Discalced Carmelite Nuns of New Caney dedicate lives to prayer

November 10, 2015

NEW CANEY — The Discalced Carmelite Nuns of New Caney are a small community of contemplative women whose lives are dedicated to prayer for the Church and for all people. Originally located in Houston, the community moved in 1974 to New Caney, a wooded area at the northern section of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

There are seven sisters in the New Caney community and 13,195 Carmelite nuns in 81 countries worldwide. The Carmelite charism is one of prayer and contemplation.

“Our contemplative prayer and life are lived in an atmosphere that integrates, on the one hand, solitude and silence, with a sisterly communion of life on the other,” said Sister Angel Teresa Sweeney, O.C.D., prioress of the Discalced Carmelites in New Caney. “Our prayer, charity and wholehearted evangelical self-denial are at the service of the Church.”

Sister Sweeney said the primary ministry of the Carmelites is prayer, both within the Archdiocese and extending to the whole world.

“The life of prayer has an Apostolic sense: prayer, sacrifices, retirement from the world, and the entire life of a Discalced Carmelite is at the service of the Church,” Sister Sweeney said. “We especially pray for the more deeply human and spiritual needs and values, and we do this by our daily schedule of formal prayer, private meditation, lives of asceticism, and general atmosphere of prayer, silence and recollection.”

This year has marked 500 years for the global Carmelite community. Preparations for the V Centenary of the Birth of St. Teresa began six years ago when the Discalced Carmelite Order began to re-read, reflect and pray with the writings of St. Teresa.

In Galveston-Houston, the V Centenary was celebrated with a special Mass at St. Cyril of Alexandria Church in Houston on March 13. The secular Carmelites participated in workshops and invited the Carmelite nuns to participate in a special Liturgy celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop George A. Sheltz. 

The Carmelite community of New Caney had the opening of the Centenary Year at a Mass on Oct. 15, 2014 and the year was concluded on Oct. 18, 2015 with a Mass celebrated in the chapel by Archbishop Emeritus Joseph A. Fiorenza.

“There were festivities in Carmels throughout the world, especially in Avila, Spain, where St. Teresa was born and founded her first monastery,” Sister Sweeney said.

Through the years, the Carmelites have provided a contemplative presence in this area of the world and pray constantly for the needs of all people –an all-day, every-day task.

“The bell rings early each morning, and while many of you are on your way to work we are on our way to the chapel to pray for you and your families, as well as for many other intentions people call and write about, and for the many necessities throughout the world which we learn of through the news,” Sister Sweeney said.

Early every morning, the Carmelites pray the Psalms, read Scripture, meditate privately and later have Mass. By 8 a.m. they eat a light breakfast then take on their regular duties for the day: cooking, cleaning, washing, sewing, gardening, answering letters, paying bills — “simple tasks that allow us to keep our hearts in prayer while our hands are busy,” Sister Sweney said. 

Lunch is a time for the nuns to visit with one another (the rest of the day the nuns try to keep silence), followed by a time for rest and for spiritual reading — and then they are back to work. 

They are again in the chapel at 4:30 p.m. to pray until dinner at 6 p.m. Between 7 to 8 p.m. is for recreation, “a time to relax, talk with each other about how the day went, the concerns people have entrusted to our prayers,” Sister Sweeney said.

At 8 p.m. the Carmelites are back in the chapel for Night Prayer, “entrusting you, ourselves and all people to God’s care for the night and after death,” Sister Sweeney said. 10 p.m. is bedtime, and on to another day.

The nuns support themselves financially by supplying altar breads to parishes in the Archdiocese, with some liturgical sewing.
“Many people help us with donations, too, for which we are very grateful,” Sister Sweeney said.

Carmels promote vocations through prayer, their websites and vocational literature. The community regularly participates in the Archdiocesan Vocation Expo and Life Awareness Weekend, which is sponsored by the Vocations Office and the Serrans. Every January, the Archdiocesan Vocations Discernment Group gathers with the community for a day to learn more about being a Carmel, praying Midday Prayer with the nuns and then visiting over a pizza lunch. Every year, the community is also present in prayer and spirit for the annual Archdiocesan Celebration of Jubilees Mass, offering a Novena of Prayer for the sister and religious jubilarians. Sister Sweeney celebrated her golden jubilee this year.
During this Year of Consecrated Life, Sister Sweeney hopes both Catholics and non-Catholics will be reminded of the “existence of religious and hopefully come to know a little more about religious life and its value for the Church and the world.” 

She encourages those to discern their vocation, especially during this Year of Consecrated life. “Be attentive to the attraction of your heart,” Sister Sweeney said, “and follow through in learning more about religious life by praying and talking with someone who will be supportive of you.”

To learn more about the Year for Consecrated Life, and for resources for all ages, including prayers and more, visit archgh.org/YCL.