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History of North American Province of St. Elias

Many people have no idea where the Carmelites began!

The first hermits lived on Mount Carmel in Israel in the time of Elijah the Prophet, hundreds of years before Christ. Later, many Crusaders went to the Holy Land to free such holy places as Bethlehem, Nazareth and many other sites associated with the Life of The Lord Jesus, from the Muslims. After they achieved their task of freeing the Holy Land, many of them stayed on Mount Carmel; a mountain range which juts out into the Mediterranean Sea near the present city of Haifa, along the southern border of present-day Lebanon.

We can read about the Prophet Elijah in the First and Second Books of Kings. There were also Jews and Moslem Hermits on Mount Carmel dedicated to the life of Elijah the Prophet. This all took place between 1190 and 1206. The first written document of the Carmelites, our RULE, dates to 1206. The Christian Hermits from Mount Carmel went to the Patriarch of Jerusalem, St. Albert, (not of Trapani) and asked for a Rule of Life. That was the official beginning of the Carmelites. In 1245, the Muslims recaptured much of the Holy Land. They massacred most of the Carmelites. Those who escaped returned to their home countries of Italy, France, England and Germany. It is from these 4 countries in Europe that the Order spread throughout the world. Today, there are 5200 Carmelites of all Branches of the Order, male and female, throughout the world.

The North American Province of Carmelites was named after the Prophet Elijah, or  “St. Elias”. We were founded by the Irish Carmelites in 1889. Our first foundation was in Manhattan where we worked as chaplains in Bellevue Hospital. Across the street from Bellevue was our first Church, Our Lady of The Scapular of Mount Carmel. It was from this place that the Province spread to the Bronx, Brooklyn, Westchester and Orange Counties, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Florida.

Our Province also established the first Carmelite houses in California. We worked in the foreign Missions in Zimbabwe in Africa for many years.   Recently we have taken on two new Missions in very different climates; Trinidad and Vietnam. (April ’97 Chapter).

Carmelites arrived in Middletown, New York in 1912 and established the parish of Our Lady Of Mount Carmel. The “new” Church is behind Mt. Carmel School. There were five mission churches attached to Mt Carmel. (In 1969, one became a diocesan parish. In 1998 two other missions were transferred to the Archdiocese of New York, as well.) In 1917, the Carmelites purchased the property on which the National Shrine now stands, for the purpose of introducing seminarians to Carmelite Spirituality. From 1917 to the present, there has always been some form of seminary training on this property: Pre-Novitiate, Novitiate, High School Seminary, College Program and today it again houses the Novitiate Program for the two North American Provinces.

For more info about the history of the Province and other Carmelite friars.. please visit our historical section: click here

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