Terre Haute

Lord, it is good for us to be here....

1947 - Mother Agnes and the founding sisters at the porch of 'the house on the hill'.

The first years of our foundation resembled the journey with Jesus up Mount Tabor. The climb was steep as we labored to build the three-tented monastery, answering a call to be alone with the Lord in prayer and sacrifice at the heart of the Church. Yet at the same time, we were always in Jesus’ company, for Jesus who summoned us up the mountain climbed it at our side, as he once climbed with Peter, James and John.

Mt 17:4

With the marvelous help of Providence and the loving assistance of many friends whom the Lord inspired to help us, the goal was reached at last. Peter’s dream of erecting three tents on the mountain to honor Jesus and the prophets was realized on the hill of St. Joseph’s Carmel. We rejoiced in all that God had done for us, and our cornerstone proclaims: "LORD, IT IS GOOD FOR US TO BE HERE."

The words of the cornerstone echoed the words of Peter to Jesus on Mount Tabor.

The apostles who first accompanied Jesus up the mount of Tabor were rewarded with a great vision, as the Lord was transfigured before them, but it was a moment that quickly passed.  It was not long before they saw nothing of the transfiguration glory, the cloud or the prophets. Once again, they saw ONLY JESUS. 


They went down with Jesus to the everyday life of his mission and tried to be loyal to Jesus wherever he called them forward at his side. “You are the ones who have remained with me faithfully in my trial,” Jesus told them gratefully during the Last Supper. Jesus also shared with them the triumph of his Resurrection. When he sent the Spirit, Jesus transformed them from within, even as he transforms each of us. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches who live mysteriously from our source in Jesus more than we do from ourselves. As long as we remain connected to the vine, we experience the Lord’s joyful, sorrowful, and glorious mysteries bearing fruit in each of our lives.

Our monastery, built into three tents in those first twenty-five years of our foundation, seems to be frozen at the moment of the Apostles' first passing glimpse into the Lord's glory on Mount Tabor. But behind the walls as the years marched on, our community has been called forward into other stages of the journey. We have tried to follow the Lord faithfully into the dusty life of the plain, into our unique encounters with the full range of his human experience. With all our brothers and sisters united with us in the mystery of the Church, we have found one reality to be constant. On the mountain as in the valley, in light as in the darkness, on Tabor as on Calvary, the reality is a Person: JESUS.

The Foundresses


On the Feast of the Holy Rosary, October 7, 1947, Mother Agnes of Jesus and Sister Magdalene of the Sacred Heart, accompanied by Sister Joan of the Cross, Sister Mary of the Eucharist, Sister Elia of the Mother of God, Sister Patricia of the Holy Face, and Sister Catherine of the Mother of God, made the first climb to "the house on the hill" to begin the foundation of this Carmel of St. Joseph.

It was on the first day of his novena that the transaction on the house was sealed, and St. Joseph has continued to shelter us ever since. Bishop Joseph Ritter, who wanted a second Carmel in the diocese to be a presence of prayer in an area where Catholics were less numerous.  The Indianapolis Carmel responded to the bishop's request, tracing its roots back through Bettendorf and Baltimore Carmels, to the original foundation made at Port Tobacco in 1790. This Monastery was the first house of Catholic religious women founded in the original thirteen colonies of the United States of America. The nuns who founded Port Tobacco, in turn, came from Hoogstraet Carmel in the Lowlands. Hoogstraet Carmel was under the direct influence of Blessed Anne of St. Bartholomew, St. Teresa's trusted companion and nurse, who had spread the Holy Mother's vision of Carmel into countries and cultures far beyond its birthplace in Spain. Mr. Emil Zurschmeid, faithful caretaker from Indianapolis Carmel, had already made the adjustments needed to turn the beautiful old colonial home in Allendale into a temporary Carmelite Monastery.

Terre Haute original house

So within a few days, on October 11, which was then the feast of the Maternity of Our Lady, the first open house was held. Many were thus introduced to our way of life, and initial contacts were made that would develop into friendships over the years. The First Mass was offered and the provisional enclosure established on October 15,  the feast of our Holy Mother St. Teresa of Jesus. It was always her special joy to make a new home in which the Blessed Sacrament could be reserved. She must have been exulting in heaven when on her feast Jesus came to pitch his tent on this new hill of prayer.

From these humble beginnings initiated under the patronage of so many saints dear to the heart of any Carmelite, we began the long and beautiful effort to respond to the grace that had brought us here, to build our Monastery, our Community, and our apostolic life of prayer.



Thus we journeyed on at the Lord's side, supported by many friends, through changes and challenges which in their own way were comparable to the work and poverty of the early years when we built our monastery.  With our eyes fixed on him and united in a hidden and vital way with his Holy Church, we shared all the mysteries of his life and the life of every human being joyful, sorrowful and glorious alike.  
Like St. Therese of the Child Jesus, we have found that "everything is a grace." And we offer with full hearts our gratitude to God for all He has done for us.  

Daily we glorify God in prayer and song together. The three tents on our hill stand quietly for our tested determination to keep the Lord company and to be given for his Church, no matter where the journey with him may lead.

Remembering our departed sisters with respect and affection.

May every future sister called to this Carmel of Terre Haute, and everyone connected with us in the mystery of living prayer, come to know more deeply the ONE who has so powerfully sustained our journey together.  He has been our faithful companion and Lord, and he will be with us always - our divine, glorious, and everlasting JESUS.


... we were in His company on the holy mountain

                                                                        2 Peter 18