Article from the Global Sisters Report, a project of National Catholic Reporter.
By: Elizabeth Eisenstadt Evans

Sr. Ines walks with a student at ACC high school. The Carmelite Sisters administer an Archbishop Coleman F. Carroll, an archdiocesan high school in the Kendall area of Miami and also teach at the J. Serra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, California.

The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles in Alhambra, Calif., who have recently embarked in partnership with the National Religious Retirement Office, are beginning to assess their current needs, make some substantive changes, and work with the National Religious Retirement Office to plan for a more secure future. 

In many respects the community of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles  has been flourishing. That in itself posed a dilemma: how was the community to meet the needs and safeguard the dignity of its older sisters when active members of the community were needed to help out in the order’s many ministries? In addition, the order was increasingly concerned about the provisions they had made for the financial security of their retired sisters.

Initially an order dedicated to helping Hispanic immigrants who had tuberculosis, the Carmelites have expanded their mission over the years to embrace a diverse, multi-state constituency.

The legacy of their foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa, who escaped the persecution of the Mexican revolution of the 1920s to establish a religious community in the Los Angeles area, remains a powerful force today, according to Sr. Vincent Marie Finnegan. Arriving in the United States with four companions, Mother Luisita, as she is known, established the order’s three chief missions: health care, spiritual growth and education, which it carries out today.

“We came during the Mexican Revolution with no knowledge of the English language, no money and very few skills,” said Finnegan, who notes that the sisters began their work with immigrants by taking a census of non-English speakers. They soon built a sanatorium where they cared for young Hispanic women, and, after that was no longer needed, a community hospital.

Though the hospital closed in 2006, the skilled nursing, assisted living and independent living centers built by the sisters expanded and updated their services to meet the needs of today, said Finnegan.

Not only do the sisters own and operate three senior living facilities in areas near their home base in Alhambra, Calif., but also they run area child care centers and staff schools in Arizona, Florida and Colorado.

Fulfilling one of the last wishes of their foundress, the community also opened a retreat house, which has become a lively hub for individual and corporate opportunities for reflection, prayer and educational experiences.  Click here to read the rest of the article…