The Carmelites came to Santa Fe in 1945 when Mother Mary Teresa, along with five sisters, established a monastery at Mount Carmel Road located off of Camino del Monte Sol. Mother Mary Teresa’s given name was Guadalupe De Leon. She entered the monastery in Mexico when she was 19. It was during this time in 1926 that Plutarco Elias Calles was the 40th president of Mexico. The president’s repressive, violent and anti-Catholic regime forced the young nun to flee persecution. She came to the U.S. and eventually became the prioress of the Carmelite monastery in Dallas. In 1960 she left Santa Fe to found a new monastery in Jefferson City, MO, where she died on July 15, 1997 at the age of 94.
Carmelite Spanish Tradition
The Santa Fe monastery follows the Spanish tradition of the Carmelites. The Spanish Order was established during the 16th century by St. Teresa de Ávila, who entered the convent in 1535. The young nun was born Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada in 1515 in Gotarrendura in the province of Ávila, Spain. A writer and mystic, St. Teresa was a reformer of the Carmelite Order. In 1568 with the assistance of St. John of the Cross, they restored the practice of the Ancient Order of the Carmelites. St. Teresa was canonized as a saint by Pope Gregory XV in 1622. In 1970 she was named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI.
Carmelite French Tradition
The Carmelites also established a strong presence in France in the 17th century. Therese Martin was born in Lisieux and entered the Carmelite monastery in 1873. In 1925 Pope Pius XI canonized St. Therese. Pope John Paul II declared the French saint a Doctor of the Church in 1997. With both the Spanish and French traditions the Carmelites consist of three components: The 2000 friars who live an active parish life; the 700 nuns that live a cloistered life, and the approximately 30,000 members of the Laypeople of the Secular Order. They have provinces all over the world including India, Indonesia and Singapore with missions from Bolivia to Zimbabwe. In New Mexico there are Carmelite monasteries in Santa Fe and Las Cruces.