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The Carmelites: The Province of St Elias

Despite the ruin that came to the Carmelite Order through  secularism and government controls of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it survived in Ireland even though, it had its local problem of English persecution.  Because of government restrictions affecting education, those desiring to join the Carmelite Order had to go abroad, usually to Spain or Italy, to complete their studies. Restrictions curtailing ministry, the Irish wanderlust and stories of the land that lay across the Atlantic caused Irish Carmelites to be scouts, coming on their own to the United States for holidays.  London and Toronto, Canada, both desired to have the Carmelites but nothing came of these attempts.

After the middle of the nineteenth century, there were more Irish aspirants for the order than could be educated and usefully employed in Ireland so there was established at Santa Maria in Traspontina in Rome a novitiate for any nationals who desired to serve the Church in the Carmelite Order wherever there was a need.  Some of the Irish, who went there and were ordained, came to Maryland, Kentucky and Niagara Falls to work in Carmelite houses.  Some of the houses failed and some endured to become eventually part of the American Province of the Most Pure Heart of Mary.

At the Irish Provincial Chapter of 1887, John Bartley was elected for his second term as provincial.  Besides the missions in Australia, there were six houses in Ireland and forty was the number of men in the province.  In that same year of 1887, the Carmelite, Michael A. Moore, was in New York.  What his business was, we do not know.  He had received authorization to collect funds for the Irish Carmelites in Australia and in North and South America.  We know he went to South America and had a successful venture, may have gone to Australia and could have been in the United State to raise money.  In New York, he met a New York priest named James McMahon.  He had been the pastor of Saint John the Evangelist in Manhattan until the parish was absorbed into the territory of the newly completed Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.  He became the pastor of Manhattan’s Saint Andrew’s in 1880 and he was in this post when Michael Moore met him.

On September 5, 1887, James McMahon offered Moore an endowed foundation for the Carmelites on Manhattan’s West Side.  It was to be on land that McMahon owned on the west side of Central Park in the vicinity of the present Museum of Natural History.  Moore went in a few days to see Michael A. Corrigan, the Archbishop of New York, whose response was interpreted by Moore as being favorable.  This he reported to McMahon and received from his provincial, John Bartley, the green light to secure this foundation. When Corrigan met with his consultors that September, they pointed out to him that the acceptance of McMahon’s offer would place another parish in an area already served by a sufficient number of parishes.

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