Sioux City Carmel marks 50th with festivities March 25 and 26
By RENEE WEBB, Globe editor
Over the course of two days, hundreds of Catholic faithful offered good wishes and congratulations to the seven Carmelite nuns who are cloistered in the monastery that was built under the leadership of Bishop Joseph Mueller.
Following an afternoon open house on March 25, the Carmelites led evening prayer and a rosary.
B.J. pointed out that he is the brother-in-law of the late Mother Agnes of Divine Love, OCD, who was the foundress of the monastery in Sioux City. Mother Agnes died in 2009.
“We couldn’t have spent a more blessed Sunday than we spend today coming up from Kansas City to the Carmelites 50th anniversary,” he said. “It was absolutely important for us to be here.”
His son, Gregg who is Mother Agnes’ nephew, added, “My mom and dad donated the stone floor here.” Plus they supplied many of the photos in the monastery’s meeting room. “So we have been very close to the Carmelite Nuns through the years.”
Bishop Walker Nickless presided at the 9 a.m. Mass on the Solemnity of the Annunciation, March 26. Twelve priests from the Diocese of Sioux City concelebrated the liturgy as did three Carmelite Friars from the Oklahoma Province of St. Therese: Very Rev. Luis Joaquin Castaneda, OCD, Provincial; Rev. Ralph Reyes, OCD and Rev. Luis Gerardo Belmonte-Luna, OCD.
During the homily, Bishop Nickless pointed out that in the diocesan history book it was noted that Bishop Joseph Mueller had said he had accomplished many things through the “spiritual dynamo” that energized the work of the church in Northwest Iowa.
“Of course he was referring to Carmel – the Carmelite sisters who pray so faithfully everyday for the church, especially here in the Diocese of Sioux City,” Bishop Nickless said. “As bishop of the Diocese of Sioux City, it is my joy, my privilege, my honor to thank God for the Carmelite sisters who have graced our diocese.”
After becoming bishop, he noted that they contacted him to inquire what his special intentions were. The sisters said they would pray for them.
“I know all of you join me in giving praise and thanks to God for this Carmelite Monastery and for the holy sisters who pray for us and help us every day,” he said.
Bishop Nickless said that 50 years ago he was a freshman in high school and had no knowledge about the very simple and yet profound event that happened on a Saturday morning, Jan. 6, 1962. Bishop Mueller had sealed the door of the Carmelite monastery and gave the key to Mother Agnes. Thus was the beginning of the Carmel in Sioux City, which had seven sisters in residence.
He noted that the present prioress of the monastery, Mother Joseph, had reminded him that in 1562 – 400 years before this monastery began – St. Teresa of Avila founded her first Carmelite monastery that was named St. Joseph’s.
In his homily, the bishop welcomed the Carmelite friars and mentioned Carol Spellman, Dorothy Keane and the Carmelite Guild who had done so much through the years to help the monastery.
Celebrating Mass on the Feast of the Annunciation, he said there was no better day to mark the 50th anniversary than on the day when Mary said yes. He thanked the Carmelite sisters for their “yes” and their faithfulness to God’s will.
“Our prayers are with you always and we are so grateful for your presence,” the bishop told the Carmelites.
“It is an honor for me and my Carmelite brothers to be with you to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the existence of this Carmel,” said the provincial, who added that the friars of the province were rejoicing with them and sent their congratulations. “You are producing spiritual fruits for the local and universal church.”
Through the anniversary, he said they celebrated Carmelite vocations and the mission of the Carmelites who are committed to a life of prayer and life in Christ.
Father Castaneda thanked the sisters for their yes to the vocation and for their witness.
He told the sisters to never forget “that God is with you now and God will be with you in the future.”
Several people opted to attend events on both days. Among them was Carol Spellman, whose sister, Mother Agnes was the foundress of the monastery.
Given her close connection to the Carmelites, she was very gratified to see the many priests concelebrate Mass and the outpouring of support for the sisters from the Carmel Board and Guild, the Third Order of Secular Carmelites and many others in the community.
While the Carmelites in their commemorative history booklet credited Carol and the late Dr. George Spellman for planting the seed about establishing a Carmel here, she gave credit to Bishop Mueller for inviting them into the diocese.
Spellman has many fond personal memories of the Carmelites. For instance, she remembered that her parents picked up Mother Agnes and Sister Michael to bring them to Sioux City more than 50 years ago to search for a site for the monastery.
What has always stood out for her is how the sisters have been fittingly identified as a “powerhouse of prayer” for the area. She called their prayer life beautiful.
“The support of the diocese and the priests who have served as their chaplains through the years has been wonderful,” Spellman said. “The support was necessary for them to flourish and bring so much spiritual nourishment to our diocese.”
Dr. Ken and Dorothy Keane attended the Mass. They pointed out that they had attended the celebration 50 years earlier when the monastery was founded.
“It is a privilege to be here today on the 50th anniversary of Carmel,” said Dorothy, who served years ago on the Carmel Board. “I call on them quite often to request prayers for our large family.”
The Keanes granddaughter, Michelle Keane, was an altar server for the Mass.
Sue Hrasky of Nativity Parish in Sioux City said she wanted to attend the celebration because she has known the sisters for years.
“They are all so special and I call them all of the time for prayers,” she said. She added that they are members of Nativity Parish.
Marie McRoberts, another parishioner of Nativity, pointed out that she wanted to attend the celebration because she had never been inside the monastery’s chapel before and it was a chance to see the bishop concelebrate Mass with the priests.
“I am in awe of what the sisters do,” she said.
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