Seeking my love
I will head for
the mountains
and for watersides;

I will not gather flowers,
nor fear wild beasts;

I will go beyond
strong men
and frontiers.

Spiritual Canticle, Stanza 3
by St. John of the Cross
Our History

The Community of Discalced Carmelite Nuns of San Antonio, Texas

In Mexico City, at the beginning of the 1600's, two Sisters read the autobiography of our Holy Mother St. Teresa and felt a great desire to live the life founded by her. Since there were no Discalced Carmelite Nuns in that city, they went to the Discalced Carmelite Friars, who had a monastery there. The fathers readily instructed and formed them in the way of this Order. After a time of dialogue, discernment, and instruction, the Fathers wrote to our Carmelite Nuns in Avila, Spain to obtain from them a copy of the Order's Constitutions for the Nuns, and some habits with which to invest the new Carmelites. On October 15, 1616 these two women, renewed their vows as Discalced Carmelites , and began the first community of our Order in Mexico City. The Sisters were Inez de la Cruz (Castillete) who was born in Toledo, Spain, and Mariana de la Incarnacíon, born in Mexico. A postulant from Mexico, who later became Sister Beatrice de Santigo, O.C.D. entered that same day.
The founding site was in the center of Mexico City. Years before the coming of Christianity to this area, Indians there had built the 'Temple of Patón.' The ritual of human sacrifice and the offering of human hearts to the gods was practiced here. With the foundation of this community of Discalced Carmelite Nuns, human hearts were again offered, but to the one true God, in the sacrifice of love lived in faith. The monastery of the Nuns became known as the Convento de San José de Teresas de Mexico.
In 1850, Bishop Jose Antonio Zubiria, Archbishop of Durango Mexico, because of his devotion to our Lady of Mt. Carmel and to St. Teresa of Jesus, petitioned Rome for permission to open a Monastery of Discalced Carmelite Nuns in his diocese. On August 15, 1850, Pope Pius IX, granted permission for the foundation under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe. On the 8th of March, 1852 the city officials unanimously granted the necessary permissions for the establishment of the convent.

In the planning stages Bishop Zubiría had visited the original community of Mexico City to ask for their help. One of the Nuns, Sister Maria Josefa Catalina de Jesús, showed great interest in the new foundation.
Sister Catalina was the turn sister of the community (her duty was to greet visitors to the convent) and she was known for her prudence and quick mind. Once, when General Santa Ana was passing through the city, he stopped at the Nuns' monastery, and without identifying himself, asked for a glass of water. Sister Catalina brought the water. As she passed it to him from behind the turn, Santa Ana asked her: "Sister, what do you think of that General Santa Ana? People say he is a very bad man." Sister replied "Well, Sir, if he is a bad man or not I do not know, all I can say is that everyone is a child of God, redeemed by Christ and, since this man governs us, I, as a religious, am under great obligation to pray for him." He was so impressed by her response that, when Madre Catalina arrived to found the new convent, the General and his men accompanied the Nuns from the train station in Durango to the door of their new monastery.
The Archbishop of Mexico City granted the permission for two Nuns from Mexico City, along with three from the monastery of Queretero, Mexico, to begin the foundation of Carmel of Durango. On June 16, 1853, Mother Catalina, the new Prioress, four professed nuns and two young postulants began our community. The Monastery of Discalced Carmelite Nuns of San Antonio, Texas springs directly from this simple beginning in northern Mexico.

About a mile north of the city of Durango, at the Church of Santa Ana, the Sisters were led in a solemn procession by all the religious and civil leaders of Durango, along with a large crowd of its citizens, to the Cathedral of Durango. Once they arrived at the Cathedral, the bells of all the churches began to ring. The community was ushered to the front of the Cathedral, where the Blessed Sacrament was exposed and an orchestra played. After a warm welcome and homily delivered by Archbishop Zubiria, and followed by a blessing given with the Blessed Sacrament the Sisters were led with music from a military band and candle light, to their new home. The monastery bore the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the enclosure was put into effect on June 26, 1853 and the Blessed Sacrament was placed in their chapel on the 2nd of July. During the first three years 13 new vocations entered, and the community prospered.

Church of St. Anne in Durango


In 1861, Mexican President Benito Juarez promulgated a law changing possession of all the Church's properties to the state. He also declared all cloistered monasteries were prohibited. A few years later, religious were forbidden to live in religious houses, and thus were exclaustrated from their monasteries and convents.

Our community, which now numbered 21, was able to continue its religious life until 1864, primarily because the people of Durango were overjoyed at having the sisters in their city. Finally however, they were forced to leave their monastery. The Nuns found refuge in several homes in that city. After a few years , they were able to return to their monastery, as the anti - religious sentiment had somewhat subsided . However, they lived in constant fear of further denunciations and exclaustration. Problems were enhanced because they were prohibited from receiving new vocations, many of the Sisters were quite advanced in age, and several of the original community had died.
Since the community was again together, relatively safe, and Mother Catalina, now quite advanced in age, and no longer Prioress, she felt she had given all she could to help the foundation of Durango, she returned to her community in Mexico City. She died on April 13, 1880 after having served her community with great courage and charity. During this time, the founder of the community, Bishop José Antonio Zubiría, was greatly persecuted and eventually exiled from his diocese. After living a life of holiness, he died in exile on November 27, 1862.

A number of years later the nuns were again exclaustrated by the government. The community once more divided itself into small groups hiding in private homes. This situation continued until 1900, when the Archbishop of Durango, seeing that there were only two of the Carmelite Nuns still living, and not wanting the community to die out, asked for more Nuns from the original founding community of Mexico City.

Cathedral of Durango

Durango, Mexico

A few more years had passed when a young niece of José de Jesús Contreras, Dean of the Cathedral of Durango, entered the community of Carmelite Nuns in Mexico City from which the Community of Durango had originally been founded. She went there because the community of Durango had only two Nuns, and they had no noviciate. The young woman's name was María Luisa Contreras. Upon her entrance into Carmel, she was given the name Sister Magdalena del Niño Jesús. She was asked if she would undertake the restoration of the community of Durango. Her response was that if her superiors asked this of her, she would be happy to do so. Her only request was that the Discalced Carmelite Fathers would make a foundation in that city if she were to go back. She desired this because she felt strongly the need of the spiritual guidance and care of the friars of our Order to help re-establish the community that had been so violently disrupted
The officials of the city did not see the need for the foundation of the Friars, they felt all they truly needed was the re-foundation of the monastery of Nuns. Many letters were exchanged between Sister Magdalena and the city officials of Durango. Knowing that these men wanted her to be the foundress, since she had come from an esteemed family in that city, Sister Magdalena remained firm in her decision in spite of the many obstacles that were presented.

However, time was quickly passing, and there now remained only one sister in Durango from the original foundation, Sister Angustias, and she was reaching an advanced age. Seeing that the only obstacle that kept the re-foundation from being made was the foundation of the Friars in Durango, Sister Magdalena had a strategy. She wrote a letter using the words and style of our Holy Mother, St. Teresa when she wrote to the King of Spain, Philip the II. After praying to St. Teresa to intercede for her, she put the letter into the hands of a much venerated statue of St.Teresa. The statue carrying the letter in its hand was then taken to the Archbishop of Durango's residence. Ever since the Archbishop was a child he had kept a great devotion to St. Teresa, and to this particular image of her. Upon seeing the statue and reading the letter, he was greatly moved, and gave his approval of the founding of the Fathers when the Nuns returned to Durango.
Upon learning of the Archbishop's decision, Sister Magdalena requested permission from her Prioress to ask Father Pedro de San Elias, O.C.D. to go to Durango and personally speak to the Archbishop and the officials of the city to begin the necessary arrangements. A friend of the Nuns in Durango who had long desired to see the restoration of their community, Miss Refugio Bracho, offered to help with donations, and whatever else might be needed, to bring the Nuns back, along with helping the new foundation of the Friars with Father Pedro. She was able to get all the arrangements made.

On December 29, 1901, four Nuns came to Durango to join Sister Angustias, the only surviving member of the original community. Three Discalced Carmelite Friars, who had come to make the Father's foundation of their own new monastery, accompanied the Sisters. The Nuns went directly to a house donated to them as a convent. The Fathers went to the home of a diocesan priest who assisted the Friars in their beginnings.
In 1907, Sister Angustias died at the age of 90. She was able to see her community restored, live with them for seven years before her death, and be surrounded by her sisters who assisted her in her last moments. Vocations began to come, among whom was the niece of Madre Magdalena, Sister Maria del Santisimo Sacramento (Maria Contreras) and Sister Isabel del Sagrado Corazón, who since her early childhood had desired to enter, and was known in the community for her humility and spirit of poverty.

In March of 1917, the Mexican Government made another demand that the Nuns abandon their monastery without taking anything from it. One evening, soldiers forced their way into the enclosure of the monastery. Mother Magdalena ran to the chapel and took out the ciborium, hiding it under her scapular. Then she hid behind a curtain with several other Sisters as the soldier passed by. Once the soldiers had gone to another part of their convent, Mother Magdalena, and the Sisters with her, consumed the Blessed Sacrament, and then ran out of the monastery, only to find themselves surrounded by more soldiers. The soldiers then disbanded the community, and each of the Nuns went to find refuge in the homes of friends in the city. Mother Magdalena was extremely concerned for her Nuns, not knowing where they were all hiding, and whether or not all had left the monastery. It was days before she found them all well and safe. A few soldiers were left to take over the convent. Four Sisters had not been able to get out of the convent with the rest of the Nuns, and were being held there by the soldiers for questioning.

Sr. Maria de los Angeles

Sr. Maria de los Angeles walked down a corridor, and saw a soldier sitting on a chair with his head in his hands. She walked over to him and asked if he were ill. He told her he had a terrible headache, something he had suffered with for a long time. He complained that no one had offered him so much as a glass of water. She then went and brought him some cool water, offered him her prayers, and then left. This soldier immediately felt relief and never suffered such intense headaches again. The soldier himself told this to others, and the story got back to the community.

Finally, all four were freed and were reunited with the rest of the community. The Sisters continued to hide in small groups, in houses of friends and family. The government officials looked for them to force them to hand over the money the community had to live on. For a while the community was able to stay together, and found shelter hiding in the Church of the Angels. They helped clean and care for the church. Soon, however, the Nuns were once again denounced and had to hide in homes of friends and relatives once more, unable to live in community.
The Prioress, Madre Magdalena, and Subprioress, Madre Angelita fled to San Antonio, Texas and spent several months in the convent of the Ursuline Sisters until the danger had past. General Gavia had given the order to remove all the possessions that the Nuns had in their convent. Statues, pictures of great value, works of art, and books, were all taken.

Knowing that some things were being sold from their convent, the Sisters tried to find ways of recuperating what they could, especially their Breviaries, as they had nothing from which to pray the Divine Office. Two Sisters, dressed in secular clothing, went to their convent with two lady friends and began rummaging through merchandise the soldiers were selling. They told the soldiers that they were teachers of Latin, and wanted to see what books they could find which would be suitable for their students. As they were led through the convent to the library, they saw statues broken on the floor, relics walked on, the tabernacle desecrated, papers and altar linens thrown on the floor, and crucifixes and the statue of Infant of Prague thrown into the horses stalls and manure. Even though they greatly feared being recognized, and suffering the anguish of seeing the state of their monastery and possessions, these Sisters were calmly able to purchase back their liturgical books, breviaries, and the statue of the Infant of Prague. This statue is now venerated in a special niche in our chapel in San Antonio.
In the first months of 1918 the community reunited to live in a different part of the city of Durango. They were able to purchase a nice quinta, again taking the risk of living their lives in community observance. They knew that they were in danger. If the government found them, they would be imprisoned.

In May of this same year, seven robbers came one night at 2:00 a.m., rang the doorbell, and pretended to be helping the Nun's gardener, who, they said, had been bitten by a snake. They tricked Sister Maria del Santisimo into opening the door and, held a gun to her chest forcing their way into the enclosure. The other men, with rifles and knives in hand, went to the rooms of each of the Sisters and gathered them together, demanding that they surrender all they owned. The Nuns stood around Mother Magdalena, who begged the men not to insult or harm any Sister. She warned them to fear punishment from heaven. The men forced the community into a small shed in the back of their property, telling the Nuns they were going to kill them. The men locked the shed, and then went on to steal all they could carry. It was believed that the robbers were really government officials.

When day dawned, the Chaplain came to say Mass for the Sisters, and not finding them, went with several other people to look for them. They quickly found the shed where the Nuns were, and released them. Though badly shaken by the ordeal, no one was hurt. That very same day, Father Pedro de San Elias helped them find another place to live. Through all the terrors and sufferings the Sister endured during those years, the Discalced Carmelite Fathers always helped them find a solution or a way to deal with all the difficulties.
Later that same year the Nuns held their community elections, and Madre Maria de San Jose was elected Prioress. She held this office for 33 years. Through her constant selfgiving, she guided, protected, and led the community during the most severe and challenging times.

After about 3 years of relative calm, in 1926, President Calles issued a new decree stating that all religious from countries other than Mexico must return to their homeland, and all religious houses be closed. On June 6, 1926, soldiers forced their way into the chapel and convent of our Sisters. The Nuns escaped through the back door. Mother Angelita first ran to save the Blessed Sacrament from sacrilege. Taking the ciborium from the tabernacle, she hurried out the back, and struggled over the enclosure wall. Since she could not brace herself while protecting the ciborium, she fell and injured one of her feet very severely, suffering from that wound for the rest of her life. Once over the wall and safe with the other sisters, they consumed the sacred species, and then sought refuge in homes of family and friends. The Sisters could no longer turn to the Friars for assistance. The Carmelite Friars, who were mostly Spaniards, had been forced to flee from Durango as soon as the decree was issued. They went to Tucson, Arizona, where other Friars of their Province in Spain were well established. By July 22, 1926, our community of 20 religious saw that there was no alternative for them but also to flee Mexico. Crossing the border in El Paso, they headed to Tucson, Arizona. They arrived in Tucson in October. There Fr. Pedro de San Elias, Fr. Carmelo Corbello, and other Friars who had been with them in Mexico, received them and prepared a monastery for them. Bishop Daniel J. Gercke accepted them into his diocese and assisted them with great kindness.

Madre Maria de San Jose

Monastery in Tuscon

For five years the community remained in Tuscon, lilving in peace and security. Along with the solicitude they received from the Friars, many lay people helped them in every way possible. However, because of the death of three of the younger Nuns, largely due to the extreme climate change, and at the express wish of the Bishop of Durango, who promised the situation in Mexico had improved, the Sisters, returned to Mexico in 1930, not to Durango, but to Mexico City where things were safer.
In July of that year the community arrived in Mexico City, and settled in the upper floor of a Doctor's home, in the Villa de Guadalupe, across the street from the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Sisters lived on the third floor of the building, renting the space from the sister of Dr. Aragón. On the first floor were small shops, and also offices where the Revolutionary Commission had set up its headquarters. The Sisters felt safe there because they wore secular clothing and because the owner's sister was the one who they were renting from.

Even though in hiding, and disguised, the Lord sent the community new vocations. Sister Estela del Sagrado Corazón de la Cerda, from Atotonilco, Jalisco; Sister Bernardita de la Imaculada Soriano from Huahuapan De Leon; Sister Celina de la Santa Faz Camberos from Guadalajara, and Sister Teresita Calderón (a niece of Madre Maria de San José) from Mexico City, and just before leaving to come to Texas, Sister Mary Angel Mendoza entered there.

Basilica of Our Lady of Guadelupe

Two years later the Government issued another decree threatening all Religious with imprisonment and possible execution, along with those who might be renting property or houses to them. The Nuns had to seek permission from the Archbishop of Durango to leave their country again. Under the guidance and leadership of Mother Maria de San José Calderón, the community was split into two groups so as not to draw attention. The elderly, the youngest and the sick were to leave first, followed afterward by the rest of the community. The Sisters had to dress in secular clothing, had almost no possessions or money, and were unsure of whether they would be allowed to cross the border. Once across the border, were unsure as to how they would be received or live their life.

Because of advice of a friend, they came to San Antonio, Texas. The first group left by train on November 7th, 1934, and arrived on November 9th. Upon their arrival in San Antonio, the Nuns sought help from our Carmelite Fathers at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and St. Therese. Surprised by their unannounced arrival the Fathers were unsure as to how to best assist the Sisters. The Prior, Fr. Bernardo Brotones, called the Provincial in Oklahoma for aid. First, lodging was sought for the Nuns, and then arrangements would be made to send the Sisters to Oklahoma where the Provincial would take care of the community's needs. The Fathers requested assistance from the Sisters of the Holy Spirit. These Sisters graciously allowed this first group to stay with them for several weeks. The second group left Mexico on November 20th and arrived on November 22nd. Father Juan Evangelista Vega, O.C.D., from the Province of Mexico, accompanied the Nuns to Laredo, doing all in his power to keep them safe. Once in Laredo, the Nuns found lodging in several different communities of religious and were again able to dress in their habits, free from fear and threats of imprisonment.
The next day Fathers Bernardo, Sebastian and Eduardo arrived to escort the Nuns to San Antonio. Father Bernardo made the decision that he would not send the community to Oklahoma, but rather, would make arrangements for the Sisters to settle in San Antonio.

On the 24th of November, 1934, the 24 members of our community came together in a single-story house they were able to rent on the corner of Hamilton Street and Kentucky Avenue, a block away from the Father's parish of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower.

The 1930's were difficult times for everyone here in the United States, the country was in the middle of the Great Depression. The Carmelite Fathers brought the Nuns whatever they could to help them in their efforts to become established in their new home city.

Basilica of the Little Flower

Our 1st Monastery in San Antonio, 1935

The Nuns began doing their handwork - embroidery, painting and statue repairs to help sustain themselves and pay all the bills. Four months later, Father Bernardo Brotones, helped the Nuns acquire the property, and a large, two-story, wooden framed house, across the street from the small house they were renting. It had once been a tuberculosis hospital. Workers began making the necessary repairs and accommodations, with Fr. Bernardo coming daily to oversee the work. When the carpenters and other craftsmen left for the day, the Nuns carried on throughout the night, continuing with what hammering, painting and fixing they could do on their own.

On May 17, 1935, this large house was blessed and the Nuns moved in. At last the community was able to begin a normal life again. The effects of poverty were great, the Sisters worked into the late hours of the night, barely able to raise the funds needed for their livelihood. The people of the San Antonio area were most kind and generous. Many neighbors, along with the Fathers, brought the Nuns food. When the community's water was cut off because they could not afford to pay the bill, a neighbor from behind the monastery would put a hose over the enclosure wall and turn on the water when needed. The Nuns, even though experiencing such extremes of poverty, were very happy. For the first time, almost since their foundation, they were able to live in freedom and security.
In 1949, because the house they lived in had deteriorated badly, the Fathers helped the Nuns replace the wooden structure with a new, red brick two-story structure. Work began in December of 1949. For 7 months, half of the community lived in the house that was being torn down to oversee the construction, and the other half of the Nuns lived in the basement of the Little Flower Shrine. There they did their work, and lived their communitarian life of prayer and self-denial.

This monastery was completed, and blessed on July 16, 1950 by the Provincial, Father Sebastian Valles, O.C.D.

The Centennial Year of our Foundation was in 1953, one hundred years from our beginnings in Durango. To commemorate the event the community made the decision to begin a new foundation. Permission was granted to establish a new convent in Houston, Texas. In 1958, six of our Sisters left San Antonio to begin the foundation there, at first in a small house. In 1970, they were able to build a new monastery in Roman Forest, just outside of Houston, where they are now well established.

Monastery on Kentucy Ave. - 1950

As the years passed, the monastery on Kentucky Avenue became too small for the needs of our community, and the busy city street of Culebra nearby too noisy for our life of prayer. In 1979 it was resolved that our best hope was for the monastery to be relocated. With the help and encouragement of our then Father Provincial, Christopher Timoney, O.C.D., and the then Pastor of the Little Flower Basilica, Fr. Ralph Reyes, and with financial assistance from Mr. Philip Sheridan, we were able to locate the hilltop property on which we now reside. Archbishop Patrick Flores offered us his support and permission, donations from the community were sought. Many, many people, from near and far and all walks of life, gave with great generosity and self-sacrifice. Because of them, we were able to purchase almost 20 acres of the old 'Alamo Downs'. Groundbreaking was held on July 16, 1981, with our Archbishop putting the first shovel into motion for the construction.
Two years later, our community, with the help of our Discalced Carmelite Brothers, and three seminarians from Assumption Seminary, moved into our not quite finished Monastery on the feast of the Holy Trinity, May 29, 1983. Much of the floor had to still be set, and our chapel was not yet built. Mass was held in our library for several months. The first one was offered by Father Raymond Donoho, O.C.D., our Father Provincial at that time. We cut wild sunflowers to adorn our makeshift chapel, and Father Raymond animated us not to be discouraged by the dust, disorder and inconvenience of the move. Patience and love would be our strength.

Another three years passed, and at last, on July 16th 1986, the chapel and monastery were finished and dedicated by Archbishop Patrick Flores. In a Mass concelebrated with Fr Ralph Reyes, O.C.D. (Provincial at the time), many of the Discalced Carmelite Fathers our Province of St. Therese, and large number of the Diocesan clergy. Our Carmelite Brothers and many friends also attended.
In September 2003, as we celebrate our 150th anniversary as a community of Discalced Carmelite Nuns, we are 8 Solemnly Professed Sisters, one temporary professed and one aspirant. Two of our number (Sister Celina Camberos de la Santa Faz and Sister Maria Estela de la Cerda del Sagrado Corazón de Jesus) are of the group that came to San Antonio in 1934. We are a bilingual community, speaking both English and Spanish in daily conversation and in our liturgies. Since the entrance of our temporary professed Sister, and the presence of our aspirant, both Vietnamese, we would hope to one day be a 'trilingual' community. We range in age from 92 to 28 years of age. Our principle means of support are the packing and distribution of altar breads, liturgical sewing, ceramics and other handcrafts.
It is here that, through a
consecrated life of prayer,
we give all we are to the
glory of God for the good
of the Church, especially the
Church of San Antonio. To
the Infant of Prague, the
Eternal Word who enters
our world in selfless giving,
and to our Lady of
Guadalupe, our Mother, we
entrust all we have been and
hope to become. May all
who come to this House of
Prayer experience the
presence of God in all that
touches their lives.
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