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A religious community of 14 Discalced Carmelite nuns has moved from a busy street in Buffalo, New York, where their order has lived for more than a century, to the Diocese of St. Augustine, Florida, in pursuit of “silence and solitude.”

“Prayerful greetings from sunny Florida!” a February message on the religious community’s website said. “But it truly became ‘home’ when Jesus himself came to dwell among us in his Eucharistic presence after the first Mass in our lovely little chapel,” the message said.

The Discalced Carmelite nuns are a cloistered community dedicated to contemplation and prayer. The sisters take their example from St. Teresa of Avila, the foundress of the Discalced Carmelite order. The Buffalo monastery is less than a half mile away from a busy recreational park and is down the street from a busy intersection, Buffalo News reported. 

The Discalced Carmelite Monastery of the Little Flower of Jesus was originally established in Buffalo just over 100 years ago when the suburban neighborhood was “a quiet area,” the community said on its website in October. “Now, however, we no longer have the silence and solitude which are requisite for a cloistered community,” the announcement said.

A Buffalo News reporter was granted rare access inside the walls of the monastery in 1997 and wrote that “individual pasts don’t matter within the walls of the monastery. What matters is eternity. In return for the privilege of spending their days talking to God, the sisters live an austere life.”

The reporter noted that the sisters, 22 of them at the time, had “no worldly possessions” because of their vows of poverty and chastity. “Carmelites wear a heavy, brown wool habit that dates back 435 years. Their accessories are rope sandals; a white toque, a hood-like garment that covers all of the head except the face; and a black veil,” he wrote.

He noted that sisters sleep on “straw mattresses” and engage in much prayer and penance “kneeling on a hard floor in a chapel without pews or chairs to support tired backs or to rest aging knees.” The sisters are vegetarians and annually fast from the feast of the Holy Cross on Sept. 14 to Easter, the reporter wrote. Their fast consists of two light meals for breakfast and dinner with a full meal at midday. And they don’t eat eggs or dairy products during Lent. 

“And there is silence — essential to the Carmelite life because it enables the sisters to communicate with God continually, without distraction,” the reporter wrote. 

In October 2023, Buffalo Bishop Michael Fisher issued a statement saying: “It was with a heavy heart that I learned of the Carmelite Nuns of the Monastery of the Little Flower of Jesus wish to relocate outside of the diocese to an area that provided the necessary solitude to continue their ministry.”

“The Carmelite Sisters have been an important part of the religious fabric of the Diocese of Buffalo for more than 100 years, when Mother Mary Elias of the Blessed Sacrament, OCD, founded the Discalced Carmelite Monastery in 1920, first on Cottage Street, and then on Carmel Road in North Buffalo,” he said.

“All in the Diocese of Buffalo wish to impart on Mother Teresa and her community all the love and gratitude for their century of service to Western New York in God’s love as they relocate to the Diocese of St. Augustine,” the statement said. In announcing the move in October, the community said that they knew the news may be a cause of “great sorrow and disappointment.”

“We trust that you will understand that we have prayed very much about this matter and have reached the conclusion that Our Lord is leading us to take this step,” the statement said. The community said in its most recent update that Augustine Bishop Erik Pohlmeier offered Mass for the sisters at the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche, the first shrine devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the U.S.

“While there, we were able to tour the ‘Sacred Acre’ where the first parish Mass was offered in what is now the United States on Sept. 8, 1565. Our Lady’s maternal presence is so strongly felt on that site, which has such historic significance for the Church in our country!” the statement said.

In a statement to CNA Thursday, Pohlmeier said he extends his “warmest greetings” to the Carmelites.

“We know that with heavy hearts, they left behind 103 years of community. I am confident that the sisters will find a welcoming and supportive community here, and I look forward to how they will enrich our diocese with their prayer and presence,” he said.

“Our greatest hope is that the Carmelite nuns will experience the solitude and peacefulness essential to their way of life. May God bless them in their new home, and may they continue to be a source of inspiration and grace to all who encounter them,” he added.

The sisters said in February that “as we continue to get settled in our new surroundings and wholeheartedly embrace our life of prayer in the heart of the Church, our hearts are overflowing with gratitude for all our friends and benefactors, both near and far, who sustain us by their prayers and material assistance.” “Please be assured that you have a loving remembrance in our prayers and sacrifices each and every day!”

By Joe Bukuras

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