Carmelite nuns observe 50 years in Hudson, ceremony on Sunday
The Carmelite nuns, based at the Carmel of the Sacred Heart, 430 Laurel Ave. in Hudson, will be observing the group’s 50th anniversary of arriving in Hudson during ceremonies at St. Patrick Catholic Church Sunday, beginning at 2 p.m. The first Carmelite nuns arrived in Hudson in 1963 and their mission centers around a life of prayer. The history of the Carmelite group, however, goes back to the 13th century when the Carmelite order was established in the Holy Land on Mount Carmel in Haifa, a city in northern Israel.
Sister Lucia LaMontagne is the prioress of the Hudson facility; she first came to Hudson in 1964. She said the order gradually expanded into Europe, but the early Carmelites were men only.
“Women were authorized to become Carmelites in 1452,” LaMontagne said. “Expansion to the United States came in 1931 when a monastery was established in Allentown, Penn. That group came from Naples, Italy.”
The first expansion within the U.S. came in 1954 when an order was established Wahpeton, N.D. Next came Hudson in 1963.
“A lot of young women were coming into the ministry at that time,” said LaMontagne. “They were looking for places to expand.”
Bishop George A. Hammes was the bishop of the Diocese of Superior at the time. In 1962 he was asked if the Superior Diocese would be interested in accepting a Carmelite group within the diocese.
The bishop agreed and decided St. Croix County would be the best location for a Carmelite group, a group that lives mostly on donations.
“They looked at three properties in St. Croix County,” LaMontagne said. “One was in New Richmond and the other two in Hudson.”
The two Hudson sites included the old Charlie Ward farm (now the lighthouse housing area in the city of Hudson). The other was a home on Laurel Avenue owned by Ken and Ethyl Priester. Ken Priester (1910-1998) was an executive for Brown and Bigelow and later a local real estate agent.
“The Priester property was selected,” LaMontagne said. “It has enough privacy and solitude for our prayer life. The home sits on six acres of land.”
There was a day when the Carmelite life was shrouded in relative isolation and secrecy.
“A decree that followed the Second Vatican Council changed things,’ LaMontagne said. “Before 1969, the rules were very strict. Essentially the nuns could only leave the facility to go see a doctor or go to the hospital. They could not even work on the property outside the fence lines.”
Today the members not only take care of the property outside the fence line, but are free to run errands, shop and more.
“Our mission, of course, remains the same,” LaMontagne said. “We pray for all people, but especially those in the local community and diocese. We get a lot of prayer requests — they come through our website, emails, written messages and phone calls.”
She said a typical day begins at about 5:30 a.m. and the day is filled with both private and group prayer (Liturgy of the Hours). There is an 11 a.m. mass each day, generally conducted by retired priest, Father James Dabruzzi.
The public is welcome to attend the masses. The day of prayer is interspersed with various chores, classes, reading, correspondence and free time/recreation. And yes, movies and television are part of the routine. The nuns are free to go to bed when they please.
There are currently six nuns in the Hudson location, although Sister Jane Winkler recently moved to Red Cedar Canyon. LaMontagne said the Hudson location generally has between five and seven nuns.
Sunday’s 50th anniversary celebration at St. Patrick Church is open to the public, although a later dinner is by invitation only. Bishop Peter Christensen, bishop of the Diocese of Superior, will preside.
For more information on Carmel of the Sacred Heart and the Carmelites, go to http://community.pressenter.net/~carmelit/.
See more photos in the Aug. 15 print edition of the Hudson Star Observer