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.
St. Teresa’s call to build up the Church fully evolved when the immense project of the missions dawned on her. St. John of the Cross was preparing to join a Carmelite mission in Mexico at the time of his death. Later, Fr. Andrés, Fr. Antonio, and Fr. Antonio were part of that mission. The Vizcaino Expedition gave them the opportunity to spread the Gospel and take the spirit of Carmel to a remote, but promising new shore in California in 1602.
The California-Arizona Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars dates from 1912, when friars working in Mexico—originally from Catalonia, Spain—fled to Arizona to escape persecution. Today two parishes in Tucson, Arizona are part of the Western Province:
• Santa Cruz Parish (1919)
• St. Margaret Mary Parish (1951)
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)
In 1964, the Catalonian Carmelite friars in Arizona affiliated with the friars in California. Our official name is 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 45 communities of Secular Order Discalced Carmelites for lay people.
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 and schools in Uganda, Africa.