Creating a New Mt. Carmel… in America

Deal W. Hudson
September 15, 2008

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote about the “Last Carmelite Monks in America.” At the time, the eight Carmelites and their novices were overflowing their four-bedroom rectory in the mountains of northwest Wyoming.

Since then, the monks’ numbers have grown quickly. By the end of the year, there will be as many as 18 members of the community, making already cramped living quarters completely inadequate.

Rev. Daniel Mary of Jesus Crucified, the prior, told me, “We are getting inquiries all the time, from all over the world, including Germany, England, and the Philippines. Men hear about us by word of mouth and through the Internet. If you type in ‘Carmelite monks,’ our name pops up.”

I told Father Daniel that his comment last year that his community contained the “last Carmelite monks” provoked some letters disputing the claim.

“Well, I may have overstated it a bit,” Father Daniel said with a laugh. “I’m pretty sure we are the only community living the strictly cloistered way of life, but there are some new communities of Carmelite hermits in Texas.” The Carmelite monks of Wyoming are committed to reviving the original tradition of St. John of the Cross. They do not take over parishes or offer retreat ministry. “We probably are the only monks, in the strictest sense of the word,” reiterates Father Daniel.

Father Daniel is 41 years old, but the rest range from 18 to 31. “A few older guys have tried this out, but it is very hard for them when they have to be obedient to younger monks who are only 19 or 20. Older guys are set in their ways.” Thus, they look for men who are younger and have sound character and a strong faith. The monks run a background check in addition to creating a psychological profile and family history.

The monastery is looking to buy the Irma Lake Ranch, once owned as a hunting lodge by Buffalo Bill Cody. There have been four owners since then, and the present owner is willing to sell for $9.75 million.

Father Daniel explains that the price tag sounds high, but the property can be made into a new Mt. Carmel immediately. The ranch “already has a monastery on it, a 16,000-square-foot lodge with a big industrial kitchen and 20 rooms, along with a guesthouse, and a caretaker’s house.”

“This is the perfect set-up,” says Father Daniel, “with a road, electricity, and water all in place.”

This new Mt. Carmel in America will be a place where pilgrims can come on retreat and hear the preaching and conferences of the monks, while not disturbing their community life. The monks chant the divine office eight times a day; their whole life is given over to the liturgy.

Bishop David Ricken helped with the founding of the community. Before he left Cheyenne, Wyoming, for Green Bay, Wisconsin, he inspected Irma Lake and blessed the monks’ efforts in seeking to purchase it. The bishop told them, “From this place you will be sending priests and monks all over the world to re-found monasteries, just as Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross did in 16th-century Spain. You are filling a void in the Carmelite order.”

A foundation has been formed to receive donations for Irma Lake Ranch. Their coffee business – the delicious Mystic Monk Coffee – helps to cover day-to-day expenses, but the monks rely entirely on donations.

As we got off the phone, Father Daniel said, “The ranch is an incredible place for our charism. The view of Carter Mountain is breathtaking, looking out over all the white-capped mountains of Yellowstone Park. Moose, elk, antelope, and a few black bears roam the property.”

I hope this time next year I can spend a few days in the guesthouse of the new Mt. Carmel monastery and listen to the monks chant their liturgy against the backdrop of Carter Mountain.

To contact Father Daniel directly, or Brother Simon Mary, write or call (there is no Internet connection at the monastery):

Carmelite Monastery
P.O. Box 2747
Cody, WY 82414-2747
307-645-3320

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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