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RG 13: Restorers of Southern Maryland (RES)

 Record Group
Identifier: RG 13-GAMMS.13

Scope and Contents

This collection is comprised of papers belonging to The Restorers of Mount Carmel in Southern Maryland, a lay organization founded in 1933 for the express purpose of restoring the two historic buildings remaining on the property which had belonged to the Carmelite Nuns from 1790 to 1831 when the community removed from that place to Aisquith Street in Baltimore City.

The person most responsible for inaugurating the restoration was Isabelle Talbott Hagerty. Following a June retreat at Georgetown Visitation in 1933, under the direction of Father Francis Burke, SJ, Isabelle asked Father John Farley, SJ, (1868-1934), to explain the life of the Carmelite Nuns to her as she had no knowledge of them. In August, she and her mother, Mae Hamilton Talbott, spent a week of solitary prayer at "Hawthorne," her mother's family home which looked out in the direction of the Monastery, though Isabelle was unaware of this at the time. While making a social call at "Hanson Hill" before leaving "Hawthorne," Isabelle was told the story of the Nuns who had lived at Mount Carmel a century earlier. She and her mother were immediately moved to do something about restoring the ruins. They approached Father Farley, SJ, and found him a willing associate until his sudden death on September 21, 1934. Together they gathered a group of interested individuals and approached Archbishop Michael J. Curley in Baltimore who supported their project and proposed the name "The Restorers of Mount Carmel in Maryland."

In November 1933 Isabelle wrote to Edward L. Sanders asking whether the site of the First Carmel could be purchased for the purpose of restoration. Sanders replied in the negative for his mother but indicated that he would like to speak with Mrs. Talbott about the matter. Negotiations continued until an agreement was reached and the deed for the property was delivered to the Restorers on April 22, 1936.

In the month following Father Farley's death, Mrs. Talbott, Isabelle, and Miss Mary Kolb called on Archbishop Curley and asked him to appoint a successor. He suggested Father Laurence Kelly, SJ, (1870-1955), Pastor of Saint Aloysius Church in Washington, DC. The committee called on Father Kelly who agreed to accept the post, which he held almost until his death on October 15, 1955.

It had been Isabelle's hope that the original committee should be made up of persons related to the first community of Carmelites, as well as others. The committee of the original Washington Chapter did in fact include Mrs. B.E. Talbott and Mrs. J.J. Hagerty (related to Janet Hammersley and the Boarmans), Mary and Margaret Merrick (Brookes and Matthews), Mrs. Frank Hill, Mrs. Thomas Foley (nee Dyer), Mrs. Irene (Dyer) Spangler (Sr. Euphrasia Mudd), Mrs. Moncure Burke (Sr. Juliana Sewell), Ella Loraine Dorsey (Baker Brooke), Mrs. Henry Hamilton Powell (Edelin), as well as Mary Kolb, Lucy Hurley, Mrs. Leo Codd, and Mrs. J. Garesche Ord.

The Restorers sought new members and held lectures and concerts to raise funds for their work. Among the lecturers were Monsignor Peter Guilday, Frances Parkinson Keyes, and Father John LaFarge, SJ, Howard Mitchell, Alfredo Oswald, SJ, and the Georgetown Concert Choir, among others, provided evenings of music.

In 1935, a tentative Constitution was approved. The group conducted several pilgrimages to Mount Carmel each year. The Prioresses of Carmels in the United States were asked to suggest names of people who might be interested in furthering the project.

When Isabelle Haggerty moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1935, she set about forming a Chapter of the Restorers in the Boston Area. The southern Maryland Chapter was inaugurated in 1937. Sometime later, a Chapter was formed in New York, which however, was never as active as the Boston group.

The architect Philip H. Frohman, a convert to Catholicism, was deeply interested in the project and offered his services to the group. In 1936, he was authorized to draw up plans for the restoration of the two remaining buildings. On July 16, 1938, Bishop John McNamara rededicated these buildings at Mount Carmel.

During the next thirty years, the Restorers provided a road to the Monastery, built restroom facilities and furnished the original buildings, largely with artifacts preserved and donated by the nuns in Baltmore Carmel, whose original monastery Port Tobacco was. A newly built Chapel was dedicated in 1965. The group continued to lead pilgrimages and provide hospitality at Mount Carmel in order to encourage the maintenance of this "Marian Shrine in Southern Maryland."

When Father Kelly was no longer able to fulfill the chaplaincy of the group, he suggested that the group ask Father William Horigan, SJ (1905-1971) to replace him. Father Horigan was at the time pastor of Sacred Heart Church, La Plata, and he was also the brother of Sr. Dolores in Oklahoma Carmel. He continued in this ministry until his death October 27, 1971. When he jokingly suggested she might come to Port Tobacco, Sr. Dolores said, “No, it belongs to Baltimore Carmel.”

In 1947, when the Baltimore archdiocese was divided, and the archdiocese of Washington created, the Port Tobacco property fell within the boundaries of the new archdiocese and the Restorers found themselves and their project in the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Washington. This movement was to change the history of the Port Tobacco site to the great regret of Lawrence Cardinal Shehan, Archbishop of Baltimore. From the earliest period of the Restorers there was an avid interest in having the Nuns from Baltimore return to Mount Carmel, their original monastery. A great deal of correspondence related to this project from Mothers Seraphim Brynes, Mary Magdalen Brunck and Celine Arnold, succeeding prioresses of Baltimore Carmel, is included in Series Eight. However, William Cardinal O’Boyle had other plans. His former secretary had entered the Boston Carmel and he had, according to his auxiliary, Bishop McNamara, promised the foundation to her. Although the Baltimore nuns proposed a foundation to Cardinal O’Boyle in the early sixties, he refused saying he had enough religious communities in his archdiocese. Nevertheless, Sr. Teresa Paul, his former secretary, with several companions returned to the property in 1976 with the approval of Cardinal O'Boyle, but independent of the Restorers.

The collection contains ten series. Each series is arranged in chronological order.

Dates

  • 1930-1980

Extent

3.5 linear feet

Organization of the Collection

This collection is organized into series:
  1. Series 1, Series 1: Foundational Papers
  2. Series 2, Series 2: Business Papers
  3. Series 3, Series 3: Rev. Laurence J. Kelly, SJ: Personal Papers
  4. Series 4, Series 4: Secretary's Papers
  5. Series 5, Series 5: Treasurer's Papers
  6. Series 6, Series 6: Activities
  7. Series 7, Series 7: Publicity
  8. Series 8, Series 8: Correspondence
  9. Series 9, Series 9: Historical Documents of the Restorers
  10. Series 10, Series 10: Photographs

Repository Details

Part of the Archives of the Carmelite Monastery of Baltimore Repository

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