New Carmelite house

On July 24, five cloistered Carmelite nuns arrived in their newest foundation in the bucolic landscape near Moraga, California. The new foundation is Carmel of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph of Canyon, California. The nuns are from the Carmelite monastery in Valparaiso, in the diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, headed by Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz. The Carmelite rule, established by Saint Teresa of Avila, stipulates that a Carmelite community may number no more than 21 women. Her observation was that when this number was exceeded, loss of community occurs. The Valparaiso community had exceeded that number.

The arrival of the sisters is timely. The last remaining cloistered nuns in the diocese of Oakland had been the Carmelites at the Monastery of Christ the Exiled King in Kensington. The monastery was established in 1948. But as the sisters grew older, their experience was described in a 2005 article in the Oakland Catholic Voice: “Recent years have been ‘a phase of communal suffering,’ the nun said, because members of the community are growing older and fewer, and it has become more difficult to carry out work duties and meet the obligations of prayer.” Recently, the elderly members of the Kensington community joined their sisters at the Cristo Rey Monastery in San Francisco. Oakland’s Bishop (San Francisco’s new Archbishop) Salvatore Cordileone recognized the need for a cloistered order in his diocese.

For 27 years, San Francisco’s Ignatius Press had been located in a building rented from the Carmelites, right next to their monastery of Cristo Rey. The editor at Ignatius, Father Joseph Fessio, thus had a close relationship with the Carmelites–one of his former secretaries had joined the order – and familiarity with their needs and the need of the Oakland diocese.

Earlier this year, CalCatholic reported on the 50th anniversary of ordination of  Father Cornelius Buckley, chaplain at Thomas Aquinas College. On March 14 there was a testimonial dinner in San Francisco honoring  Father Buckley. One of the speakers was his old friend Father Fessio. The event was attended by prominent Catholics—two of whom were Bill and Mary McInerny.  Father Fessio approached Mr. McInerny and said “Bill, you’ve got friends. What can we do about getting the Carmelites reestablished in Oakland?”  Father Fessio told CalCatholic “Bill took the bull by the horns” and within one week spoke to members of the McCosker family, solid Catholics who have owned a ranch four miles from Montclair, since the presidency of Benjamin Harrison. Family members met with Bishop Cordileone, Mr. McInerny, and  Father Fessio and agreed to find a way to provide the Carmelites with a permanent location on the land, in honor of their parents.  Father Fessio said “The whole foundation is due to the generosity of the McCoskers and the heroic efforts of Bill McInerny.”

The Carmelites were met at the airport by Bishop Cordileone, who accompanied them to their new home. The premises are not yet finished, and the Carmelites will still be in need of support, as they fulfill their mission as “… women who have discovered the absolute value of the Kingdom of God, and wish to realize this in their monasteries, as a praying sisterhood at the service of the Church.”

The Carmelites hope to build a full monastery, capable of housing 21 community members. Now the on-site building is capable of housing the five advance members (one of whom, Sr. Perpetua, is  Father Fessio’s former secretary), although it is being subdivided to house 6-7 additional members who will arrive soon. The sisters can use assistance with their day-to-day expenses. The chapel is up and running. The inaugural Mass in the chapel was celebrated on Wednesday, July 25 at 7:00 a.m. The celebrant was Bishop Cordileone.

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  1. Yes, real nuns in real habits, these are the real deal, Holy sisters obediant to Rome and the Holy Father and yes the Traditional Latin Mass. Please pray for these good sisters and may their ranks swell. Deo Gratias!

  2. Clinton R. says:

    This is what nuns are supposed to look and act like. Not like those heretical loons traveling around on their bus.

    • John J. Hills says:

      Would you have thought it unkind and/or broadly indicative of the referents, if the groups you support were referred to as “loons.”

      • You do not have to be a faithful Catholic to do charity or social work … many religions do this; but these religions do not do what the bishops could do. Maybe because they’ve never seen anyone do what the bishops could do but don’t.

  3. Father Joseph Fessio of Ignatius Press must be a very holy priest. Thank you Fr. Fessio for your service to the Catholic Church. I love Ignatius Press.

    • I am not sure where to send a possilbe correction to this article so I will post it here:
      Others and I have learned the Ignatius Press did NOT pay rent for most of the 27 years stated in the article. It was the extraordinary charity of the Carmel of Cristo Rey who provided the Igantius Press its rent-free housing except for some comparatively minor upkeep expenses. This may be a major contributing reason why the Press has the success it does have today. Remarkable how much seems to be rooted in these Cristo Rey Nuns including the now burgeoning Carmels of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (who seem to be becoming kind of a Tridentine Discalced Carmelite “brand” given how they are naming their Carmels with the same title). May God reward all who serve for the greater glory!

  4. Thomas Edward Miles says:

    The first task of the sisters should be to pray for the new Archbishop of San Francisco, he will need the prayers with all of his far right wing baggage and or agenda! San Francisco is not Trent, however, it may become pre-Trent with the new AB in charge!! “Happy days are here again”!! Archbishop John J. Mitty was a left wing liberal compared to the new Archbishop!! God help us!!!!!

    • Canisius says:

      Whats the matter Tommy is reality become too much to handle, let the great purge of the leftist filth begin….

      • Kathryn says:

        What a lovely Christian sentiment. It’s never in keeping with the Gospel when people start to put their political allegiances before their faith. That goes for the left, the right, and everywhere in between.

    • tomboy, how many “right wingers” do you know who are gay?

  5. Amen. Amen. Praise God for these beautiful NUNS!

  6. St. Christopher says:

    This is a very good thing, for Oakland, for CA, and for all. These are wonderful nuns and fully Traditional. Soon most of the LCWR will “retire” and more and more traditional women religious will take their place. Similarly, more and more people will embrace the true Mass, once they know about it. Why else do the craven bishops disobey the Holy Father and ignore his intent in Summorum Pontificum.

    • Laudetur Iesus Christus,
      st. Christopher, are you kidding!
      Why else do the craven bishops disobey the Holy Father and ignore his intent in Summorum Pontificum.
      Pope Francis do not respect at all Summorum Pontificum,what Benedict XVI start! Even worse and wired, Pope Francis ruin the best of all the Franciscans of the Immaculate in Italy. I know 2 friars there, they are holly fathers, they live daily life like friars should in complete poverty with mortification and fasting with Tridentine Mass. Francis broke rights for Summorum Pontificum. For their Sisters also. But as a Catholic you should to know what is going on in our catholic world. My Pope is still Benedict XVI. I think we live in similar years of St Athanasius. +

  7. Thank you, Archbishop Cordileone, Fr. Fessio, Bill McInerny, and the McCosker family!

    And a slightly belated Congratulations to Archbishop Cordileone on your new and very challenging assignment. Please make sure that a worthy and holy priest succeeds you as Bishop of the Oakland Diocese.

  8. Good things are happening out there in California, of which you people should be happy about, even if these Holy Sisters prefer the so-called traditional Latin Mass. +JMJ+

  9. Laus Deo. It would be nice to know how we can contribute financially to the needs of these Sisters who are a most welcome addition to the diocese of Oakland. And Praise Bishop Cordileone for resonding to the need for the presence of these wonderful Carmelite Sisters in the East Bay.

  10. Canisius says:

    Excellent as oppose to the LCWR these are true nuns,,, God Bless them all… I second Janek sentiment may their ranks soon swell

  11. Laurette Elsberry says:

    The sisters’ new home in Canyon is less than five miles from CINO (Catholic in name only) St. Mary’s College in Rheem, near Moraga. This might be one of the first items of prayer for the sisters: Pray for the conversion of St. Mary’s College and its students and faculty.

    • Catherine says:

      “Pray for the conversion of St. Mary’s College and its students and faculty.” … “You pay God a compliment by asking great things of Him.”….Santa Teresa de Jesus

  12. Dian Gabbett says:

    How very blessed this Diocese is to have these Carmelite prayer
    warriors .May God reward these Daughters of the Church, in time
    and in Eternity.

  13. What happened to the Kensington house?

  14. Abeca Christian says:

    Praise God, our Lord brings beauty in area’s that are ugly, to bring forth conversion in Christ. These beautiful nuns inspire us all. God bless them!

  15. Elizabeth says:

    The REAL DEAL !!!

  16. Praise God. Beautiful nuns that are following the rule of St. Teresa of Avila, who worked and suffered to reform her order to real holiness. May Our Queen of Carmel bless your community abundantly dear sisters.

  17. Catherine says:

    Thank you Archbishop Cordileone! “What a great favor God does to those He places in the company of good people.”…..Santa Teresa de Jesus

  18. Like Arbp elect Cordelione does not know who will “have his back” when he moves across the bridge to San Fracisco? I guess he does. Prayers for much spiritual success for Arbp Cordelione and the Sisters. May they both be blest.

  19. Joan Cruz says:

    Would you kindly give me the address of this new congregation so that a donation can be sent. Thank you.

  20. Michael P. Mc Crory. says:

    The conversion of this “catholioc” College of St. Mary’s would indeed be a great start for these happy group of nuns. Over twenty years ago my son, a student, was criticised by the priest’s there for leading a weekly rosary group.
    ” We don’t do that now.”

    Good for Fr. Fessio and all for making it happen.
    Just this month I attended the taking of their Perpetual Vows by another group of Carmelite nuns, in Monrovia Ca. It was the most beautiful service I have ever witnessed.

    OH HAPPY DAY.
    (Carmelite Perpetual Profession of Vows)

    Oh, what a smile from heaven
    On this wonderous day
    Four, pure, brides of Jesus
    Have given their lives away

    Returned them to their owner
    – Total and complete –
    The rest of us but stand in awe
    At this tremendous feat

    And such a grace- that Mother Church
    – In these tumultuous times –
    Can so inspire in souls such love
    These lofty heights to climb

    “The greatest gain to all the world
    Is the perfection of one soul”
    One foot in heaven have they now
    In reaching for their goal

    In a world that’s surely gone astray
    You are the antidote
    Your promised Him ” Forever ”
    And fill us all with hope.

  21. Robert B says:

    If you wish to donate or send prayer requests please send to:
    Carmel of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph of Canyon, CA
    P.O. Box 183
    Canyon‎ CA‎ 94516

  22. There must be more to the story of how these Carmelites came to be in Oakland, because when I was lucky enough to meet Bishop Cordileone in September 2010, I told him I’d visited the Valparaiso Carmelites and he said he hoped to persuade them to make their new foundation in his diocese (which was Oakland at the time– now he’s just been promoted to oversee San Francisco and its surroundings including Oakland.) He said they wanted farmland away from crowds and if I recall correctly he said he already knew of a place that would be suitable. I don’t know if that’s the farm they ended up on, but at any rate he’s been trying to get ’em for a while now. I’ve been praying they would come to Oakland and am very, very glad to hear this news, all the more so since Bishop Cordileone will need their prayers more than ever. And I’m grateful to the people mentioned in this article who donated their time and land to help make it happen!

  23. God Bless you Archbishop Cordilone in your new assignment. Please recommed Fr. Direen, Pastor of St. Joseph the Worker for the next Bishop of Oakland.

  24. ogloriosavirginum says:

    Praised be Jesus Christ! Now and forever! I heard they tried to go to Oakland before the foundation in Elysburg in 2009. Things fell things and then they were invited to Harrisburg. So yes, this one has been in the works for a while. I’ve been googling Oakland Carmelite “new foundation” etc. periodically for over a year now, maybe two 🙂 I’m glad to hear it’s really happening now 🙂

  25. Lee Gilbert says:

    We spent the weekend visiting the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Canyon, CA.

    Our understanding is that the nuns are currently leasing the land from the McClosker family for a year with a view towards discovering the feasibility of building a monastery there.

    There was nary a complaint from anyone we spoke with, but here is the situation:

    They have a three bedroom home and a lodge. The home has been converted to cells for the five nuns who are presently there. The lodge contains the chapel, the kitchen and the refectory The chapel is by far the largest room in the lodge, and probably takes up three fifths of the space. .Another five nuns will be arriving on August 24th, and significant portions of the lodge will have to be converted into an additional five cells. At present, it looks as though the refectory will be made to double as cells for two nuns. While this is do-able, and one expects contemplative nuns to make sacrifices with a smile, practically anyone can appreciate how unwieldy it would be to make one’s dining room or family room double as a bedroom over a period of years.

    IF they decide to build a monastery there, it will be a few years before they can inhabit it and resume a normal Carmelite life. In the meantime, they have to figure out how to become an enclosed community within a situation that requires many modifications to accomplish this.

    Just to take one example, restroom facilities for visitors are deep within the lodge, but for Mass on Sunday there were something like twenty people, fifteen of them children. This is in an area that is a good ten miles away from public facilities of any kind.

    Carmelite nuns do not want to be on display, and anyone who has visited the chapel at Valparaiso knows that during all their singing at Mass they are entirely out of sight, but as things are currently configured at Canyon this hidden-ness is not possible. Yet, if we wish them to live a Carmelite life, and thus to remain the Carmelites we want them to be, it needs to be made possible.

    The same may be said for the necessity of a speakroom and a turn.

    Obviously, this house and lodge cannot be and should not be made into the ideal Carmelite environment, but if only some people with architectural/design/ construction experience would step forward to show them how to render the current situation much more conformable to Carmelite life. In other words, make it possible for them to stay.

    They would like to be enclosed as of August 24th

    • ogloriosavirginum says:

      Praised be Jesus Christ! Just wondering if anyone knows whether or not they were solemnly enclosed today, the 450th anniversary of the first Discalced Carmel of San Jose in Avila. God bless!

    • How will the Nuns build a monastery if they do not own the land yet? In other words, wouldn’t they need to buy land before they build a monastery?

      • Lee Gilbert says:

        Well, my guess-only a guess- is that they are leasing the land and living on it with a view toward understanding how feasible it would be to build and live in a monastery on that site. Presumably they would have ownership of the land, or a sufficient part of the land, before going ahead with construction.

        BTW, the Pontifical Mass of dedication will be at St. Monica’s in Moraga on Sept 21 at 2PM, Abp Cordileone celebrating.

  26. Anne Bonnie says:

    I feel very sorry for the nuns of the beautiful Kensington (Berkeley hills) monastery that closed. Many of them spent their entire lives there and are buried there; are they to be forgotten? It is a gorgeous building, like a little castle, and I had thought the nuns from Nebraska were going to use that building. I am sure the Moraga location is lovely, but it seems a shame that they are building a new building when such a perfect monastery already exists. And Berkeley is in such need of prayers!

  27. Praising God for vocations to the contemplative life. If you’re happy to see this group of nuns and this vocation, pledge to send $10 a month directly to them so their daily needs can be met. With all the readers here, surely that would be a blessing.

  28. What times are services at the Carmel of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in Canyon?

    Thank you.

  29. Robert M. says:

    The Mass times for the Carmel in Canyon are now posted at carmelites-of-canyon.blogspot.com Please note that the times posted are updated regularly, but may change without prior notice on the website.

  30. Is it true the Nuns have left Moraga?

  31. The former nuns of the Kensington Carmel were just as habited and just as observant as those who are coming in. Many an observant fully habited Carmel in the US and Europe is dying out or ageing. The Valparaiso phenomenon is probably due to their Latin mass and office. It may not last. The number of sisters/nuns in the US and Europe continues to plummet–check the figures on CARA. While most of these are the non-habited orders the posters so despise, the numbers of habited sisters/nuns are not making up for it. As with the cloistered orders, there are only a few actived habited orders that are growing rapidly, notably the Dominicans of St. Cecilia in Nashville and their daughter order the Dominicans of Mary Mother of the Eucharist, and a handful of others.

  32. Anne Bonnie says:

    Wouldn’t it make more financial sense for the Nuns in Moraga to move into an existing monastery that has already been remodeled for enclosed nuns – namely the beautiful but now empty Kensington/Berkeley monastery? And there is also the nearby and still operational Carmelite monastery in San Rafael, CA – Marin County. They wear full habits and are in need of vocations.

    • No, Anne re: Kensington because it has not be remodeled and the location has problems so it would likely be a misuse of funds. For more info, go to site where it is offered for sale, 68 Rincon Road. Don’t know if the two communities (Tridentines and San Rafael) would be compatible in that they have different constitutions…looks like the move of the Tridentine Carmelites to Oakland was not given any forethought.

  33. Bubbles15 says:

    I have one question, is the Carmel of Jesus Mary and Joseph still full of nuns because I wanted to join the convent but I didn’t know. Thanks and God Bless!

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