Mount Carmel of Port Tobacco
The Carmelite Monastery was founded in 1790 by three American women and one British woman. The three Americans were members of the Charles County Matthews family. Since there were no convents in the original Colonies, any woman in America desiring to be a religious sister had to go to Europe to join a convent there. After religious freedom was declared in 1776, Fr. Ignatius Matthews wrote to his sister and two nieces, “Now is your time to found in this country, for peace is declared and religion is free.”
After a rough voyage, the four nuns and two Jesuit priests who accompanied them landed at Port Tobacco and took up residence at Chandler’s Hope. This property was given to them by Fr. Charles Neale, brother of Leonard Neale, who was the second Catholic Bishop of Baltimore. After two months at this property, they discovered the busy port was not a good place for a monastery, and they moved to what is now Mount Carmel off Mitchell Road. They maintained a large farm here for 30 years while living the monastic life.
Due to the death of their chaplain, who was their director in material as well as spiritual matters, original nuns moved to Baltimore in 1831. The property was sold to the Sanders family and remained in their possession until it was purchased by “The Restorers” in hopes that the nuns would return.
In 1976—America’s Bi-Centennial Year—a group of American sisters returned to open the monastery once again. Carmelite monastic life was re-established here at the original site of the first monastery in the Colonies.
Thanks to the preservation efforts of a dedicated lay group called the “Restorers of Mount Carmel,” visitors are still able to walk through the original building. The Monastery is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The nuns are cloistered, so they do not intermingle with visitors. However, friends of the nuns will be on hand to greet you and give you a tour, or you may amble about on your own to experience the peace and quiet of this spiritual oasis. Guests can visit the historic building, the chapel built in 1954 by the “Restorers,” and a new gift shop that has many seasonal items for sale. In nice weather, the grounds are a favorite place for people to come and pray at the outdoor Stations of the Cross and the lovely shrine to Mary, the mother of Jesus. The monastery welcomes visitors all year.