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RG 02: Carmels of Low Countries and Continent (LC/C)

 Record Group
Identifier: RG 02-GAMMS.1

Scope and Contents

The continental Discalced Carmelite tradition began with Mother Anne of Jesus (Lobera) and five other Spanish nuns who were the first Carmelites (or Teresians) to cross the Pyrenees to France. They arrived in Paris in October 1604 and immediately founded a Carmel there. A second monastery was begun shortly thereafter; Anne of St. Bartholomew (Garcia) became its first superior. The Low Countries became the next destination for the spread of Carmel. In 1607, Anne of Jesus established a Carmel at Brussels; it was at this Carmel that she would die in 1621. At Antwerp, the first monastery of English-speaking Carmelites was established in 1619; its first prioress--and the first English women to become a Carmelite--was Ann of the Ascension (Worsley). Because Mother Ann had made her profession under, and had lived with, the Spanish mothers and first daughters of St. Teresa, amd had an especially close friendship with Mother Anne of St. Bartholomew, she was able to exemplify very accurately the primitive spirit of the Order. This tie, especially the one with Holy Mother Teresa, would prove increasingly important to the succeeding generations of English women who chose the English-speaking Carmel at Antwerp as their Carmel or who founded monasteries from it. With the establishment of Hoogstraet in 1678, the two Carmels of the Low Countries that eventually became the initiators of Carmel in America had been established.

Plans to found a monastery in the new world had been tentatively begun in the mid-eighteenth century after several Maryland women had entered Carmels in the Low Countries. At Antwerp, the American-born Prioress, Mother Mary Margaret of the Angels Brent, made preparations to lead such a group, but died in 1784. At Hoogstraet, three Maryland-born nuns, Mother Mary Bernardina Teresa Xavier of St. Joseph Matthews, the prioress, and her two nieces, Sisters Mary Eleanore of St. Francis Xavier and Mary Aloysia of the Blessed Trinity Matthews, also engaged in the same process. Finally, in 1790, when a number of propitious events converged, a founding party was set. Headed by their chaplain and fellow Marylander, the Reverend Charles Neale, a Jesuit novice prior to the suppression of the Jesuits, it consisted of four sisters: one from Antwerp (Sister Clare Joseph Dickinson of the Sacred Heart) and three from Hoogstraet (Mother Bernardina and her nieces). Beginning in April of 1790, this party of chaplain and nuns, together with another former Jesuit, made what proved to be a difficult journey to the United States where, the following July 21st they began community life and founded the first Carmel in the newly formed United States at Chandler's Hope in Southern Maryland. On October 15 they moved the community to Port Tobacco, Maryland.

Within the next few years, the European Carmels from which this foundation began would be forced to close because of the French Revolution and its aftermath. The nuns from these Carmels would find it necessary to relocate to England. Despite this move, these nuns would continue to correspond with the nuns at Port Tobacco and, later, Baltimore.

This record group reflects the two historical phenomena of exodus that occurred in the Low Countries during the 1790s: the foundation in America and the reestablishment and development of new Carmels in England by the exiled nuns. The historical, financial, and spiritual records from these English-speaking Carmels brought by the founding sisters to America comprise the first series of the records; the second consists of the papers of Mother Mary Margaret Brent, the only American member of the founding group who did not eventually make the journey. The remaining series consists of post 1790 correspondence and other information received by the American Carmelites, sent from the re-established Carmels at Lanherne, Canfordhouse, Valognes, Chichester, and Darlington, or from other European Carmels associated with the original Carmels. Of historical importance are the number of letters written, especially by the Lanherne sisters, in answer to the repeated requests of the American Carmelites for information about ancient customs as well as about biographical and historical details concerning their founders.

Arranged by series, and subseries.

Dates

  • 1600-1950
  • Majority of material found in 1750-1950

Extent

1.5 linear feet

Organization of the Collection

This collection is organized into series:
  1. Series 1, Series 1: Foundation Documents, Low Countries/Continent
  2. Series 2, Series 2: Papers of Sister M. Margaret of the Angels Brent
  3. Series 3, Series 3: Correspondence and Historical Materials, 1790-

Repository Details

Part of the Archives of the Carmelite Monastery of Baltimore Repository

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