Origins, History, Identity and Mission
The Institute of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was founded in Italy by Maria Scrilli known as the Servant of God Sr. Maria Teresa of Jesus. She was born at Montevarchi, Italy on May 15th of the Holy Year 1825 and died on November 14th, 1889.
From childhood, she had a marked tendency toward prayer and was profoundly connected to Carmelite spirituality from her reading of St. Mary Magdalene de’Pazzi. She also had a great devotion to Our Lady whom she called “my dear mother”. The spirit of contemplation, total abandonment to the will of God, and deep union with the Lord were the characteristics of her spiritual life. Her prayer added the aspect of reparation for offenses inflicted on God, of praise, of joy in Him, of profound union and of faith. She felt the irresistible call of the Lord and in spite of many obstacles she overcame them to fulfill her desire to become a Carmelite Sister. As soon as she was enlightened about the aim of her vocation, which was that of “leading souls to God”, she abandoned herself to God’s Will.
She loved the Blessed Virgin Mary tenderly and to her she dedicated the foundation of her Institute, which officially took place on October 15th, 1854.
With the spiritual daughters who followed her, she shared her contemplative and apostolic ardor, which she condensed in the words:
The life of our Institute must be contemplative and active: the one must be helped and not of burden to the other.
During her lifetime she fully realized this ideal which she expressed on a moving page of her Autobiography with these words:
The sense of the divine Presence had become continuous in me. It was a very pleasant union; I could not resign myself to abandon it if I was not persuaded to leave God for God, that is, to leave God in the contemplation of Mary, so as to find Him again in the duties and cares of Martha.Ceasing, thus to enjoy Him, to go and toil for Him, and then to come back to rest in Him.
Originally, the main purpose of the Institute was of “leading souls to God” through prayers, and through the apostolate of educating children from their tender years until their adolescence. In time, a new dimension was added to the apostolate. When Co-foundress Maria Mosca, known as Sister Maria of Jesus, was inspired to serve the Lord through serving the sick and the aged. The sisters became known for their warm, generous and compassionate care of those who suffer. In addition to educating children and caring for the sick, the sisters were and are also called to social work and pastoral ministry. In response to the Church’s invitation to spread the Kingdom of God among the nations, the Carmelite Sisters have opened houses in the United States, Canada, Poland, India, Brazil, Czech Republic, Philippines, Indonesia and Israelin addition to the many houses that continue to operate throughout Italy. There areapproximately 230 sisters in 39 houses. The Institute affiliated to the Carmelite Orderon March 31, 1929.
Today, the women who respond to their call of following Jesus in the spirit of Carmel, come to orient themselves to religious life. They are immersed into the life of contemplation which we so highly esteem and they are given opportunities to experience apostolic life in the traditions of our Institute based on their talents, interests and needs of the Institute. We strongly feel that the most effective witness we can offer others is the display of love with which we answer our sacred vocation, which is to serve God through service to those God places in our care. Animated by a living faith and unwavering hope, we aim to bring the love of Jesus into the hearts of those whom He asks us to serve. We strive to continue to discover and deepen the spirit of our foundation in order to remain faithful to the charism of our Mother Foundress, while applying her charism to the pressing needs of our modern world.
Whatsoever you do for the least of my people you do for me.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the Patroness and model of our Institute. Our Lady teaches us to listen to God by being open to the Holy Spirit speaking to us in our hearts. Our Lady instructs us to respond generously as she did through our response of “YES” to God’s call and she encourages us to live with our hearts and minds constantly turned towards the Blessed Trinity.
We also wear the same religious habit as a sign of our consecration to God. We wear it with dignity and devotion both in and out of the house. The habit consists of a brown dress and scapular, a black veil and a white cloak that is worn on certain days and for particular occasions. The small wooden cross worn on the scapular is the distinctive sign of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The Scapular of Carmel is for us a constant reminder of how Mary lived and how those who wear the Scapular should live; with mind and heart turned to God, contemplating the loving presence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit dwelling within us. At the time of Perpetual Profession, we receive a silver ring engraved with an “M” for the name of Mary - a sign of our filial devotion.
All the moments of our life are characterized by prayer. Prayer is an absolute necessity for us both personally and in community life. In prayer, God reveals God’s self to our spirit and our heart. God favors us with the grace to recognize and understand the value of our religious life and to acquire the strength and courage for an earnest commitment of life and service. To strengthen our life of prayer, we cultivate silence and recollection, indispensable conditions for listening to and encountering the Lord and learning how to dialogue among ourselves.
United by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, we live the gift of community life in the Church by reason of the same vocation. Following the example of the primitive Church we commit ourselves to be of “one heart and one mind”, working together that there may be among us: peace, harmony, love, compassion and charity that is the bond of perfection. The Gospel, the Sacred Liturgy and above all the Eucharist nourish and strengthen our fraternal communion which fosters collaboration on a common apostolate giving concrete witness of our unity.
On December 2, 2003, in the presence of the Holy Father, the Heroic Virtue of the Servant of God Maria Teresa of Jesus (known as Maria Scrilli (1825-1889), foundress of the Institute of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, was declared. On Sunday, October 8, 2006, Mother Maria Teresa Scrilli was beatified in Fiesole, Italy.
Prayer to Blessed
Maria Teresa Scrilli
Lord Jesus, in the evangelical testimony of Blessed Maria Teresa Scrilli you continue to show to the world that it is the gentle who inherit your kingdom and that only in you do those who are tired and oppressed find rest.
Following her example, may we experience in our hearts the desire to serve you in our brothers and sisters and to be able to awaken, especially in young people a burning thirst for your love.
By her intercession, grant the favor we confidently ask of you …
For you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen. Glory be…
Blessed Maria Teresa Scrilli, pray for us. Amen.
Prayer in Honor of Blessed Maria Teresa Scrilli
O Blessed Maria Teresa, beacon of light in the darkness that weighs upon humanity, obtain for us from God, whom you greatly loved and generously served, all the graces necessary to fulfill God’s design for us.
Docile to the action of the Holy Spirit, you knew how to transform your existence into a masterpiece of ardent faith, radiant hope and passionate love for the Lord and for your brothers and sisters - especially the least and the marginalized.
Help us to worship and glorify God, one and three, as the absolute of our life, with a pure heart and upright conscience.
Help us welcome Jesus as our only way in our journey of faith. May He be for us as He is already for you, the way to follow, the truth to receive and the life to live.
Help us to venerate Mary our Mother and sister as the secure and splendid model who sustains and guides us on our journey towards our heavenly home.
Help us to be in harmony with the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, to love her and bear witness to her with service of charity which inspired you to found the Institute of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
In following the spirituality of Carmel, help us to desire and cultivate as you did, that longing for holiness as children of God. To God be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
Lucio M. Renna, O.Carm.