Sunday, August 28, 2011

Port Tobacco

The first Carmelite Monastery in America was founded in Port Tobacco, Maryland in 1790.
Prior to the Declaration of Independence, religious freedom had been denied to Catholics. Women and men wishing to enter into a religious vocation had to do so by leaving America and heading for Europe. Convents in Belgium and France were for devoted Americans likely destinations as even England had anti-Catholic laws at the time.

Three of the founding nuns of Mt. Carmel, Mother Bernardina, Sister Mary Aloysia and Sister Mary Eleanora along with Father Neale, were all natives of Southern Maryland. Mother Bernardina was a descendant of one of the first families in Maryland and Sisters Mary Aloysia and Mary Eleanor were her nieces.

The founders had made the arduous trip to Europe and after the Revolution ended, returned to Southern Maryland to enjoy religious freedom and to bring Carmel to America and to their original home.

When Father Neale and the Sisters returned to Charles County, they stayed originally at what was then Father Neale's family estate, Chandler's Hope in Port Tobacco (Chandler's Hope is where both Father Neale and Archbishop Neale were born). But the estate lacked the seclusion needed for the Sisters and so Father Neale exchanged Chandler's Hope for 860 acres about three miles north of Port Tobacco. This is where the original monastery buildings were constructed.

After a very long history, and through many struggles for survival and revival, today's monastery is on nearly 80 acres, bordering the Mt. Carmel Estates neighborhood, less than a half-mile from the College of Southern Maryland's La Plata campus. (Read more.)


Julygirl said...

An interesting area that has historic significance in the founding of the Amnerican Colonies. As the name implies it was a busy Tobacco shipping port until it silted up over the years.....also Tobacco prices dropped due to the abundance of the product and the town did not continue to grow. This area, during our current era, has a large and busy population, but the original historic sites still exist and make for an interesting day trip from the DC metro area.

Dymphna said...

It's very sobering to go peek into the recreation of the first convent. The sisters were living in very unpleasant conditions.