Carmelite Silver Tea on Saturday and Sunday

The chairwomen representing St. Barbara and St. Mary Parishes of the Silver Tea Committee — from left, Rose Gianunzio, Sue Giesen, Diane Westrich and Georgia Chounard — show off some of the prizes for the annual Silver Tea event, including a Perception 10.5 kayak with paddle, a quilt and cash prizes. The tea will be Saturday and Sunday at the Monastery of the Holy Cross.

IRON MOUNTAIN — The Monastery of the Holy Cross is the home of 19 Carmelite Nuns, ranging in age from 23 to 93. Our Good Lord called them here from various backgrounds and places, reaching as far as Argentina, the Philippines, Vietnam and across the states, from New Jersey, Texas, California, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

But what exactly goes on in that monastery, situated 3 miles north of Iron Mountain at the corner of U.S. 2 and M-95?

The Carmelite’s life is a balance between the eremitical life of the early hermits on Mount Carmel and a life shared in community. As silence and solitude are a real help in fostering a life of prayer, the sisters do not have radio or television or even the internet.

They wear the traditional habit of the order and follow a daily schedule laid out for them in their constitutions. Daily the monastery bell summons them to various community obligations: Mass, the Hours of the Divine Office and the morning and evening hours of quiet prayer. Since Carmel is “All Mary’s,” the rosary and litany of Our Lady as well as the Salve Regina chanted solemnly every Saturday evening are cherished traditions.

Besides ordinary tasks such as cooking, sewing habits, laundry and cleaning, the nuns bake and cut altar breads. They also make articles to be sold in the gift shop at the entrance to the monastery. These include rosaries, scapulars, note cards and other craft items. Within the spacious grounds of the enclosure are two large vegetable gardens cultivated by the sisters. Incorporated into the Carmelite’s day are two hours of recreation to provide healthful relaxation, at which time the silence is dispensed. Ordinarily the sisters bring handwork, but on occasion they go out to the garden or do some other outdoor activity.

Tradition may also call for a “spiritual play” on certain occasions, which often includes a good bit of comedy. Thus the Carmelite’s life of love, prayer and sacrifice is lived in a spirit of great simplicity and joy, each one feeling unworthy of so great a grace as that of her vocation and yet so grateful for this undeserved gift.

Striving, then, to respond generously to that gentle and mysterious call from Jesus, the Carmelite’s goal is union with God–“to love Jesus and to win souls for him so that he may be loved,” as St. Therese of Lisieux put it.

With grateful hearts, they remember daily in prayer the many needs and intentions received through the mail, phone calls or visitors to the monastery while not forgetting those who in their goodness help them fulfill their mission in the heart of the church, by their support and above all, their friendship.

One such means of support is the annual Silver Tea at the monastery and sponsored by various parishes of the area. All are invited to attend this year from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The Silver Tea is a 65-year-old tradition, according to the Silver Tea Committee. It is the only organized fundraiser done each year at the monastery. The sisters rely solely on alms — donations — for support. The main drawing, drawing baskets, crafts and bake sale items, along with the sisters’ famous homemade bread, will be available at the annual tea.

The Silver Tea table will include sandwiches, candies, bars, coffee and tea. The tea is open to the public and all are welcome. Monetary donations may be made directly to the Carmelites at Carmel of the Holy Cross Monastery, P.O. Box 397, Iron Mountain, MI 49801, memo: Silver Tea Fundraiser Donation.