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The Order of the Discalced Carmelite Friars and the
California-Arizona Province

Carmelites trace their roots and their name to Mount Carmel in the Holy Land. There, in the 13th century, a band of European men gathered together to live a simple life of prayer and witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ. Their first chapel was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. They called themselves the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel.

In the 16th century in Spain, St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) renewed the Carmelite Order. With St. John of the Cross (1542-1591), she strengthened the Order’s commitment to follow Christ through an intense life of prayer for the good of all the Church. They and their spiritual descendants were known as the Discalced—or reformed—Carmelites.

Carmelites with Bishop Buddy standing in front of crucifix 1953 The dedication of the El Carmelo Retreat House in 1952 with Bishop Charles Francis Buddy, Bishop of the Diocese of San Diego.

In 1924, two Carmelite friars from Ireland established our first permanent foundation in California at St. Thérèse Parish in Alhambra. New foundations followed:

  • El Carmelo Retreat House, Redlands, CA (1952)
  • House of Prayer, Oakville, CA (1955)
  • Carmelite Novitiate, San Jose, CA (1959)
  • St. Cecilia Parish and Institute of Spirituality, Stanwood, WA (1989)
  • Carmelite House of Studies, Mt. Angel, OR (1999)

Prior to the 1924 California Foundation, Discalced Carmelite Friars working in Mexico—originally from Catalonia, Spain—fled to Arizona to escape persecution. Their first foundation in Arizona was at Winkelman in 1912. The friars founded Holy Family Parish in 1913 in Tucson, Arizona. Two other parishes in Tucson, AZ founded by the friars remain under their pastoral care today:

  • Santa Cruz Parish (1919)
  • St. Margaret Mary Parish (1951)

In 1964, the Catalonian Carmelite friars in Arizona affiliated with the friars in California. Our official name is now the California-Arizona Province. Our jurisdiction includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, and Utah.

Within this geographic area, there are also 16 monasteries of cloistered Discalced Carmelite nuns, two congregations of active Carmelite Sisters, and 69 communities or groups of Secular Order Discalced Carmelites for lay people.

Due in part to the tremendous popularity of such Carmelite Saints as St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Thérése of Lisieux and St. Edith Stein, our Province is experiencing an unprecedented increase in vocations.

After much prayer and discernment, on November 12, 2002—the exact 400 anniversary of the first recorded Mass on the west coast of the United States by the Discalced Carmelites, the Province officially began a new mission in Uganda, Africa. Our current focus is on the formation of men for Carmelite vocations.

Note: A more thorough account of the history of the California-Arizona Province may be found in Vintage of Grace: The Discalced Carmelite Friars in California 1923 to 1982. Copies may be purchased through the El Carmelo Retreat House bookstore.

Eight ways you can be part of our Carmelite Family

  1. Send us your prayer or Mass offering request
  2. Enroll a friend or loved one in the Pious Union of St. Therese
  3. Wear the scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel
  4. Invite someone to explore a Carmelite Vocation
  5. Mail in a donation to our Seminary
  6. Help our mission in Uganda East Africa
  7. Sign up for the mailing list
  8. LIKE our Facebook page!