The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock
A new superior and temporary conventual were named July 16 for Marylake Monastery and two other priests were reassigned to other duties in the province. Courtesy Chandler Bartel. Operated in the Diocese of Little Rock for 71 years, friars at Marylake Monastery are discerning a new use for the property. Courtesy Chandler Bartel.

Carmelites discerning the future of Marylake Monastery

New superior named following provincial chapter, but property will have same purpose

Published: August 11, 2023      
Chandler Bartel
A new superior and temporary conventual were named July 16 for Marylake Monastery and two other priests were reassigned to other duties in the province.

Carmelite friars at Marylake Monastery are discerning a new use for the property after operating for 71 years in the Diocese of Little Rock.

On July 16, Bishop Anthony B. Taylor announced there will no longer be a permanent community living at the monastery, a new superior and temporary conventual were named and two other priests who had been living there were assigned to other duties in the province.

A landmark in the East End community, the monastery sits 15 miles south of Little Rock. The Shriners designed the building in 1925 for a social club, situated on 240 acres. It was built with a lodge with a grand ballroom, golf course and lake. When the country club closed after the stock market crash in 1929, the property was used as a medical clinic, a Baptist convalescent home and a Christian boys’ camp before the Carmelites bought it in 1951.

On May 16, 1952, Marylake was established as a novitiate house named after the Blessed Mother by the Discalced Carmelite friars. Carmelite novices for the region would study at Marylake for a year in preparation for taking vows.

Marylake Monastery is part of the Semi-Province of St. Therese based in San Antonio, also serving friars in the Diocese of Dallas, Archdiocese of San Antonio and Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. It includes nuns at Carmel of St. Teresa of Jesus in Little Rock and convents of nuns in Sioux City, Iowa, Covington, La., San Antonio, Texas, and Oklahoma. 

Every three years, the friars gather to discern God’s will for the province and changes to be made in a two-week regional assembly called the provincial chapter. The recent chapter established the need to focus more on the communal and contemplative aspects of the Carmelite vocation, leading to new assignments for Marylake. 

Effective July 16, former Marylake superior Father Jerome Earley, OCD, and friar Father Bonaventure Sauer, OCD, were relieved of their responsibilities at Marylake Monastery to take on different duties in the province. 

Father Jorge María Cabrera de la Eucaristía, OCD, based in San Antonio, was appointed superior of Marylake where he will be living and ministering to the Discalced Carmelite friars and the Carmelite nuns in the diocese. Father Stephen Sánchez, OCD, was appointed temporary conventual, or temporary resident, of Marylake living a contemplative and monastic life while also ministering to the Carmelites and traveling to carry out duties in the diocese. While a community of friars will no longer be permanently living at Marylake, Father Cabrera and Father Sanchez will live there for the next three years.

Provincial Father Luis Castañeda, OCD, wrote in his appointments June 27, “We are glad for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we continue the restructuring and discernment process we have undertaken, working to form a strategic plan for the future of our Semi-Province of St. Thérèse.” 

He added, “Over the coming months, we will continue to announce the results of our discernment. I ask for your continued prayers for all of our friars as we continue planning the future of our semi-province.” 

Paul Garro, chief development and external relations officer of St. Therese Province of the Discalced Carmelite Friars in San Antonio, said it doesn’t appear that the intended use of Marylake will change soon, given the contemplative function it serves in Carmelite life. Even though the religious assignments have changed, Marylake will remain a Carmelite facility.

“From the beginning, when the Carmelites first purchased it, they discovered a fantastic space for silence, meditation and contemplation,” Garro said. “And the idea was to ensure they always stay in touch with their roots, with the essentials of their charism. And (Carmelite) roots are really in this contemplative state, developing one’s interior. So when they first purchased Marylake, it was a place not encroached by business, nor development, nor noise. It's quiet. It's out in nature and is conducive to nourishing the contemplative life. I don't think there's any regularity, but that's where the friars will go for retreats sporadically, minister to the Discalced Carmelite nuns and the Carmelite Secular Order.”

The chapter also recognized Father Cabrera’s leadership, choosing him to be a member of the provincial council in addition to the superior of Marylake. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, he entered the Discalced Carmelites in 2001 and was ordained to the priesthood in 2009. He has a master’s degree in divinity from Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans and a licentiate in spiritual theology with concentration on Carmelite spirituality from the International Center for Teresian and Sanjuanist Studies in Avila, Spain, in conjunction with Comillas Pontifical University in Madrid, Spain. He is currently serving as vocations director for the St. Thérèse Semi-Province and as superior of the San Antonio community, a job he will continue.

Father Cabrera said he was blessed to be named Marylake’s superior.

"Our monastery at Marylake holds a special place in the hearts of our friars, and many have grown closer in friendship with Jesus within the bounds of this sacred ground,” Father Cabrera said. “I am humbled to shepherd the Carmelite mission amidst the beauty and serenity present at Marylake."

Father Cabrera will serve at Marylake with Father Sanchez. Father Sanchez spent his early years in San Antonio. Joining the Carmelites in 1983, he earned his bachelor’s degree from St. Mary University in San Antonio and a master’s degree from Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, followed by an intensive course in the spirituality of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross in Avila, Spain. He was ordained as a priest at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower in San Antonio in 1992. 

Father Sanchez has served as superior of Dallas at Mount Carmel Center, adjunct spiritual director for Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas, provincial vicar for the Secular Order and provincial superior. He has served at Marylake for the past three years and will continue to serve at Marylake for the next triennium. 


Malea Hargett contributed to this article.

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