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RG 01: Carmelite Order (CO)

 Record Group
Identifier: RG 01-GAMMS.10

Scope and Contents

The beginnings of the Carmelite Order can be traced to the first decades of the thirteenth century when a group of hermits who were already living a life of contemplative prayer on Mt. Carmel received a written rule from Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem. Within thirty years, these hermits had returned to the west where they continued their Carmelite way of life. By 1462 pious women were admitted in groups into the order by Blessed John Soreth. Some one hundred years later, at the time of the counterreformation (and the Council of Trent) Teresa of Avila (Spain) reformed both the Carmelite nuns and friars. The steady advance of the Carmelite Order from Spain in the early 1600s by her companions and successors soon made possible two foundations in the Low Countries, Antwerp and Hoogstraet. These would, in turn, become the founding communities for the American monastery begun at Port Tobacco in 1790.

During the several hundred years of Carmelite reform since the time of Saints Teresa and John of the Cross, contemplative life was lived out to its fullest on both continents. A procession of saints of the order offered new models to be emulated; foundations multiplied. The American Carmelite family preserved details of their European roots and their development here, as well as the living story of the spread of the Carmelite tradition down the generations and across the oceans. Further, they collected the histories and spiritual writings of their Carmelite ancestors as well as of other members of the international community, kept in contact with the Generalate in Rome, retained official chapter proceedings or pronouncements. Later they would follow with similar care and interest the developments that occurred with respect to the Carmelites of the Ancient Observance.

Although the entire history of the Carmelite Order is held in great reverence, the records of the Baltimore Carmel concentrate more on the interaction of those who first ventured from the Low Countries to begin Carmel in America and with the worldwide development of the order. The deep love and affection that the Baltimore nuns had for their Holy Mother Teresa and later blessed members of the congregations is also clearly evidenced by this first record group.

Especially interesting among these records is the increased involvement, manifested through correspondence, that the Baltimore nuns developed with Carmels in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Not only did the nuns think it appropriate to keep close ties with the Generalate in Rome, often for the purposes of gaining perspective on their own customs, constitutions, and ceremonials, but at the same time, they believed it important to reach out to help the growing network of Carmels in missionary territories. The records indicate the degree to which they saw these vast new areas as their mission as well. Their contacts with certain of these Carmels would increase dramatically during the twentieth century, taking on remarkable and diversified form in the years immediately following the second World War. In particular, these records reveal the close bond of spiritual friendship and active assistance that existed between Baltimore Carmel and many of the Carmels most adversely affected by the economic and political crises engendered by war.

When, however, Baltimore Carmel sent two Sisters to help in the development of Carmels in the Philippines Carmel in 1947, the clearest example of Carmelite bonding is evidenced. From the time that Sisters John and Aloysius first settled at Jaro, the correspondence between the various Philippines Carmels and Baltimore Carmel indicated that a new phase of their history had begun. These records of the Philippine Carmels (especially Jaro and Naga Carmels where the two Sisters took leadership roles) can, thus, be seen as one of the best sources for understanding the missionary impulse of Baltimore Carmelites.

The Carmelite Order also early developed a third, or secular, order as a sign of their belief in the importance of their faith alliance with all Christians. The papers and other miscellaneous materials kept by the Baltimore nuns, from the first pamphlet sent to them in 1876 from the Superior General concerning the regulations that guided this organization, comprises still another series of the Carmelite Records.

Arranged by series, subseries, and chronologically.

Dates

  • 1700-1990
  • Majority of material found in 1850-1980

Extent

3.5 linear feet

Organization of the Collection

This collection is organized into series:
  1. Series 1, Series 1: History of the Carmelite Order
  2. Series 2, Series 2: Saints of the Carmelite Order
  3. Series 3, Series 3: Spiritual Writings of Other Carmelites
  4. Series 4, Series 4: Generalate Records
  5. Series 5, Series 5: Ancient Observance Generalate Records
  6. Series 6, Series 6: Worldwide Carmel, Nuns and Friars
  7. Series 7, Series 7: Secular (Third) Order Records

Repository Details

Part of the Archives of the Carmelite Monastery of Baltimore Repository

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