Our Community History

Alabama's Carmelite History

   Centuries ago Alabama was home to the Cherokees, Choctaws and Chickasaws.  It is still home to the Choctaw and Creek Tribes in South Alabama.

   The Spanish expedition, under Admiral Alvares de Piñeda, arrived in Mobile Bay in 1519, three decades after Columbus landed in America.  It is well known that flags of six countries have flown over Mobile.  A permanent settlement was not made until 1702 when Frenchman Iberville de Bienville established Biloxi.  Soon afterwards his brother Sieur de Bienville built Fort Saint Louis de la Mobile on the site where Mobile now stands.

   The French Discalced Carmelites were assigned the District of Louisiana 1720 which included Mobile.  The first Carmelite to die in America was the Superior, Fr. James of St. Martin, OCD (James Avise), two months after arriving in Mobile.  Fr. John Matthew of St. Anne, OCD, named the new superior, had the distinction of accepting the first converts in this region.  He returned to Normandy in 1723, and Fr. Joseph of St. Charles, OCD, moved to New Orleans where he became the second rector of the St. Louis Cathedral.

   From that beginning Mobile waited until 1914 when a Jesuit Priest, Fr. E. Cummings, obtained faculties direct from Rome to clothe a Secular Carmelite (TOCD) in May of that year.  Miss Nanna Aline Ebeltoft took the religious name Teresa of the Eucharist and was professed June 11, 1915; thus she became the first Discalced Carmelite Secular (Tertiary) in Alabama.  She remained isolated until five of St. Teresa’s daughters arrived by train in 1943.  Archbishop Thomas J. Toolen had invited Sisters Frances, Catherine, Agnes, Adele, and Elias to establish a monastery of Carmelite Nuns in Mobile.


   Miss Nanna became the first formation director for the Tertiaries and on December 9, 1944, Fr. Thomas, OCD, Prior at Brookline, MA, received the profession of Oliver Inkel, who took the religious name Joseph of the Child Jesus, TOCD.  Mr. Inkel’s son, a Priest, served the diocese of Mobile and Birmingham.  Other Tertiaries followed and the Mobile Community of the Holy Spirit was canonically established on December 11, 1954.

   After 64 years, The OCDS Community of the Holy Spirit, has an active membership roster of 30 members comprised of Professed members, Candidates for Final Promise,  and Aspirants.