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RG 05: Official Records: Baltimore and Vatican (OfCh)

 Record Group
Identifier: RG 05-GAMMS.4

Scope and Contents

From the time of their arrival in 1790, the Carmelite nuns of Baltimore maintained formal ties with both church and civic administrative personnel, in both Baltimore and Rome by means of correspondence or more formal petitions; they also kept historical materials indicative of their close association with the see of Baltimore and the church of Rome. The care with which the Sisters kept the various offices of church and state informed of their activities or asked permission to alter those aspects of their community life that they thought fitting can be seen by means of the correspondence they engaged in, the permissions they sought, and the decrees, official documents or papers they received from the offices involved. The records kept by the community indicate that the nuns not only wanted to preserve the responses of various church officials but that they intended to keep the records of these changes as proof that the changes for alternative procedures of ceremonials were duly granted. It is particularly evidenced in the "Book of Permissions" they kept; in chronological order they inserted the permissions received, the legal status acknowledged or the contracts agreed upon that governed the lives of the Carmelite nuns of Baltimore.

As early as 1792, Mother Bernardina Matthews received the first letter from Bishop John Carroll who wrote to inform them, among other things, that he "had taken the liberty" to tell the Cardinal Prefect of the Propaganda Fide that he "wished that if it were consistent with your Constitution to employ yourselves in the education of young persons of your own sex." Despite their decision not to pursue this ministry, subsequent correspondence from Carroll remained encouraging, warm and supportive.

With his successors, the same close collaboration and interest was sustained. Thus, Bishop James Whitfield (1780-1834) worked closely to help the nuns relocate to Aisquith Street in 1831, at which time they did agree to engage in teaching as an expedient for survival. In another show of interest, Archbishop Francis Patrick Kenrick (1797-1863) displayed a particular interest in canonical regulations of their life. During the years that James Cardinal Gibbons (1834-1921) was Archbishop, the tradition of advice giving, requests for indulgences, and general support continued. The close collaboration of Baltimore Carmel at the time of renewal is again evidenced in the correspondence between Lawrence Cardinal Shehan (1898-1984) and the Prioresses.

The Book of Permissions particularly reflects the formal aspects of Baltimore Carmel's relationship with the Archdiocese and Rome. The very first document, dated 1792, establishes the "devotion of the most Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary" and promotes it by means of the granting of a plenary indulgence. As the offices of the Vatican became more specifically organized, the correspondence mirrored the change; the ties remain closely intertwined between diocese and papal offices throughout.

The Sisters also kept pastoral letters, correspondence directed to special constituencies and commemorative materials related to the Bishops and the Archdiocese of Baltimore. These also comprise the official records of Baltimore Carmel.


  • Creation: 1783-1990
  • Creation: Majority of material found in 1850-1940


3 linear feet

Organization of the Collection

This collection is organized into series:

  1. Series 1, Series 1: Archbishops of Balt,Correspondence and Pastorals
  2. Series 2, Series 2: Auxiliary Bishops and Chancery
  3. Series 3, Series 3: Vatican: Official Correspondence
  4. Series 4, Series 4: Book of Permissions
  5. Series 5, Series 5: Canonical Visitations
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Archives of the Carmelite Monastery of Baltimore Repository

1318 Dulaney Valley Road
Baltimore MD 21286 USA