Teresa (Sewall), Alberta (Smith), Gabriel (Boland), Antonia (Lynch) and Ignatius (Bauduy).

No longer were the sisters primarily from Maryland; the membership at Aisquith Street now included women from such key cities as Philadelphia andN ew York, as well as from the more traditional Catholic centers. More, the first immigrant was professed, as a lay sister, in 1837; she would be followed, during the Aisquith Street years, by several other candidates from the Emerald Isle. Another change was immediately apparent to those who remembered the sisters from the Port Tobacco days. Except for a few senior blacks, a remnant of those who had originally come as dowry and who had made the move to Baltimore with them, there were no longer any African Americans in residence. Other changes in population occurred. Between 1840 and 1860, nineteen sisters died and twenty-two entered--the peak decade of deaths occurring during the 1850s when fourteen Sisters died. Thus, the spirit of the founders became a matter of memory and moves to reconnect with the originating Carmels of the Low Countries took on renewed urgency. Had it not been for the twenty year existence of the academy, the presence of the Carmelite Sisters would otherwise have had very little direct impact upon the Baltimore populace.

Besides the yearly round of school activities that both altered the quiet monastery pattern and brought the monastery to the attention of outsiders, however, one particular event was to highlight the Sisters' history of their forty year tenure at Aisquith Street. In 1839, the community became notorious because of the famous "riot at the nunnery" precipitated by the "escape" of the mentally disturbed Sister Isabella (Olivia Neale) and the consequent stirring up of latent anti-Catholicism among certain of the Baltimore citizens who were bent upon "freeing" the nuns. Short-lived and relatively free from violence, the episode nevertheless made good news; it was both widely reported and debated in the local press and other parts ofthe nation.

The school was to have a number of important, positive effects upon the Carmel at Baltimore. For one, several of the young women educated there joined the monastery. The first of these was Camilla Magers who, as Sister Beatrix of the Holy Spirit, would become a founder of several American Carmels. Sister Louise (Peckocheck) was another promising student who entered Carmel in 1847 and became prioress after the community's move to Biddle Street.

As the community matured, some dramatic firsts were to occur at Aisquith Street: the first resignation of a prioress as Mother Teresa (Sewall) relinquished her position (1858) and this is part of a much larger story; the beginning of Baltimore Carmel's first foundation at St.Louis in 1863 under the direction of Sister Gabriel (Boland); the profession of the first member of German-American background (1871). During this period as well, the first concerted efforts on the part of the Baltimore Sisters to verify aspects of their rule, constitutions, and customs with those of their parent houses in England and on the continent occurred. In this endeavor, the Archbishops and clergy of Baltimore clearly exercised both interest and authority with regard to the Carmelite monastery. Just as Archbishop Whitfield had initiated the move toward beginning the school, Archbishop Francis Patrick Kenrick would probably not only be behind the closing of the school because of its inappropriateness with respect to their contemplative vocation but he was also active in researching the canonical status of the Sisters' vows. After his correspondence with Roman officials, the sisters were informed that that there was not sufficient evidence that the vows that they had been taking since their arrival in America could be viewed as solemn.

Several important chaplains served the monastery during this period; best known were the Sulpician provincial, L. Deluol, the Redemptorist who would later be named Bishop of Philadelphia and a canonized saint, John Nepomucene Neumann, and a saintly Spiritan, Mathieu Herard, who became one of the community’s greatest benefactors. Herard’s papers form one of the series of this record group.

On March 26, 1873, the Sisters moved from Aisquish St. to take possession of the Biddle Street monastery, their first American convent actually built to be a monastery. Under James Roosevelt Bayley who had been named Archbishop of Baltimore in 1872, with Mother Ignatius of the Greater Glory of God Bauduy as prioress, the sisters would begin the third episode of their American foundation.

Arranged chronologically within series and subseries.

Dates

  • 1831-1873
  • Majority of material found in 1840-1870

Extent

1.5 linear feet

Organization of the Collection

This collection is organized into series:
  1. Series 1, Series 1: Historical Notes, Aisquith Street
  2. Series 2, Series 2: Community Life and Spirituality, Aisquith Street
  3. Series 3, Series 3: Aisquith House Records
  4. Series 4, Series 4: School Records, 1831-1851
  5. Series 5, Series 5: Ceremonials and Customs, Aisquith Street
  6. Series 6, Series 6: Retreat notes, Aisquith Street
  7. Series 7, Series 7: Legal Records, Aisquith Street
  8. Series 8, Series 8: Business Records, Aisquith Street
  9. Series 9, Series 9: Correspondence, Aisquith Street
  10. Series 10, Series 10: Mathieu Herard Papers, CSSp, 1829-1839

Repository Details

Part of the Archives of the Carmelite Monastery of Baltimore Repository

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