The Philadelphia Carmelitescarmel of St. joseph and St. anne
Rosary Rally Sunday, December 18, 2022
A Tale of God and Mammon
Praised be Jesus Christ!
Many people are asking about the current status of the Philadelphia Carmel. Subject to correction, the following outline of the course of events leading to the demise and dissolution of the Philadelphia Carmel is presented here for informational purposes. We hope and pray that this information will lead to a thorough investigation and full transparency.
1. Prior to the 2017 arrival in Philadelphia of the thriving traditional Carmelite nuns whose roots are in Valparaiso, Nebraska, the historic Philadelphia Carmelite community was heading for extinction. By agreement with, and invitation from, Archbishop Chaput and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, as well as the few older nuns still residing at the Philadelphia Carmel, the new and younger nuns came to revive the Carmel. They arrived in Philadelphia in late July 2017, bringing with them their cherished customs and the traditional rites of the Roman Liturgy, confident that they would be able to live their vocations as before. However, as time would tell, that confident expectation of a tranquil existence faithful to their charism would be challenged. By Easter 2021, things came to a head.
2. On April 9th, 2021, the Philadelphia Carmelite nuns, except one, left suddenly and without warning for their founding monastery in Nebraska. Bishop James Conley invited them back to the Diocese of Lincoln to take refuge there. Only Mother Pia remained, by her own choice, at the Philadelphia Carmel. This tragic event meant one of two things: either (a) more nuns had to join Mother Pia in Philadelphia for the Carmel to survive, or else (b) the monastery would be suppressed. Suppression would be required under the provisions of Pope Francis’ “Cor Orans,” a document whose provisions are supposedly intended to regulate female contemplative religious communities for the good of the Church.
3. It is reasonable to conclude that the nuns who left the Philadelphia Carmel in April 2021, must have felt threatened, betrayed, or faced with a compromise to be imposed in the name of a perverted obedience.
4. In response to the nuns’ departure, the communications director for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia responded disingenuously declaring that it was without fault or influence in the matter. Note: To date, there was never a public statement from Archbishop Perez or his communications director regarding the Philadelphia Carmelite Monastery and all the issues surrounding the situation. Complete silence.
5. The nuns said otherwise. By their own public admission, published in June 2021, they explained that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia failed to uphold its end of an agreement regarding the community’s membership in the Association of St. Joseph.
6. The Association is a group of Carmelite monasteries united to mutually support its member communities, and it included the Philadelphia Carmel. The current leaders of the Association are Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gokul, O.C.D., and Sr. Gabriela Hicks, O.C.D.
7. We cannot dismiss the destructive impact that adherence to “Cor Orans” would have had on the Carmelite nuns’ way of life, especially in regard to their autonomy, internal governance and religious formation faithful to tradition. To obey the norms of “Cor Orans” and the spirit they instill would have been suicidal for the Philadelphia Carmelites, as it has been and will be for other female religious communities if not resisted and rejected.
8. With the nuns’ departure, the pretext for suppression of the Philadelphia Carmel was in place. The norms of “Cor Orans” could now be applied to the Philadelphia Carmel and be used to destroy the Carmel and sell off its assets. Another sacred place of prayer beloved by the Catholic faithful was about to be wiped off the spiritual landscape of Philadelphia.
9. Here are the pertinent passages of “Cor Orans” to keep in mind: “72. The assets of the suppressed monastery, respecting the will of the founders and donors, follow the surviving nuns and go, in proportion, to the monasteries that receive them, unless otherwise provided by the Holy See, which may dispose, in individual cases, of a portion of the assets to be given to charity, to the particular church within whose boundaries the monastery is located, to the Federation, and to the ‘Fund for the nuns.’” In this case, since Mother Pia is the surviving nun of the Philadelphia community, the assets should follow her to the community receiving her.
10. “73. In the event of the suppression of a totally extinct monastery, when there are no surviving nuns, unless otherwise provided by the Holy See, the destination of the suppressed monastery’s assets, in compliance with canon and civil law, go to the respective higher juridical person, that is, to the Federation of monasteries or to another structure of communion among the monasteries equal to it or to the female monastic Congregation.” According to this norm, which presupposes that there are no surviving nuns, the assets of the Philadelphia Carmel would go to the Association of St. Joseph. However, in the case of the Philadelphia Carmel, the community is not extinct; there is a surviving nun, namely, Mother Pia. “Cor Orans,” number 73, should not apply.
11. Through no fault of her own, Mother Pia was put in a situation not of her making on April 9, 2021. She freely chose to stay in Philadelphia in the monastery which had been her home since 1964. She had vowed to live and die there, just as her fellow nuns did and whose bodies now lie buried on the Carmel grounds awaiting the resurrection.
12. Elementary decency and justice demand that Mother Pia be given the chance to continue her life there as long as she is willing and able. Those in authority should do everything to make it happen. This is all the more imperative given Mother’s advanced age, when major changes can be especially difficult, and taking into account that the Philadelphia Carmel is her material and spiritual home. Mother Pia is vulnerable. It is reprehensible that Catholic authorities would effectively evict an octogenarian nun from her home of nearly sixty years, thus depriving her of her spiritual consolation and material sustenance. And yet, Archbishop Perez, the Archbishop of Philadelphia since January, 2020, and the Carmelite nuns heading the St. Joseph Association, have not done all that is possible to preserve the Philadelphia Carmel and Mother Pia’s Carmelite life there. They have done the opposite, as will be seen below.
13. It would seem that these authorities, in concert with authorities in Rome, are more interested in the suppression of the Philadelphia Carmel than in Mother Pia’s welfare and rightful desires. They are fixated on financial gain. Be aware that the two St. Joseph Association nuns, Sisters Mary Elizabeth and Gabriela, were part of the official team of apostolic visitators sent by the Carmelite Generalate in Rome to investigate the Carmels of Philadelphia, Valparaiso and Fairfield. These nuns had a keen interest in the suppression of the Philadelphia Carmel. They were thus like foxes sent to determine the fate of the henhouse. Conflict of interest, anyone?
14. It is pertinent to note that Catholic authorities never tire of cashing in on the material generosity of the Catholic laity. The Carmel of Philadelphia and other Catholic entities, such as our parishes, have been established and maintained by the faithful for years. These institutions are the evidence of our support for the Church. Yet, the religious authorities blithely go about liquidating material assets and spending the donations of the faithful on all sorts of things, some not in accord with Catholic Faith and morals. They pay from our pockets for their malfeasance or maladministration. Their profligate spending would make drunken sailors and our governing lawmakers blush with shame. And, of course, bureaucrats and lawyers go whistling to the bank.
15. Soon after the April 2021, departure of the traditional nuns, Mother Pia went to work and lined up Carmelite nuns who were ready, willing and able to come to Philadelphia to continue the community with her. When she proposed this ready solution to Bishop Michael Fitzgerald, an auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia and representative of Archbishop Perez, he vehemently told her to stop this effort, making it clear to her that Carmel was finished and was already slated for suppression (long before its official suppression). Archbishop Perez, contrary to the pastoral solicitude demanded by his office, refused Mother’s plea to visit the monastery and meet with her. The “fix” was in from the beginning. Mother Pia was to be given no chance to save Carmel.
16. The fate of Carmel appears to have been predetermined. Was that the reason why the authorities needed or forced the nuns to flee in the first place? It is not unreasonable to think that the community of traditional nuns, along with all they represent, especially their attachment to the ancient Roman Rite, was targeted long before their departure from Philadelphia. The animus against sacred tradition and the integral Catholic Faith is evident today in the ecclesiastical structures, from the Vatican down to the local parishes and the many Catholics-in-name-only.
17. If parties claiming an interest in the fate of the monastery were of good will from the beginning, they would have agreed to more nuns joining Mother Pia in Philadelphia, or at least they would have found a solution respecting the interests of Mother Pia and, it must be said, the donors, supporters and benefactors of the monastery. They would have respected the monastery’s sacred character and its continued use as a property dedicated to Catholic religious or spiritual purposes.
18. Given official opposition to the continuation of a Carmelite community, Mother Pia then sought to save the monastery for religious use, not excluding the eventual return of Carmelite nuns in better days to come.
19. People willing to help Mother Pia preserve the Carmel property for religious use offered their services. The goal of the group was to establish a non-profit entity to receive the real estate and other assets of the Carmel and preserve them for religious use, thereby preventing their loss to authorities who were eager to snuff out the sacred for the sake of financial gain.
20. While at first receptive to their no-nonsense assistance aimed at a successful outcome, Mother Pia put some of these people aside, while others bowed out when it became clear that Mother herself was not willing to fight boldly as necessary for success.
21. While only one of the original advisers remained—one committed to a serious fight to save the Carmel—Mother Pia assembled around her a different group of people, including long-time friends, to pursue her plans. These people comprised a board which would eventually incorporate as the Carmelite Foundation of Philadelphia.
22. Thus, all board members but one were inclined to favor Mother Pia’s “soft” approach to saving Carmel. Mother did not wish to take an aggressive approach, imagining the authorities to be of good will and capable of being persuaded to allow her to do what she initially desired for Carmel’s preservation. One might see her approach arising from an inability to recognize the breadth and depth of corruption in the Church today and the weaponizing of obedience against the demands of faith and morals.
23. The newer, timid board members adopted this same soft and unrealistic approach. In all fairness, it must be noted that they may have been less than enthusiastic about having to challenge Church authorities because of their connections to Villanova University or to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia by way of church building projects. Conflict of interest may have crippled them.
24. Sadly, Mother Pia and the board lost valuable time to achieve their purpose. They strangely believed that the winning strategy was to entertain the demands of those claiming authority over the Carmel situation, no matter how unjust or unreasonable those demands or how much deceit and dishonesty these authorities used to manipulate Mother Pia. These board members believed with Mother Pia that the only way to achieve their desired purpose was to surrender their advantages to the authorities, imagining that the authorities would then be moved by this generous display of good will to give them and Mother Pia what Mother originally wanted. Bizarre.
25. Mother Pia was without a community in Philadelphia after April 9, 2021. It was natural for her to want a community around her. If the monastery were to be suppressed, she would need to find another Carmelite monastery as a new home. Her good friend, Fr. John Mary of the Cross, O. Carm., was able to help her find that new home with the Carmelite nuns of Lake Elmo, Minnesota, to whom Fr. John Mary was chaplain and, with his community of hermits, a neighbor to the nuns. The authorities agreed that Mother Pia could end her days there.
26. Resigned to the impending suppression of the Carmel, Mother Pia realized that she could determine the disposition of the Philadelphia Carmel and its assets only if she first received, while still in Philadelphia, the official decree of suppression of the monastery from the Roman authorities, Only then, according to “Cor Orans,” number 72, would she have some control over the Carmel and its assets. Having not yet received the decree of suppression, and eager to move to Lake Elmo, she was assured by the authorities that she could leave Philadelphia without being considered as abandoning the monastery in Philadelphia. She would still be considered the last surviving member of the Philadelphia community. (Note that the nuns who left Philadelphia in April 2021, were no longer considered members of the Philadelphia community and gave up all rights they may have had. The surrender of their rights regarding the Philadelphia Carmel is another story that deserves telling.)
27. Within days of Mother Pia’s departure from Philadelphia on January 26th, 2022, and her arrival at the Lake Elmo Carmel, the official decree of suppression arrived from Rome. The authorities had wasted no time. It was early February in chilly Minnesota, and the cold lying and deception on Rome’s part concerning the application of the “Cor Orans” provisions became immediately evident. The Vatican decree stated that the Philadelphia monastery was now suppressed. It had been abandoned, they stated; the community was extinct, having no surviving members. Mother Pia had been tricked into leaving Philadelphia by false promises and deceitful reassurances. According to Rome, it was “Cor Orans,” number 73, not 72, that would now be operative in determining the fate of the Philadelphia Carmel. Mother Pia had no say. Like the good Catholic benefactors of the Philadelphia Carmel, she was considered as good as dead. The authorities, under cover of legality, could now move in for the kill in Philadelphia.
28. At this point, Mother responded to the foul play and wanted to appeal the suppression. The St. Joseph Association Carmelite leaders encouraged her not to file an appeal with the Vatican authorities. They assured her that they would nevertheless abide by her wishes as she deserved under “Cor Orans,” number 72. They promised to be on her side.
29. When it appeared that the Association would lose its rights over the Carmel’s assets in favor of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, an appeal was filed in Rome to settle the issue of ownership. Rome ruled that the Association, not the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, was entitled to all the assets of the Carmel. Now realizing it had uncontested ownership of the Carmel’s assets, the Association then teamed with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to secure total control of the Carmel and its assets that it now owned, reneging on the promise to give Mother Pia what she was due.
30. Once again, Mother Pia had been played by the authorities. She realized she and her foundation board had to resist this wrong-doing in some way from now on, however cautious and feeble that resistance might be.
31. Mother Pia was now ensconced in the Lake Elmo Carmel, subject to its prioress and nearer the influence of her friend, Fr. John Mary. The dissolution of the Philadelphia Carmel would be to the advantage of her new community, and rightly so, to the extent that at least some of the Philadelphia assets should follow Mother Pia to Minnesota.
32. That may be seen as reasonable when it comes to the liquid assets, but the real estate and contents of the monastery are another issue. Should they be liquidated, should the sacred be treated like dime-store baubles to be sold to the highest bidder? Should Lake Elmo or other parties, by wiping out the spiritual benefits provided by the sacred precincts of Carmel, profit at the expense of Catholic Philadelphians, many of them friends and benefactors of the monastery? Honesty demands that these questions be posed, even if the Lake Elmo Carmelites are blameless in their gracious hospitality to Mother Pia. They are to be commended for the charity they extend to Mother Pia, unlike her abusers out east. Nevertheless, can they really not see the spiritual harm they would be doing by accepting monies derived from the liquidation of the Philadelphia property?
33. With the departure of Mother Pia, the Archbishop of Philadelphia saw to the cessation of all Holy Masses at the Carmel and, as the law would consequently demand, he ordered the removal of the Most Blessed Sacrament. The board, now established as a legal entity and still seeking to act in harmony with Mother Pia’s wishes, oversaw the maintenance of the property and the Carmel’s day-to-day affairs. While fear appeared to be motivating them—perhaps the fear was justifiable—the board proceeded to clamp down on people frequenting Carmel to pray or to visit the re-established bookstore. The bookstore was shut down, the chapel locked against those wishing to pray there, and the main gates were locked around the clock to prevent anyone from entering.
34. The total lockdown of Carmel and the lack of transparency on the part of the board naturally provoked curiosity and questions outside of Carmel. What was going on? Carmel could have been saved by bold, decisive action early on in the spring of 2021, notwithstanding the opposition of those who sought its destruction. Yet, here they were in 2022, with time flying by. Why all this foot dragging by Mother Pia and the board? Why the mad rush by Carmel’s destroyers to get rid of this beloved and historic Carmel precious to so many souls? Why the obsessive secrecy when evil needs to be exposed to the light? Why no desire to inform the Catholic faithful who wish to see Carmel preserved as a spiritual home for them as it had been for 120 years?
35. Notice the one party absent in the deliberations concerning the fate of the Philadelphia Carmel: the friends, benefactors, founders and donors of the Carmel. Even “Cor Orans,”number 72, states that the distribution of the assets of a suppressed monastery is undertaken while “respecting the will of the founders and donors.” Is this provision even being respected? What if these faithful people did not or do not want the assets distributed and sold? Is their will of no account? What if they can maintain the property as a place of prayer, preserving its sacred and Catholic character? Are the generous faithful to be held in contempt and their desires brushed aside in deciding the fate of that sacred place?
36. By late summer 2022, there was no resolution to the ongoing tug-of-war for the fate of Carmel. Mother Pia and her foundation board were on one side and the Association of St. Joseph with the support of the Archbishop of Philadelphia were on the other. A severe threat was held over Mother Pia’s head and would be carried out if she did not immediately give up the fight for Carmel, such as it was, and acquiesce to the Association’s demand for total capitulation.
37. Mother briefly gave up the fight Labor Day weekend, but quickly changed her mind and started fighting again after strong encouragement from others and the prospect of the press getting wind of the stinking mess of the Philadelphia Carmel. After all, and above all, she did not want conflict with the authorities, nor did she want distasteful controversies aired in public. She simply desired to live her Carmelite life in peace, but circumstances, people, and her status as the last remaining nun of the Philadelphia Carmel combined to manifest the will of God: Divine Providence called her to fight for Carmel whether she liked it or not. Such are the strange ways of God that this fight is not about Mother Pia personally, but about standing up for all that is good and holy in the Church against those who oppose it. St. Teresa of Avila would have understood this and would have defended the Divine Majesty with the very last drop of her blood.
38. As of late, there has been odd activity witnessed in and around Carmel. No one is officially speaking to the outside world to reveal the fate of the Philadelphia Carmel. We know, however, that the disputing parties agreed to the handing over of keys to the Association of St. Joseph and that locks have been changed at the Carmel.
39. This is a strong indication that the Philadelphia Carmel and its assets have been turned over to the compete control of its new owners, the Association of St. Joseph. We have confirmed that this is the case.
40. All that remains to be done is the taking of inventory at the Carmel, assessing the value of the monastery and its contents and, finally, the sale of the same.
41. As for the hallowed remains of our dear deceased Carmelites now resting on the grounds of Carmel? They will no longer rest in peace in their heavenly Mother’s garden, but, with a stroke of Archbishop Perez’s pen, they will be unceremoniously exhumed and carried away from the Philadelphians whom they loved, and who loved them.
42. The destruction of Carmel is yet another cruel blow dealt the faithful by their shepherds and other authorities in the Church. Thus, the Philadelphia Carmel is crushed and ground into oblivion by its enemies, its walls no longer resounding with fervent prayer, its enclosure emptied of precious virgin souls, its altar now a stranger to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, it’s tabernacle no longer sheltering our Eucharistic King, and its chapel once consecrated to Almighty God now stolen from Him by sacrilegious hands that were meant to offer Him everything.
“Lift up Thy hands against their pride unto the end; see what things the enemy hath done wickedly in the sanctuary. And they that hate Thee have made their boasts, in the midst of Thy solemnity” (Psalm 73:3-4).
Preserving Carmel: the Only Feasible Catholic Solution
In response to readers of our previous post, we encourage all of you to continue to pray for a good resolution to the issue of the future of the Philadelphia Carmel. We have been aware that for many months an amicable and feasible solution has been a possibility set before all the interested and involved parties, namely, the Roman authorities, the St. Joseph Association Carmelite nuns, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Mother Pia of Jesus Crucified, and the board established by Mother Pia.
A feasible solution for the use of Carmel and the assurance of its future stability as a house of prayer and Catholic and Carmelite spirituality is the obvious option all parties can agree upon if they so desire. Herein lies the crux of the matter: What are the desires of the parties, and are these desires shared by all? In other words, is there a meeting of minds and hearts regarding the fate and use of the Carmel real estate and its other assets?
All of us who love Carmel and are familiar with its place in the heart of the Church in Philadelphia since 1902 have a keen interest in what becomes of this historically and spiritually rich institution n the city. Carmel rose and flourished in no small part due to the material and spiritual investment of our forebears and ourselves up to this current year. We continue to recognize the priceless treasure the Carmelite monastery is, not simply materially, but, even more, spiritually because it stands and functions as a place of prayer for the honor of God and the spiritual welfare of His people.
We pray that all parties involved in the fate of the Philadelphia Carmel share this understanding of the profound importance and value of the Carmel. Who could grasp what Carmel means for God’s glory and the good of souls and not desire to see its preservation as a Catholic sacred space for the continuing benefit of souls?
May God grant wisdom to those who hold the fate of the Philadelphia Carmel in their hands. May they have the strength to do the good, just and holy work to which, by God’s Providence, they have been called since the sorrowful events of April 9, 2021.
May our good Mother of Mount Carmel guide them to the fulfillment of this good purpose, so that Carmel remain what it was always meant to be. May Carmel not be lost into hands that would profane it by emptying it of everything sacred, selling it off for profane use and, shamefully, pocketing the windfall of cash for uses other than the needs of the Philadelphia Carmel as intended by its friends and benefactors.
Praises be Jesus Christ! Now and forever! Amen.
Response to the Annual Carmelite Monastery Fall Clean-Up
Praised be Jesus Christ!
Regretfully we we have not received a formal response regarding the fall clean-up at the Carmelite monastery in Philadelphia. However a reliable third party has informed us that the board has canceled the annual fall cleanup, without any explanation from the board members.
We have discovered that Mother Pia established this board while still in Philadelphia to represent her interests and those of the Philadelphia Carmel. Since Mother Pia’s authorized departure from Philadelphia at the end of January 2022, the board has responsibility for the day-to-day affairs concerning the Carmel, while continuing to act on Mother Pia’s behalf for her interests and for the present and future interests of the Philadelphia Carmel.
In your charity, please pray for Mother Pia, for the board members, and for all involved in helping them, so that the mission entrusted to them to successfully preserve and perpetuate the Philadelphia Carmel as a consecrated sanctuary of prayer be continued, This was the rationale for the foundation of Carmel in Philadelphia in 1902. We hope to see the eventual return of Carmelite nuns to the Philadelphia Carmel, and in the meantime pray that the monastery remain an active house of prayer for all, a spiritual haven for the refreshment of souls steeped in our priceless Catholic traditions.
If you have questions or comments, please contact the board members directly at the Philadelphia Carmelite Monastery. As far as we have been able to determine, the board members are as follows:
The list of names is subject to correction, so if you have any corrections or additions, please send us a message and we will correct the information.
May Our Lady of Mount Carmel Bless Us and Protect Us !
In response to inquiries on how to contact our Philadelphia Carmelites in Lake Elmo, MN; Valparaiso, NE; and now Post Falls, ID, please see the following correspondence
from Mother Pia of Jesus Crucified, OCD and Mother Teresa of St. Augustine, OCD.
They can be reached at:
Mother Pia of Jesus Crucified, OCD
Carmel of Our Lady of Divine Providence
8251 Demontreville Trail North
Lake Elmo, MN 55042
Mother Prioress, OCD
Carmel of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph
9300 Agnew Road
Valparaiso, NE 68065
Mother Teresa of St. Augustine, OCD
Carmel of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph
18772 West Riverview Drive
Post Falls, Idaho 83854
Please write directly to them. May God reward you.
Friends of the Philadelphia Carmel
Statement from the Philadelphia Carmel
Starting Friday, January 28, 2022, the chapel will be closed for public Masses.
God Bless, and thank you.
We have uploaded pictures of previous Christmases at the Carmel here. We hope you enjoy them!
New Hours for the Avila Bookshop
The unique “monastery ambience” of the Avila Bookshop has a beautiful setting and a large array of religious books, apparel, gifts for all seasons and ages, and a room dedicated just to Catholic children’s books and toys. We support many “mom & pop” Catholic vendors.
As a special treat, while shopping at the monastery store, you can see items used “behind the cloister” by the sisters and learn about Carmelite life. So, please come to see and shop. You won’t be disappointed!
The Carmel Bookstore will remain closed until further notice. Thank you for your support.
For prayer requests and other business for the Carmelite Monastery of Philadelphia, please write to:
Carmel of St. Joseph and St. Anne
1400 66th Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19126.
May God Reward You.
As of January 28, 2022, the Chapel is closed for public Masses.
Sundays and Weekdays: Cancelled.
1400 66th Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19126
There is free parking in the lot on 66th Street.
The nuns are cloistered and therefore do not use technology, but the chaplain and a small group of volunteers may be able to answer your inquiry. For vocational information and prayer requests, please write directly to the address listed above.