Stanton has a historic monastery

STANTON — The story of St. Joseph’s Carmelite Monastery is a classic tale of the Old West, where the priests were about as hardy as anyone.

Led by Father Anastase Peters, six members of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, or “Carmelites,” came here from Scipio in east-central Kansas in August 1881 and celebrated the first Mass in the area that would one day be known. than the Permian Basin.

They changed the name of the settlement from Grelton Station to Marienfeld, which in German means “Mary’s Field”, and built the monastery and a church, St. Joseph’s, which was the first Catholic church between Fort Worth and El Paso . Established along the Texas Pacific Railroad, the city was renamed Stanton in 1890.

The Martin County Convent Foundation has spent $1.25 million to restore the two-story adobe building with 4-foot-thick walls and a stone foundation and plans to spend $500,000 to construct a building nearby with a ballroom, kitchen, bathroom, bridal room, gift shop, amphitheater, library and offices.

“When you walk through it today, the monastery is an interpretive center much like a museum with rustic Victorian furnishings,” said Reggie Baker, who chairs the foundation. “There was eventually a population of 35 to 45 monks that left a large footprint throughout West Texas.

“They were renegades who didn’t have permission to do what they were doing. They crossed paths with the head of the Carmelite hierarchy, loaded their wagons at night, and came south with agricultural implements that they felt were theirs.

“Some called them scoundrels, and others said they were entrepreneurs. Whatever they were, they were badass.

Baker said the Marienfeld Carmelites sold the land, monastery and church in 1897 to the Sisters of Mercy, who built a parochial school for boys and girls and used the monastery for their living quarters and a Chapel.

The First Baptist Church Sunday School teacher said the monks moved to New Orleans and eventually to Straubing, Germany, and Boxmeer, the Netherlands. The sisters stayed until a tornado damaged the buildings in 1938, and they moved to Slaton, where they still operate the Mercy Retreat Center.

Baker said a book by Rosa Latimer called “The Spirit of Mercy on the West Texas Wind” tells the story of the monks and sisters. It is available at the monastery for $14.50.

He said the 40ft by 80ft building, which also has a basement, “was in a state of disrepair” when the foundation took possession 30 years ago.

“It had been eroded and vandalized,” he said. “Two families had lived there over the years. The Slaton Jaycees opened it as a haunted house, then donated it to a nonprofit organization for living quarters for women and children whose fathers served overseas during World War II. It is a unique combination of Mexican adobe with Gothic windows.

The Most Reverend Michael Sis, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of San Angelo, said the Carmelites “traveled across West Texas and East New Mexico to spread the Catholic faith to the growing population of immigrant families.”

“This monastery is one of the best-preserved examples of West Texas architecture from the 1880s,” the bishop said. “It has withstood tornadoes, droughts and periods of disrepair, and I am very impressed with the restoration work carried out by the local community over the past few years.

“When you go to the monastery, you may see a beautiful German Bible. I arranged for a German-American Catholic family in Wall to donate this beautiful Bible to the monastery. It was published in Philadelphia for German-speaking American Catholics in the 1880s, so it would likely be the same type of Bible they used at Stanton,” he added.

Visits can be scheduled at hcmstanton.org/get-involved/visit.

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