Listen to the Sisters singing
History of the Carmel of the Holy Face of Jesus
On March 19, 2014, five of us said goodbye to our beloved monastery in Alexandria, South Dakota and made our way north to the town of Hague in Emmons County, North Dakota. It was a much shorter distance in miles than the journey 17 years earlier from Buffalo, New York to South Dakota, but nonetheless, it took just as much faith and confidence in God.
Although it is customary for the Prioress appointed for a new Foundation to carry a statue of the Infant of Prague on the journey, our statue was not ready by March 19 and had to be sent up several weeks later. Instead, our Prioress bore a Relic of the True Cross. Upon arrival at the newly renovated Monastery, we began singing the “Salve Regina,” as we processed with the Relic to the Choir and enthroned the Relic on the Choir Altar beneath a beautiful bronze image of the Holy Face of Jesus. There we remained briefly in prayer, our hearts full of gratitude to God. Thus was begun the Carmel of the Holy Face of Jesus.
Waiting to welcome us to the Diocese were the Chancellor and another Diocesan staff member, who were soon enlisted to help unload and move boxes, statues, etc. into the renovated farmhouse. One of the Sister’s family who drove up with us stayed to help us move in as well. Much unpacking and arranging followed and all was in readiness by 7:30 am on March 20 for the first Holy Mass, celebrated by our chaplain, Fr. Leonard Eckroth, a retired priest of the Bismarck Diocese. The Blessed Sacrament was reserved in the Tabernacle and thus the Carmel was officially opened, according to the criteria of Our Holy Mother, Saint Teresa.
Over the next five weeks the entire house was put in order and soon it began to function as a real monastery, though in miniature. Neighbors pitched in to help clean up the yard and outbuildings, did long over-due road maintenance on the long driveway, and countless other projects. Divine Providence has surely blessed this fledgling Carmel with good neighbors, ready to help out in any necessity.
Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of Easter week the doors of the Carmel were opened to the public and the we gave tours to all who came, introducing the Faithful of the Diocese to the cloistered contemplative life of Carmel and answering many questions, as well as making efforts to spread devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus. Finally, on Saturday, April 26, the Enclosure was established by Bishop David D. Kagan, following a Solemn Mass and Blessing of the various rooms of the Monastery, restoring to us our beloved silence and solitude.
Shortly after our arrival in Hague, Fr. Eckroth had offered to obtain Papal Blessings for each of the Sisters as well as one for the Community. These blessings arrived in May and it was with surprise and delight that we noted that the date on the individual Papal Blessings was April 26th. Only Our Good God in His loving Providence could have arranged that on the very day the Bishop was blessing the Monastery and establishing the Enclosure, so also in Vatican City, His Holiness, Pope Francis was imparting his benediction to us in this new little Carmel of the Holy Face of Jesus.
Even after the Enclosure Ceremony in April, we still did not have any enclosure fence. We were not able to erect the privacy fence until the latter part of June because the ground was still frozen due to the bitter cold winter this past year. Many of our neighbors and friends volunteered to help us with starting a garden and they felt quite free to come during the day to work behind the monastery since there was no fence or wall. The first thing they did was to put up a rabbit fence to enclose the vegetables that bunnies like best. We found out that there are other things like gophers and chipmunks and squirrels that like our neighbors’ vegetables too but so far our plants have escaped their notice.
Though the property is not desirable for cropland because it is very wet in three main areas, we think it is perfectly suited for our contemplative life. The elevated center part of the land, where the temporary Monastery and the proposed building site are, overlooks the wetland area in the back. “The pond,” as we call it, is very conducive to prayer. We have chain link fencing which is destined to totally enclose the back part of the property but even now, the higher surrounding land provides a natural seclusion (except when farmers have to plant, spray and harvest their crops.) The planting of trees will be helpful to ensure more privacy as well.
Since the farmhouse we are now living in has only enough room for five Sisters, we hope to start building a permanent monastery soon, the first wing of which will include a novitiate so that we can begin receiving new members. If you are interested in helping to fund our future monastery or if you would like to receive future mailings from the Carmel of the Holy Face, please write or call us and we will add you to our mailing list. All donations are tax deductible.
May God in His Mercy continue to bless this work which He has begun and cause this Carmel to grow and flourish, being fervently employed in making reparation for the increasingly numerous blasphemies against the Holy Name of God and the profanation of Sundays and Holy Days, towards which the Devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus is specifically directed. May the Holy Face of Jesus, so disfigured in His Passion by the sins of men throughout the centuries and continually dishonored in our day, find relief and consolation in this new house of the Virgin and may this Carmel aid many souls on their way to salvation and bring great glory to God!