Arrived on island in 1966

The Carmelite Sisters are an order of contemplative Catholic nuns who follow the reformed observance of the Carmelite Rule as defined by Saint Teresa of Avila. The Carmelites are so named because they were traditionally founded by Christian hermits on Mount Carmel in Palestine. The Carmelites are cloistered; that is, they do not leave the monastery except for medical needs and in other special circumstances, but remain within the monastery leading a life of quiet prayer and work.

The Carmelites were invited to Guam by the late Bishop Apollinaris Baumgartner, OFM Cap and arrived on island in 1966. The Carmelite pioneers on Guam were sent by the Carmelite Monastery of Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, at the time known as Jesselton. Before their own monastery could be built, the original band of Carmelites lived with the Sisters of Mercy in Ta’i, Mangilao.

The Carmelites built their monastery in Malojloj, Inarajan and began to support themselves through the making and sale of communion wafers, baptismal gowns, wedding veils, Christmas decorations, and other such products. The monastery was dedicated on 14 January 1968. For some years they also maintained an egg farm.

Many local benefactors over the years have also assisted the nuns. The parish of San Isidro was built in connection with the monastery. The nuns were often sought after in Malojloj for intercessory prayer and spiritual guidance.

The community is lead by a Prioress elected from among their number. Past prioresses have been Mothers Concepcion, Dolores, Josephine, and Bernadette. The present Prioress is Mother Dawn Marie.

In 1981, the Carmelites were given special permission to leave their cloister to participate in the historic visit of Pope John Paul II to the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagåtña. They were given front seats in the cathedral.

In December 2006, the community moved out of their Malojloj monastery to a house in Tamuning which was renovated into a monastery. The move was prompted by their decrease in size and their advanced age, necessitating more frequent visits to doctors and other health services mainly located in Tamuning and adjacent areas. In their urban setting today, the Carmelites hope to continue being a spiritual oasis in the midst of the commercial center of Guam.

By Eric Forbes, OFM Cap.

For further reading

Discalced Carmelite Nuns, Arlington Texas “The Carmelite Nuns of Arlington, Texas” (accessed August 9, 2010).