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Carmelite Nuns in Alcona County
Reports of sightings of Carmelite nuns in the area of the Huron National Forest are not idle rumors. The Discalced Carmelite Nuns of the Archdiocese of Detroit last year acquired 91 acres of beautiful wooded property in Alcona County, with two little summer houses which they are renovating as hermitages. "One of the unique things about Carmel," explains Mother Mary Elizabeth, Prioress, "is that it originated in the hermit life of Palestine. Thats why its emphasis on contemplative prayer in solitude. To this day each community is encouraged to have hermitages where the Sisters can go for short periods of hermit life. We had talked about building a hermitage in the backyard and planting trees around it so that we could pretend we were out in the forest somewhere. But then God gave us the real thing here in Alcona." Do other Carmelite monasteries have hermitages on properties separate from the monastery like this? "No," says Mother Mary Elizabeth. "As far as I know, this is unique. We are opening this opportunity up to other Carmelite nuns around the country as a place for private retreats, periods of discernment, or a chance to experiment with the hermit life more radically than is possible within the ordinary monastery environment. We are expecting Carmelite nuns from other parts of the country to come in July, in October, and again next January." The nuns do not offer retreats for the laity, courses on prayer, or spiritual direction. "Those are all important in the life of the Church," says Mother Mary Elizabeth. "The Carmelite Friars have those ministries. But the vocation of the nuns is simply to live in a very concentrated way the intimate communion with God which is at the heart of what the Church is about." That may be well and good for the nuns themselves, but does it do any good for anyone else? "Our Holy Mother St. Teresa," says Mother Mary Elizabeth, "always insisted that our prayer be at the service of the Church. Otherwise, she says, we would not be fulfilling the purpose for which God has brought us here." St. Teresas insight is today accepted by the Church for all contemplatives. Every form of religious life, both active and contemplative, is part of the Church and at the service of the Church. The contemplative life tangibly expresses the nature of the Church, enriches it spiritually, and encourages all Christians in their own vocations. Carmelite nuns take to heart also the particular needs of those among whom they live. Individuals may contact the nuns to ask for prayers through their monastery in Detroit: Monastery of St. Therese, 35750 Moravian Drive, Clinton Township, MI 48035; telephone: (586) 790-7255.