Home / News / Making Great Strides – A Concise History of the Province of St. Elias – Part Two of a Three-Part Series

Making Great Strides – A Concise History of the Province of St. Elias – Part Two of a Three-Part Series

In what can only be considered record time, the Carmelites had become a positive fixture in the New York Irish Catholic community. The number of parishioners continued to climb, a parish hall was added, and the Sunday School program was successful at serving the needs of the next generation of New York Catholics. The Carmelites opened a parish school in 1905 which was served, over time, by both the Christian Brothers and the Sisters of Mercy.

The continuum of the Catholic life was playing out at Our Lady of the Scapular under the careful and loving direction of a changing cast of Irish Carmelites. Archbishop Corrigan must have been impressed with the work of the Carmelites because in 1895 he offered the Carmelites the opportunity to build a new church in Tarrytown. Even before land was purchased for the new church, the Carmelites were offering Mass in a chapel in Tarrytown in 1896. The archbishop blessed the cornerstone of what was to become Transfiguration Church in October 1897. About a year later Corrigan dedicated the Carmelite’s new church.

The Carmelites witnessed a rapid increase in the population of Catholics in nearby Elmsford. To serve the need of these Catholics, the Carmelites opened Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Elmsford in 1905. They were in charge of the church until 1913 when Cardinal Farley moved the care of Our Lady of Mount Carmel from the Carmelites to the Archdiocese.

By this time the Carmelites reputation as a dynamic presence in the Archdiocese of New York had been firmly established. Whether they were asked to assist in existing parishes or establish new ones, the first decades of the 20th century were marked by enormous growth. Following the opening of Our Lady Mount Carmel in Elmsford, the Carmelites’ sphere of influence expanded to include Holy Name (Otisville) 1910; Saint Paul’s (Bullville) 1911; Our Lady of the Assumption (Bloomingburg) 1912; Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Middletown) 1912; Holy Cross (South Centerville) 1912 and Saint Simon Stock (Bronx) 1920. During this same time period, the Carmelites opened first a minor seminary in September 1917, and later the novitiate at St. Albert’s Priory in Middletown. For nearly a century, the Carmelite Friars have trained, professed and ordained generations of priests and religious at St. Albert’s where, to this day, the older friars, novices, provincial administration and National Shrine of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel are located. The Province’s cemetery is also located at St. Albert’s.

Beginning in 1929, Carmelite Friars from the New York Commissariat and later the Province were instrumental in assisting and encouraging the Venerable Mother Mary Angeline Teresa McCrory, O.Carm. and her companions, in the establishment of the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm in the Bronx. The Most Reverend Elias Mcgennis, O.Carm., Prior General, and the Very Reverend Dionysius L. Flanagan, O.Carm., second Commissary General and first Prior Provincial did all that they could to help the Sisters in their foundation and a close bond continues to exist between these two branches of the Carmelite family. Father Flanagan also helped the Foundress of the Cloistered Carmelite Nuns in the United States, Mother Therese of Jesus Lindenburg, O.Carm., in the foundation of their first monastery in Allentown, Pennsylvania – a monastery that has given birth to several cloistered O.Carm. Monasteries in the U.S.

Only one of the original founding fathers lived to see the full establishment of the Irish Carmelites in New York. Despite all the successes of the Carmelites, the Very Rev. Edward Patrick Southwell longed for the day when the roots he and his three companions had established in 1889 had blossomed into an American and New York province, independent from the Irish Province. He lived long enough to see the first step toward his dream become a reality with the establishment of the Hibernian-American Commissariat in 1922. It would take another 11 years before the establishment of the North American Province of Saint Elias on March 24, 1931. 42 years after the Irish Carmelites first arrived in New York. Still, Carmelites from the Irish Province and native-born Irish professed for the New York foundation continued to serve in the U.S. until 2003. God rest them.

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Vox Eliae Summer 2017

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