“The lesson now for anyone considering a religious vocation in Savannah is that everything can be stripped away from you overnight – your charism, your Latin Mass, your housing, and your vows to God could all go up in smoke,” Amara Derienzo, a gardener at the monastery who recently spent a week there discerning her vocation there, told LifeSiteNews.
The monastery sits on prime acres of property that has been home to the Carmelite community since 1958. The nuns arrived a few months after the Most Rev. Thomas J. McDonough, then Bishop of Savannah, invited nuns from the Carmel of Philadelphia to make a new foundation in his diocese for the explicit purpose of praying for “priests and in particular for a deepening of faith in the few and scattered faithful.” The bishop expressed his firm belief that efforts to evangelize Savannah would bear fruit only if supported by prayer.
According to a convent insider who spoke to LifeSiteNews under condition of anonymity, three sisters (including the Mother Superior) and two novices were informed in September 2022 that they had until the end of 2022 to move out of the monastery. The oldest sister, who is said to be 95 years old, was among the first group to move to Savannah from Pennsylvania in the late 1950s. She, together with the Mother Superior who is in her 70s, were both reportedly told to “find a nursing home” to move to without any direction or assistance from either the order or the diocese.
“Sister Carmela has been here for more than 60 years,” Derienzo told LifeSiteNews.
The youngest sister, a young woman who had asked her father if she could join the Carmelite monastery when she was 12 years old, has been in the monastery for 5 years. She was provided with no direction nor suggestions for her future by Carmelite Secretary for Nuns Father Rafal Wilkowski or Carmelite Federation president Sister Mary Clare Trolley, the insider explained.
Derienzo said that the treatment a religious community that has been stationed in Savannah for 50 years is receiving “does not serve as an inspiration for religious vocations.”
“You can sacrifice your entire life and be kicked to the curb in your dotage, and no effort to retain you in the prime of your life,” Derienzo added.
The affiliation decree issued to the Savannah Carmelite Monastery in August 2022, which LifeSiteNews has obtained, was “to put in place what is necessary to bring about the suppression of this monastery” (See Cor Orans Section III Affiliation No. 55). Originally, Trolley told the community that all the novices needed to leave the monastery by the end of 2022, the insider said.
Continuing, the insider explained that from February 21 to 23, 2023, meetings were held with the Federation, the current Bishop of Savannah, and the Apostolic Visitator. At this time, the nuns had not adhered to the Federation’s desire to leave the monastery, so they were told again that they had 2 months to find a new place to live.
As of April 2023, the Mother, sisters, and novices have reportedly requested more time as they pray through this trial.
“Our Lord Jesus Christ identifies Himself with our Carmelite sisters because they are abused, vulnerable, and forgotten. Whatever the Federation and the Vatican do to them, they do to Him,” Derienzo told LifeSiteNews. “He promised this: ‘My Father’s house is a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.’”
“We know where this one ends. Jesus will answer for the sisters. Our Lady promises us that in the end, her Immaculate Heart will triumph,” Derienzo added. “Her heart is in Carmel, and even though there are dark days ahead, we can rest in full confidence in her.”
During his Wednesday general audience on April 26, Pope Francis asked the following rhetorical question regarding monasteries and their contribution to announcing the Gospel of Jesus Christ: “Wouldn’t it be better if they dedicated their energies to mission?”
“No!” the Pope answered himself and called those cloistered religious as “the beating heart” of the Church’s mission.
How different was that spoken proclamation of the positive promotion on the role of prayer and meditation of religious compared to the news from Savannah, Georgia, that the Carmelite convent is to be closed.
Neither the Diocese of Savannah, Sister Mary Clare Trolley nor Father Wilkowski have yet returned calls or email requests for comment by LifeSiteNews.
Please contact the monastery to provide spiritual and monetary support.
Contact Sister Mary Clare Trolley at 812-299-1410 or the bishop of the diocese of Savannah through the Communications office at 912-201-4051 with your respectful comments or inquiries.