Welcome to the Carmelite Sisters of Erie

More than sixty years ago, desirous of building a seminary in his diocese of Erie, Pennsylvania, the Most Rev. John Mark Gannon sought prayer support for his seminarians and vocations. Turning to the Carmel of Wheeling, West Virginia, the Archbishop extended an invitation, asking that some of the nuns be sent for this purpose.

A photo of Archbishop Gannon with members of Carmel in 1957. Archbishop John Mark Gannon of Erie stands with members of the Carmel of the Holy Family who moved to Erie from West Virginia in 1957.

Led by Mother Mary of Jesus Crucified as first Prioress, six Carmelites arrived in Erie in February of 1957 and founded the Carmel of the Holy Family on a corner of the future seminary property. The last member of these original six, Mother Emmanuel of the Mother of God, recently passed away on April 9, 2016.

Like all Carmelites, the nuns trace their roots back to the Prophet Elijah who not only encountered the living God in Israel, but also saw Our Lady in a rising cloud on Mount Carmel, 900 years before Christ. His words, taken from Holy Scripture, are the Carmelite motto: “With zeal I have been zealous for the Lord God of Hosts” (1 Kgs 19:10).

Early 13th century hermits living on the slopes of Mount Carmel began the Order of the “Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel,” honoring Mary as their patroness. She, in turn, promised St. Peter Thomas, a bishop of the Order, that it would endure until the end of time, indicating that Elijah had obtained this favor from her Son on the Mount of Transfiguration.

It is Mary who shines as their model of the evangelical virtues. On July 16, 1251, Our Lady appeared to St. Simon Stock, prior General of the Carmelite Order in England and presented him with the brown scapular which the Carmelites have worn and promulgated ever since. She promised him: “Whoever dies in this garment shall not suffer eternal fire.”

In the 16th century, St. Teresa of Avila instituted a reform of the Carmelite Order in Spain. She became the foundress of the Discalced Carmelites whose members follow the Primitive Rule. Unceasing prayer and the offering of themselves in penance and sacrifice for the Church, especially her priests, is the most important and apostolic aspect of the Teresian Reform.

In 1790, the first Carmelite monastery in the United States was founded in Maryland. The Wheeling, West Virginia, monastery was founded in 1913, and in 1957, the six founding nuns left Wheeling and came to Erie. In 1997, a Carmelite monastery was founded in Siberia, Russia, by Mother Teresa Mary, a former member of the Erie community.