Journey to the frontiers

All are welcome to a celebration of the century – and a half

by Joe Bollig

LEAVENWORTH – Everybody get ready: It’s almost time to part like it’s 1864.

That’s right, 1864 – the year two adventurous German Carmelite men crossed the Atlantic, traversed a nation divided by war, and established the first male Carmelite foundation in North America, in the Kansas frontier town of Leavenworth.

Thus, an order founded in the late 12th century on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land continues into the 21st century in the New World — reaching its American 150th anniversary.

An epic anniversary demands an epic celebration, so the Carmelites of Province of the Most Pure Heart of Mary are celebrat- ing with a three-day Sesquicentennial Symposium, Oct. 23 to 25.

The idea for the celebration came from Father David McEvoy, O.Carm., pastor of Immaculate Conception-St. Joseph Parish in Leavenworth and a Leavenworth native.

“I’m very proud that our community, of all places, was established here,” said Father David.

The Sesquicentennial Symposium, “Carmel’s Journey to the Frontiers,” is a two-tier celebration, he explained.

“We have Carmelite priests, brothers, Sisters and cloistered nuns who are coming for the celebration of our Carmelite community,” said Father David. “But we also have events open to the general public and parishioners.”

Among the distinguished guests are two German Carmelites from the mother province in Straubing, Germany; Rome-based prior general Father Fernando Millan, O.Carm., and two more Rome-based Carmelites; British former prior general Father Joseph Chalmers; and Dutch former prior general Father Falco Thuis.

“The oldest Carmelite man in the province, Father Valentine Boyle, who is 94, is coming from Arizona,” said Father David. “He lived here from 1960 to 1975, and he pastored from 1966 to 1975. We’re thrilled he’s coming.”

Father David will give the keynote address on Oct. 23, “Carmel’s Frontier Experience.”

Brother Joseph Schmidt, a Christian Brother and author of books about St. Therese of Lisieux, will present a second keynote address, “Carmelite Spirituality for the 21st Century,” also on Oct. 23, followed by a book signing and a wine and cheese reception.

On Oct. 24, the Carmelites will hop on a bus for a trip to Scipio, site of the second-earliest Carmelite location in North America. It’s also the burial site of Father Cyril Knoll, O.Carm., the “Father of Carmel in America.” The current and two past priors general will lead a panel discussion.

The celebration will also feature two ticketed events. The first event is a concert by the San Francisco-based all-male classical vocal ensemble Chanticleer, performing the evening of Oct. 24.

The second event is a Communion breakfast on Oct. 25 with Kansas native and world-renowned “Vaticanista” John Allen Jr., now associate editor with The Boston Globe. Allen’s presentation is called “The Church in a Changing World: Carmel’s New Frontier.”

The cost of the concert and reception is $40, and the Communion breakfast is $30, but the cost of registering for both is reduced to $60. (For information, go online to: www.carmel150.org)

For a more detailed schedule of events, see the sidebar on the previous page.

Currently, the Kansas Carmelites are part of the Province of the Most Pure Heart of Mary.

The Carmelite contingent in the archdiocese consists of five men: Father David in Leavenworth; Brother David McGinnis, also on the pastoral team in Leavenworth; Father Tom Schrader, residing in Leavenworth and the new president of Bishop Ward High School in Kansas City, Kansas; Father Jerry Williams, pastor of St. Boniface in Scipio; and Father David Simpson, providing spiritual direction, also in Scipio.

“We’re a very small presence in the whole archdiocese, but we’ve been a gift to the archdiocese,” said Father David.

“And so,” he continued, “it’s a great joy to think that 150 years later . . . we can have the celebration here. It’s good for the archdiocesan church, too, to realize this major religious order has a connection to the archdiocese and has had a profound effect on our community.”


About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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