The Renovation of the Chapel of a Carmelite Monastery in Michigan


A little known Carmel of Discalced Carmelites in Traverse City, Michigan (Diocese of Gaylord) is garnering attention among traditional Catholics and young women discerning.  It has an interesting history -- it was founded by nuns who came originally from Mexico, fleeing persecution.  The small convent is set to grow.  There are many young women discerning, looking for more options.  Just a couple of years ago the nuns made the switch to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, a giant leap in an effort to return to their liturgical patrimony and spiritual roots.  As a side note, the O. Carms celebrate the ancient Carmelite Rite, while the Discalced Carmelites adopted the Missal of Trent in the sixteenth century.  Daily Masses are open to the public.  The daily Mass schedule in the EF is 7:30 am on Sundays (a Missa Cantata) and Saturdays and 6:55 am on weekdays.  At the moment, the OF is celebrated in the chapel ad orientem twice a month on a weekday.  Interested young women who may be discerning are encouraged to write directly to the Reverend Mother.      

Each Carmel is a little different.  The sisters at the Traverse City monastery live a cloistered life, complete with traditional Carmelite spirituality.  Their choir in the chapel is set up with a single grill, attached to the side of the sanctuary.  Their visitors' parlor has a double grill, veiled with a curtain.  Items are passed through a traditional sort of cabinet known as a turn, built in the wall.  The nuns maintain the full habit, papal enclosure, the 1990 Constitutions, Divine Office and Holy Mass sung in Gregorian Chant, with Mass, Office and Sacraments celebrated in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.  The spiritual rhythms and music of the convent life bring to mind the life of the Little Flower during her extraordinary life and short time in the convent in France.  The sisters are fortunate to have such a fine chaplain in residence, our good friend Fr. Philip Gerard Johnson, a distinguished graduate of the US Naval Academy.    

The interior of the convent chapel was completely renovated in 2012 by the great Catholic architect, Duncan G. Stroik.  The chapel was built in 1962, following the construction of the monastery which began in 1959.  The chapel's stained glass windows were installed in 2009, created by Fr. Richard Cannuli OSA, a master iconographer who has since passed.  The 2012 chapel renovation was initiated in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of its dedication in '62.  The sisters wished to update the chapel in order to inspire greater piety among both the nuns and those who visit.  The new Renaissance interior shines with new marbled altar and tabernacle, mahogany woodwork with gold leaf, new statues and furnishings, new oak pews, all newly fashioned hand-crafted.  The sisters' grill can be seen in the photo below on the wall on the Gospel side of the altar.  

The Latin inscription in gold leaf above the entrance to the sanctuary is a fitting quote from Isaiah 56:7: "I will bring them to my holy mountain and make them joyful in my house of prayer."  Photos of the chapel renovation, a little oratory, can be seen here.  This brings to mind a quote from the Rule of St. Albert, the rule given to Carmelites in the 1200's: "Let an oratory be erected...in the midst of the cells, where you are to assemble every morning to hear Mass."      

God bless the sisters for their fidelity to the monastic traditions of the Latin Church.  Having the EF is a giant plus.  I have no doubt this wonderful community will continue to flourish as heaven rewards the humble sisters for their faith and good works, through the intercession of the prophet Elijah, the founder of the Carmelite Order.  And may St. Teresa of Avila, foundress of the Discalced Carmelites along with their co-founder St. John of the Cross, continue to bless them and intercede for their community now as always.  Let us pray!



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