Saturday, December 17, 2016

Carmel's History

   We, the community of the Carmel of the Assumption, had our beginnings in the early part of 1960 when Bishop William G. Connare invited Mother Marie Bernadette, prioress of the Carmel in Loretto, Pennsylvania, to found a new monastery in the Diocese of Greensburg, Pennsylvania.  Mother Marie Bernadette selected seven other sisters to accompany her, and in 1961 purchased a house in Lawson Heights known as the "Murphy mansion" as the site where the new monastery would be established.  Our property is situated on approximately 27 acres of land, a mile east of St. Vincent Archabbey, whose priests have faithfully served as our chaplains from the beginning to this day.  On May 26th, Sisters Catherine Marie and Mary Paul arrived in Latrobe to prepare the Altar Bread department and to begin cleaning the mansion for the Sisters who would follow a week later. On June 1st Mother Marie Bernadette and Sisters Anne Marya, Teresa, Miriam, Marie Elizabeth and Monica arrived.  The Benedictine Monks and Sisters and some members of the Sisters' families including Sr. Catherine Marie's brother, John Dowd, and Sr. Mary Paul's mother, Maina Cutri, and other volunteers were on the scene to assist us in readying the monastery for the day of the canonical establishment by Bishop Connare on June 10, 1961.  Bishop Connare was a faithful supporter of our Carmelite community throughout his life.  He would often visit us unexpectedly to find us in the midst of our many projects which he enjoyed observing.  He valued our life of prayer and our dedication to Our Lady of Mount Carmel whom he loved dearly.
   Three months after our establishment our novice, Sr. Marie Elizabeth, became the first to profess Carmelite vows in this diocese.  The following year the first two young women entered the community, one being our Sister Tanya.  By the late 60's our community was growing in numbers and needed to expand our living space.  The increasing demand for the Altar Breads we made as our means of support required an expansion of the work area in the monastery.  We eagerly embarked upon our first building project and engaged local contractors, the Pevarnik Brothers, to construct a wing onto the original mansion.  This addition to the monastery in 1970 housed a new altar bread facility on the first floor and twelve cells on the second floor.  Pevarnik Bros. had been the ones to remodel the Murphy mansion for our use in 1961 and had been faithful benefactors from the beginning.  Their mother and sister brought us our first meal from their own table on the evening of our arrival in Latrobe.  By 1972 there were seven new members in the Novitiate and a total of eighteen Nuns.  We were taking root here in western Pennsylvania.

   As the original mansion deteriorated we had it demolished in order to complete our monastery by extending westward from the work-wing adding a new Chapel, sacristy, bedrooms, kitchen, refectory, library, recreation room, infirmary section, and guest rooms.  By Christmas of 1982 we began to move into our new building which was completed by the dedication of our beautiful new chapel on March 25, 1983.

   St. Teresa encouraged her daughters to fidelity to the eremitical dimension of our Carmelite life.  This inspired us to construct two hermitages on our property to provide a place for the Sisters' annual personal retreat.  With a few helpers, the Sisters, with hammer and saw in hand, built these hermitages in 1972 and 1985, from materials salvaged from our previous building projects.  When we retire in solitude our intercessor prayer for all our benefactors abounds in thanksgiving for the blessing of these hermitages. 
   We experienced our first loss in death when Sister Mary Simon passed to the Lord in 1992 at the age of 94.  Our foundress, Sister Marie Bernadette, age 90, followed in 2000.  Five years later, 2005, Sister Monica died at age 73, followed two months later by Sister Catherine Marie, who had just celebrated her 86th birthday.  These beloved Sisters served the Lord so faithfully and now they pray for us from their place with God.  As the years passed, we rejoiced as eight members of our community celebrated the Golden Jubilees of their profession as Carmelites and four others marked their Silver Jubilees.  Together they represent many years of fidelity and generosity in Carmel's way of life.

   Unexpected intruders, termites, invaded our monastery entrance room in 2000.  We used the necessity of repairing the damage as an opportunity to add an upper room which has become library extension and meeting room. In 2007 it became necessary to consider the addition of an elevator to reach our offices and work rooms on the second floor as well as our basement laundry.  With some demolition we were able to install the elevator and add new rooms to replace those that were lost by the elevator shaft.  Our most recent improvement in 2010, was to repair the worn flooring in our Chapel and add new pews in preparation for our celebration of the Golden Jubilee of our foundation in 2011.

   We feel privileged to live among people of great faith who welcomed us to Latrobe fifty years ago and have assisted us until the present.  The Lord has blessed us through you, our supportive and generous friends who value our contemplative way of life and who assist us through prayer, service and alms.  It is with deep gratitude that we praise God for the Church of Greensburg and for our place in it.  Our hearts abound in thanksgiving!  We echo the words of our Holy Mother Teresa:  "The mercies of the Lord I will sing forever!"