Posts Tagged ‘Carmelite Monks’

Congratulations, Deacon Simon Mary Of The Cross, M. Carm.!

Br. Simon Mary & Bishop Etienne

Br. Simon Mary & Bishop Etienne

Today was a very special day for the Mt. Carmel Monastery in Clark, Wyoming. At 9:00 am, in a simple and small ceremony in the monastery chapel, Br. Simon Mary, M. Carm. was ordained a deacon. He will be ordained priest later this year on December 14 in the same chapel.

Br. Simon Mary is the first ordination for the community since two priests were ordained  in October, 2010.  Br. Simon Mary is affectionately known in the community as ‘Little Monk.’  He is intelligent, humble, hard working, and has a beautiful spirituality.  On top of his studies, he liaisons with the contractors, foundation board, and is one of the primary drivers along with the prior in working with benefactors to fund the new monastery.  God is generously blessing their efforts.

At present, there are 16 members of the Mt. Carmel community in Wyoming, and after the day I have spent with them, I can tell you they enjoy a vibrant spirit.  The love of Christ is very much alive within this cloister!  Over the years of my observations of this fledgling community, I can see a sure and certain maturity.  They are a gift to the Church.

As most of this readership knows, the Mt. Carmel monks began construction of their new monastery two years ago.  We visited the site late this afternoon to check on construction progress.  The monks are hard at work, carving the limestone and sandstone that will cover all of the buildings.  They are also laying the stone in place themselves.

With the winter season now behind us (I hope!) construction is kicking into high gear once again.  Tomorrow, they will begin digging the foundations of their monastery church, one of the last buildings of the campus to enter construction phase.  The refectory, chapter house, porters office and hermitages are fully under roof, and the foundations are now in place for the infirmary.  Once in full gear, the job-site will employ approximately fifty laborers.

In the coming days, they will have four stone-cutting machines in full operation.  As you can imagine, it will take tons of stone to cover the exterior of all of the buildings.  Below is a photo of the north side of the refectory building, giving you an example of just how much these monks have learned over the past two years, and the quality of their workmanship.  They are building a monastery of which the church can be proud.  And this bishop is quite impressed with the ‘temple’ they have already built within their community.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, pray for us!

New Mt. Carmel refectory.

New Mt. Carmel refectory.

Episcopal Fraternity, Unity & Grace

Bishop Coyne, Auxiliary Bishop of Indianapolis, Bishop Thompson, Bishop of Evansville, Bishop Doherty, Bishop of Lafayette, Indiana, hiking in the Laramie Range, Wyoming.

Bishop Coyne, Auxiliary Bishop of Indianapolis, Bishop Thompson, Bishop of Evansville, Bishop Doherty, Bishop of Lafayette, Indiana, hiking in the Laramie Range, Wyoming.

After three days together, three members of my support group departed Cheyenne this morning to make their way back to their respective dioceses.  I believe we all parted feeling renewed in our episcopal fraternity, strengthened by our friendship, prayer, and genuine support.

The time we shared in these past few days gave insight to the reality that God creates each of us for communion; for sharing life with Him and with others. Bishops, being human, also have need for meaningful relationships, and nothing like a brother bishop to know what our day to day life is like.

At the heart of our life as bishops is our love for Christ and our love for Christ’s Church; the People of God.  We are first men of faith, and then we are called to be teachers of the faith, defenders of the faith, promoters of the faith.  Faith is something received and celebrated in ‘communion.’  Faith in God and in Jesus Christ is a gift, and it is proclaimed in the midst of the Church.  It is not a personal possession, something that we define for ourselves.  It is a gift, something received and then handed on and nourished in others, and in that process, faith grows, both individually, and communally.

Faith needs the support of faithful people.  It is not a surprise that in studying the history of the Church, saints often knew one another in this life, and often were friends.  We all do well in making sure that we have good friends, people of faith, that sustain us, and allow us to journey with them.

Once my brothers departed this morning, I quickly packed and headed out as well, this time for a seven hour drive to Clark, Wyoming, the home of our Carmelite monks.  Often on this blog, readers try to correct me for calling these Carmelites monks.  But, monks they are, living a cloistered life in a monastery.  However, in these days, there cloistered way of life is not quite so cloistered, as they are spending their days on the mountain, building their new monastery, thus the reason for my visit, to see how the construction is proceeding.  I hope to have some pictures to share with you soon.

My image of the Church as I put an ‘Amen’ to another day is this.  The Church is like a holy mountain, from which flows streams of life-giving grace.  The mountain seems appropriate, as every human person journeys through life trying to answer the interior longing of the soul to ascend to God.  Albino Luciani (who later became Pope John Paul I) told this story in a retreat to priests in 1965:

Paradise is a bit above our heads and we struggle to get there.  Well, we’re in the situation of a little kid, of a little girlie who’s seen the cherries, but can’t manage to get hold of them; so her daddy has to come, hoists her and says: up, little on, up!  Then, yes, he lifts her and she can pluck and eat the cherries.  That’s how we are; Paradise allures us, but it’s too high up for our poor efforts.  Woe to us if the Lord doesn’t come with his grace!

The life-giving stream of grace that flows from the Church is exactly what Bishop Luciani is speaking of, it is the presence and power of Christ that flows from the Church that ‘lifts us up’ so that we can grow in holiness, and the fullness of life.  Blessed are those who are open to receive this stream of grace.  At the same time, how impoverished we become when that stream of grace is blocked by sin.

May these days be days of grace for us all, opening our hearts, souls, and lives more and more to the person of Christ, and the life that only He brings!




A Shepherd’s Travels Among His People

St. Stephen Church, Wind River Indian Reservation


After a couple winter months spent primarily in the office, travels resumed once again this month. In the past two weeks, I’ve celebrated Mass or visited to following: Blessed Sacrament in Ft. Washaki, St. Joseph in Ethete, St. Stephen’s, Lander for a brief visit with some of the faculty at the Wyoming Catholic College, St. Margaret in Riverton, St. Francis in Thermopolis, St. Mary Magdalene in Worland, Our Lady of Fatima in Casper as well as the Cathedral and Holy Trinity in Cheyenne.

Today I’m enjoying a bone fide day off.  I truly enjoy the opportunity to be with the people in the diocese.  It reminds me of the way Jesus himself ministered through his travels from town to town, one person at a time.  These recent trips provided an opportunity to simply be with the people that wished to come for Mass, dinner and a visit. 

Visiting with Religous Education students: St. Mary Magdalen, Worland

 Matt Potter and I have been ‘drumming up business’ in relationship to our annual Living and Giving in Christ appeal.  This allows me to make a stronger connection with parishioners on a personal basis and gives us the opening to help them see that the parish as vital as it is in our ministry as a church is connected to a larger, universal Church.  We are also able to educate around the need for the appeal regarding the ministries it supports as well as make a strong argument for the spiritual theology of stewardship and the many ways we are asked to make a generous return to the Lord for all he has done for us.

Not all of the visits revolved around the Living and Giving in Christ theme.  While I was in the area, I simply ‘popped in’ on some of the faculty and staff at the Wyoming Catholic College.  It is good for them as well to know of the bishop’s presence and support for their good work.

The visit to Our Lady of Fatima was an official Pastoral Visitation.  In the Fall, I began making such visitations in order to look a bit deeper at the workings of our parishes.  I get an extended time to visit with the priests, deacons and pastoral staff about their work and to hear from them about their challenges and concerns.  There is also time for visiting with the Finance Council, Parish Pastoral Council and Parish Trustees.  Of course, there is also the great joy of celebrating the weekend Masses and the gatherings that follow.  Fr. Fox and the folks at Fatima are doing a great job!

Of course, there were the moments of being ‘back in the office.’  The correspondence, meetings and staying in touch with my own staff never ends.  I and the people of this diocese are truly blessed by a great chancery staff.  I do not have to worry while I am on the road about business continuing as usual back in the office.  We have tremendously dedicated and talented people serving us!

Carmelite monks with Bishop Etienne: Fr. Joseph Marie, Br. Elias, Fr. Daniel Mary, Fr. Michael Mary, Br. Simon Mary

Yesterday, we had a rare visit from our cloistered Carmelite monks.  As we had some timely business to discuss, and I was unable to get to their location, I invited their Chapter members to come to Cheyenne. 

I’m pleased to report that our Carmelite monks are making great progress along with their Foundation Board in fundraising for their new monastery.  Their building plans are nearing a final draft, after several years of creative effort.  Also, we are very near approval of the latest revisions of their constitutions, which is the canonical document that defines their charism, way of life, and governance. 

As this readership already knows, I have a great love for our Carmelite monks, and always enjoy my time spent visiting with them.  Please pray for them as their planning progresses closer and closer to seeing their dreams realized of finally living on their new mountain property!

 Blessings to all in your Lenten journey.  Draw close to Christ, and allow the light of his face to shine upon you.  Trust always in his guidance and love.


Wyoming Way of Life

foothills of Carter MountainNot far from Meeteese is Carter Mountain, where our Carmelite Monks recently purchased a beautiful piece of property for their new monastery. So, after visiting with the parishioners of St. Theresa, I made my way up the mountain to join the monks.

In anticipation of breaking ground for their new monastery, the monks are busy doing much of the prep work themselves.  They are presently digging a trench for laying a new gas line to the building site and are opening a new gravel pit to be able to provide rock for their long roads. 

Their property also includes leases from the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and the National Forest.  In order to retain these leases, they must run cattle to graze the land, and the minimum number was determined at 123 head of cattle.  So, there has been a great deal of fencing completed, with more needed.

Br. Seraphim Marie and Fr. Michael Mary with Bishop Etienne

Sunday afternoon, some of us toured what seemed like the entire property on four wheelers.  It felt good on this very hot day to get to the higher elevations and enjoy some cooler temps and a nice breeze.  The property with its streams and mountain views is alone quite beautiful, and will provide a lovely setting for a cloistered, contemplative community of monks.  To further compliment this setting is all the wildlife; antelope, mule deer, white tail deer, moose, and plenty of elk!  I even saw a badger when I left on Monday evening.  Several times while riding around the property, I also saw a few groups of sage grouse…beautiful!

After a full day on four wheelers, we returned to camp for a nice dinner and shared stories from the day.  Then it was time to settle in for a good night’s sleep for the work that awaited on Monday!

Horses saddled and ready for the cattle drive.

 After an early Mass, we saddled up for a day of rounding up cattle and moving them to higher pasture. A gorgeous day awaited us.  Before climbing into the saddle, we took off our hats, and prayed the Angelus, asking for a safe and fruitful day.  The Prior’s dad, Jerry Schneider helps oversee the cattle operation, and joined us for the day.  He always begins each such endeavor asking for the Blessed Mother’s intercession and protection.  Jerry is a life-long cowboy, and bears the marks of what a difficult life the cowboy leads, but he also beams with the joy of such a life as well.  He had one of his young grandsons in tow, Tommy George.  Tommy is amazing to watch on a horse!  He put the rest of us to shame.


Bishop Etienne & Tommy George rounding up cattle.

With such vast spaces, and the presence of bears and wolves, the cattle are often breaking down the fences.  This then creates the problem of cattle mixing from different herds.  So, we not only had to round up the cattle in order to move them to higher pastures, but we also had to sort out those that did not belong to the New Mount Carmel herd.  If you have ever herded cattle, you know how ‘bull headed’ they can be.  They love to gather in the shaded, brushy (tough to get to) areas.  Then, once you begin to move them, they have an uncanny sense of wanting to go any direction other than the one desired!

Once we got the first group corralled, it required patience to separate the cows for moving.  This was perhaps the one ‘rodeo moment’ of the day, with some of the heifers getting overly excited and jumping the corral fence.  Once we had this group ready, we began the process of moving them to higher ground and pasture.

Thunderstorm developing over mountain. Br. Joseph riding the Appaloosa, Tonka.

 As we moved up the mountain, a storm system developed, and just as we arrived in the mountain meadow, the rain began, with lots of lightning and thunder.  We took cover under some large fir trees and waited for the storm to pass (and prayed that no lightning would strike us!)  I was impressed, and well as relieved, that the cows and horses did not seem to be affected by the lightning.  Once the storm passed, we began the long ride back down to the end of the trail where the horse trailer awaited.  I was more than ready to get back on my own two feet!

Along the ride, we picked up a really nice moose paddle, and one elk antler shed, more evidence of some really nice bulls in the area.  I’m really looking forward to this fall’s elk hunt!  Sunday, we saw probably 50 elk, with one bachelor group that held some really nice looking antlers!

All in all, it was a great day, and gave me an up close and personal experience of how many of our Wyoming people live and make a living.  Cowboying is tough work, but puts one in close contact with nature and the beauty of God’s creation.  In time, our monks will be situated in a perfect spot for growing closer to God, growing in holiness, and praying for the rest of us!  Enjoy the rest of the pics.





Br. Luke trailing cattle




Taking a breather.





End of the trail! Fr. Joseph Marie, Br. Luke and Fr. Daniel Mary, Prior





Cowboy Confession: Fr. Charlie Brady, priest of the Diocese of Cheyenne; this image appeared on front cover of Catholic Extension Society Magazine, 1966


The Week In Review

Last Saturday, I traveled to St. Anthony’s in Casper to provide the priest coverage for the weekend.  I arrived in time to hear confessions from 3-5 and celebrate the 5:15 Vigil Mass.  It was great to spend some time in the confessional once again.  As a bishop, I do not often get the chance to exercise this particular ministry of my priesthood.  It reminded me of the great gift given us by Jesus when He entrusted this power to forgive sins to His Apostles, which remains in the priesthood today.  (see John 20)

After celebrating the four weekend Masses at St. Anthony, I celebrated the 7am Mass on Monday and then departed for Clark to visit our Wyoming Camelite Monks.  They provided their usual hospitality.  During my stay, I had a three hour meeting with their Chapter to discuss their recent Visitation and ongoing work on their Constitutions and plans for the future.  I continue to be impressed with how “regular” the members of this community are, complimented by their extraordinary dedication to the Church, and their personal pursuit of holiness.  God only knows how much we benefit from their dedication to prayer.

I left the monks around 2:00 on Wednesday for a return trip to Casper.  Between the wildfire burning within sight of the monastery and the larger one burning southwest of Meteesee, I do not think I drew a clean breath of air all the way to Casper!  Things are very dry here in the West at the moment, and besides the present fires burning, the threat for more fires lumes large.

After Mass on Wednesday morning, I took a quick trip to St. Anthony Tri-parish school for the opening day of this academic year.  I could not help but remember many other such school openings from my day as a pastor in several other parishes with schools.  (Oh, for the simpler days of a parish priest!)  I joined the two of the three Casper pastors for the opening prayer service.  There was a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm as another year begins.  The people in Casper have a beautiful new school, and their enrollment this year is up to 305 students!  Congratulations Casper Catholics!

Photo courtesy of Paula GilletteFr. August Koene, myself, and Fr. Bob Fox; Photo courtesy of Paula Gillette

Wednesday afternoon and Thursday I was in the office taking care of business.  I will share with this readership that our priest shortage is very real, and is a source of constant prayer and concern for this bishop.  Last week, the final report and recommendations landed on my desk from the Task Force on Pastoral Leadership in the Diocese. 

I will be sharing more of this information in the future, once I have a chance to adequately digest and study the report and recommendations.  But this much is certain, our people need to grow in their awareness of the fact that our preists are already being asked to do more than their fair share.  They are very generous, but they are human, and I believe have reached the limit of what the People of God can expect of them. 

When a priest retires or gets ill or takes a leave of absence, there is no other priest behind them to take their place.  I am doing my best to identify other bishops around the globe who are willing to share qualified priests with our diocese.   This reality is now upon us.  Please pray for our priests.  Please pray for vocations to the priesthood.  We continue to face our future with the hope that is ours in the Risen Christ.  He promised us in this Sunday’s Gospel once again that the jaws of death will never prevail against His Church.  In Christ is our hope and our Salvation!


Cody Confirmation & More

K of C 4TH Degree Members with Bishop Etienne; St. Anthony, Cody

The final Confirmation “run” of the season is underway.  Once again, a good friend from Indiana has come out to spend some time and help with the driving.  We left Cheyenne on Tuesday, and will be on the road until next Friday.

Yesterday morning, I had a nice visit with our Carmelite monks while I was in the area.  They continue to be a true source of grace for us through their prayer and monastic life.  I had a very good visit with the Prior, Fr. Daniel Mary and lunch with the community.

Last night, the communities of St. Anthony, Cody; St. Barbara, Powell; St. Theresa, Meeteese; and St. Joseph, Lovell gathered for Confirmation at St. Anthony.  As usual, the 4th Degree members of the K of C were present in all their glory to assist.  We had a brief moment together prior to Mass.  All-in-all, I believe there were 42 confirmations last night.  (The full group photo did not turn out.  Here is one with one of the parish groups.)

As most people know, the Knights of Columbus are a strong Pro-Life group in the Catholic Church.  One of the recent efforts of this Cody Council was to help fund an ultrasound machine for the local Serenity Pregnancy Resource Center.  This morning, a very nice group gathered to bless and dedicate the center, as well as the new ultrasound machine.  

Serenity is a relatively new resource in the Cody community.  Its purpose is to provide prenatal diagnosis, care, counselling and support to expectant mothers.  It will be a strong and encouraging voice for LIFE in the Cody community.  This outreach began as a dream about two years ago, and is now coming to life. 

The local parish, St. Anthony and pastor, Fr. Vernon Clark, as well as the local Knights came together to raise the intitial funds which were matched by the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus to purchase the $40,000 ultrasound machine.  This is quite an impressive effort on the part of many good (Catholic!) people to support life.  Well done and congratulations to all involved!

Prayer Service Blessing the new Serenity Pregnancy Resource Center in Cody.


Knights with Bishop Etienne near donated ultrasound machine at Serenity Pregnancy Resource Center, Cody

(All photos courtesy of Mark Seabrook)


Cody & Carmel

Friday, after a brief stop in the office, I made the drive from Cheyenne to Cody.  I arrived in time to enjoy a nice visit with the local pastor, Fr. Vernon Clark.  He fixed a wonderful meal, which we shared with another priest who was in town, Fr. Eckley Macklin, solt.  I love this St. Anthony Parish and surrounding Cody area.  I always feel very at home here.

Saturday morning, I drove through some light snow to just a few miles shy of the Montana border to visit our Carmelite monks…most of you know them as the Mystic Monks with the coffee.  I made my second visit to the monks, and the first real long-term stay to pray with them, meet with their chapter, and simply get to know them.

They are a unique group of cloistered monks for our church today.  They have their own Carmelite Rite and Liturgy of the Hours which they celebrate in Latin.  But I assure you, they are a very ordinary group of men, seeking to live an extraordinary style of monastic life, with the common goal to all of us…growing in holiness.

Today, in sub zero temperatures and snow, we visited their new property.  It has been a wonderful couple of days in this part of the sate and diocese, and a particularly special visit with our monks.  Enjoy the pics!

"monk-mobile" on the way to the new property

monks in carhart habits with .308

monk-mobiling in the snow

Bishop with Br. Simon Mary

At the end of the day, the monks threw together a quick meal, and we ended by celebrating Br. Paul’s birthday along with some entertainment.


monk music

Confirmation Season 2010


"What was the name of that saint?" Powell Confirmation; photo coutesy of Mark Seabrook

The Confirmation run around the state is nearly two thirds complete.  I have had the good fortune this trip of having a good friend from Indiana with me.  Mark Seabrook (see photo below) wanted to see the state, and I am benefiting not only from his company, but getting some relief from the driving.  Since Friday, April 16, we have travelled in excess of 900 miles.   We still have two more official stops to make, even though we are finished with Confirmation for the moment.  As this is the weekend for the Annual Appeal, I’ll make two “in person” pitches this weekend in Sheridan and Gillette.

The KofC state convention is in full swing here in Powell this weekend.  I had the opportunity to offer Mass for them yesterday.  They are a dedicated group of men, and take the “service” aspect of the Knights organization seriously.  We are blessed with a very dedicated group of Knights throughout the state of Wyoming.

I also had time Friday morning to visit the Carmelite Monks in their home in Clark.  These are a very unique community of men, even within the Carmelite tradition.  What they are in the process of beginning is a distinct recovery of an early, monastic experience of the Carmelite order.  Where most Carmelites are called “friars”, these are truly called “monks”, because they are living the full monastic life, which revolves around the complete Liturgy of Hours and obviously the Eucharist.  They are a joy-filled community of men, and I look forward to spending more time with them in the near future.

Even though a bishop begins to feel like a broken record at this point in the Confirmation season, I appreciate the opportunity to personally reflect on the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church.  Even in today’s Gospel from St. John, we hear: “It is the Spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.”(John 6:60-69)  Our sacramental life roots us in the life of Christ, which is the life of the Triune God.  Our life can never reach its full potential until we embrace Christ in the same fashion as Peter and the other Apostles who when asked by Christ if they, too, would leave him exclaimed: “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Christ, the Holy One of God.” (John 6:60-69)

For years as a priest, and now as a bishop, I say a simple prayer to the Holy Spirit prior to the proclamation of the Gospel:  “Come Holy Spirit.  Renew your Church, and inspire those who preach the Gospel.”  Please join me in this prayer.  Indeed, if the words of those who preach are inspired by the Holy Spirit, the work of renewal will be on a solid foundation!  Please pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to inspire you, that your life and vocation will be a part of the renewal of God’s Church.  Once again, please know of my prayers for all of you.  God bless,


Mark Seabrook & Bishop Etienne; photo courtesy of Fr. Tom Ogg


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