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Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus leave San Antonio, appreciation expressed

September 17, 2021 | posted by Today's Catholic newspaper

Topics: Archbishop, In the Press, Vocations, Breaking News

Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus leave San Antonio, appreciation expressed 

It is with sadness and with thanksgiving for the gift of their presence and charism in San Antonio since 1914, that the archdiocese bid farewell to the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus in mid-August.

A Mass of thanksgiving in gratitude to the Most Holy Trinity for the Carmelite Sisters was celebrated by Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS, on August 13 at St. Gerard Church. A festive reception followed the liturgy.

“The Sisters have blessed this archdiocese for nearly 108 years. We assure them of our appreciation and our prayerful support as they depart to join their Sisters in other communities of the South Central Province,” said Sister Elizabeth Ann Vasquez, SSCJ, director of the Office for Consecrated Life. “While we are sad, we are also filled with gratitude and sincere appreciation for their presence of prayer and ministry.”

The Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus were founded in Germany in 1891 by Mother Mary Teresa of St. Joseph. Their special apostolate is the training of children and youth in day care centers and homes; the care of elderly people and women in need of rest; aiding the poor and abandoned, providing for retreats; giving religious instruction; and assisting in various other spiritual works.

According to the book Archdiocese of San Antonio: 1974-1974, the order’s Mother Foundress Mary Teresa was invited by Bishop John W. Shaw on Jan. 5, 1914, to establish in San Antonio a home for poor homeless children and a day nursery for boys and girls between the ages of one and six. This was located at 503 South San Saba Street. A kindergarten was built in 1942, another wing was added to the nursery in 1956, and a new chapel was completed two years later.

In July 1918 a home for boys was opened at 2006 Nebraska Street. In 1942 it was converted into a day nursery for boys and girls. The original building at this location was replaced by a new nursery, convent and chapel in 1966 which continued to serve as a daycare for underprivileged children to this day.

Sister Anna Maria, Carmel DCJ, local superior, said the nuns served many families that were coming from Mexico through means of providing food, clothing, and materials for housing. The Sisters would also teach catechesis to the children. But as times changed, so did the Carmelite apostolate, with many different demands; including the need for an ever increasing number of lay staff.

“We have taken time to discern with our provincial council and mother general possible avenues that we could take that only involve the Sisters,” explained Sister Anna Maria. “Through this discernment we look at our province as a whole, and the consensus was that we need to regroup, grow, and then look towards the future to come back and labor in this vineyard of love.”

Currently, the Sisters will now lease their property and travel back four times a year to maintain a connection with the archdiocese.

“Please keep us in your prayers as we make this transition,” she requests. “In all, God’s blessing has been shown; even though it seems like a defeat, there is much hope for the future.”

In the mid-1970s about 20 Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus ministered in San Antonio.

“It is inevitable to suffer when there is loss. We live in a tension as straight as the Cross, between a world that abhors pain -- trying to pull us down to escape from it -- and our Lord on the Cross lifting us up. We embrace the Lord together with our own cross. Now we say goodbye,” Archbishop Gustavo began his homily at the farewell Mass.

“We say goodbye with tears. We are overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude to God, who has given them to us for such a long time. So many children and families have been served with God’s tender caress through these true mothers, in the image of Our Lady,” he emphasized. “By establishing a home for children – at times an orphanage or a daycare throughout many years -- your own hearts became home for generations, in the image of God the Father. Thank you for remaining faithful to the love of God. We thank God for you! God bless you, Sisters! Thank you!”

The archbishop told attendees that the gathering was one of celebration of over a century of fruitful presence of the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus in San Antonio. “You have treasures stored up in heaven, which we are sure will continue to be poured out onto the world, as the Holy Spirit keeps multiplying them. Well done, good and faithful servants!” the Missionary of the Holy Spirit exclaimed. “The Church in San Antonio remains forever in debt to you, but she will keep you in her prayers, certain that nothing is lost.”

Archbishop Gustavo also remembered with gratitude the Carmelite spiritual leaders of St. Theresa of Avila, St. Teresa of Jesus, St. Elijah and St. John of the Cross.

As the Lord bid farewell to his disciples, He warned them that they could not bear any more at that time, but that the Spirit of truth would guide them and declare “the things that are coming.”

“The Holy Spirit has glorified the Lord through your work here and he will continue to glorify him. Keep up the good work!” the San Antonio prelate urged the Sisters. “The Holy Spirit turns our sorrow into joy because he always opens brighter ways. That is our hope, which makes any feeling of loss be overcome by an overwhelming peace, because there is no end.”

The archbishop concluded by praying, “With Our Lady of Guadalupe we thank God for so much, and we give glory to the Father, through Jesus, with the Holy Spirit.”