GERVAIS - The Western Province of the Discalced Carmelite Fathers has established a new house of studies in Gervais, 15 minutes from Mount Angel Seminary, where six Carmelite brothers are now enrolled.
They came here after visiting and researching the various Western seminaries and determining that Mount Angel was the best for their needs.
'The more I find out about it, the more I like it,' says Carmelite Father Donald Kinney, rector and student master of the new community. 'We're here in this area to stay.'
For the past 20 years, the Carmelite seminarians have attended the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley. That seminary, however, does not offer undergraduate degrees or classes in English as a second language, as does Mount Angel.
Carmelite Father James Geoghegan also now lives at the convent, which is already not quite big enough for the number of Carmelites. They have zoning permission to put in a manufactured home on the convent property, which should tide them over for a time. But the Carmelites expect two more students next year and six more in the year after that, at which time Father Kinney says the order will probably have to build - as the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit did this year.
Father Kinney was one of two priests who came to scout out housing for the friars earlier this summer. They found nothing in Mount Angel and so were grateful when Benedictine Father Kenneth Jacques, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Gervais, told them about the convent attached to the parish here. They saw immediately that the convent would be perfect for their needs.
Father Kinney, who is originally from Georgia, says that the students are happy with their classes and that the order is pleased with Oregon. 'Everyone has been wonderfully welcoming here,' he says.
Father Kinney is also gratified that his group will be near the Carmelite Sisters in Eugene.
There are about 50 Discalced Carmelites in the Western Province. Because of an upturn in vocations, Father Kinney believes that number will soon be higher. The order staffs a novitiate in San Jose, a parish in Alhambra, Calif., two parishes in Tucson, a retreat house in Redlands, Calif., an Oakville, Calif., house of prayer, and a small parish and spirituality center in Stanwood, Wash.
The Discalced Carmelites first came to the United States in 1906 from Bavaria - the origin of the Benedictines at Mount Angel as well. Other Discalced Carmelite Friars came from Mexico in 1915, and from Spain in 1916. The friars from Mexico were exiled from that country during the time its revolutionary government persecuted religious. Irish Carmelites - like Father Geoghegan - have staffed California monasteries since 1925.
The Carmelites' history reaches back to the 13th century, when a group of Crusaders settled on Mount Carmel in Palestine, wanting to live a prayerful life as hermits. They looked to the Virgin Mary and to the prophet Elijah for inspiration. Elijah's contemplative and apostolic life challenged the powerful institutions of his day.
In the 16th century, the mystics St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross gave a spiritual legacy to the order that reformed and split it into the Carmelites of the Ancient Observance (O.Carm) and the Discalced Carmelites (OCD).
It was St. Teresa who used the word 'discalced,' meaning barefoot, or living in spiritual humility.
More recent Carmelite saints are St. Therese of Lisieux, and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, better known by her birth name Edith Stein. She became a Carmelite nun and was murdered by the Nazis in Auschwitz.