Visitation at Hermits of Carmel
Obituary of Mother Mary of Jesus and St. Joseph O. Carm.
Mother Mary of Jesus and Joseph O. Carm. (Elaine Gregory Gillson), 92, of Chester, NJ passed away on April 28, 2019 at Morristown Medical Center. She was born in Albany, NY on December 16, 1926 and went to Regis College in Weston, MA.
Mother Mary was the foundress and prioress of the Carmel of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Hermitage in Chester, NJ. In 1976, she began the Carmel Hermitage at Holy Trinity Convent, in Westfield, NJ. In 1977, she went to Our Lady of Lourdes Convent, in Mountainside, NJ, and from there she moved to St. Rose of Lima, in Short Hills, NJ. It was then in 1980, that she started the Hermits of Carmel in Chester. Mother Mary wrote 2 books, Friendship with Christ, Life and Service and Becoming my Disciples.
Mother Mary is survived by Sr. Mary Rose O. Carm. and Sr. Teresa Margaret O. Carm.; and by her cousins, the O'Leary family of Massachusetts.
A visitation will be held from 2pm to 8pm on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 at Holy Trinity Chapel at the Hermits of Carmel, Chester, NJ. A 10:30am Funeral Mass will be held on Thursday, May 2, at St. Therese Church in Succasunna, NJ. Burial will follow at the Holy Trinity Cemetery at the Hermits of Carmel. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Hermits of Carmel, 80 Pleasant Hill Road, Chester, NJ 07930.
In her own words, the following is a series of excerpts of Mother Mary’s call to religious life and her community’s journey to and settlement in Chester, from the Book, The Sword:
"Of all the adventures in my life (and there were many), Jesus was the one most deeply rooted. Yet I never thought he would want me to be a nun much less a hermit. . . I had an undeniable conviction that God was calling me to Carmel. Jesus was and is my Way, my Truth and my Life. The challenges of the climb up Mount Carmel brought real peace."
"The original Carmelites were Hermits. [We} are seeking to return to the eremitical spirit and life of the first hermits on Mount Carmel. . . In the wake of the Second Vatican Council I believed God was calling me to return to the roots of the Order and to be a hermit. Jesus showed me how the graces of one’s Baptism and of one’s Solemn Vows can be expressed through the practice of charity, detachment and humility, and through communication in prayer with God, with one’s self and with others."
"[Fortuitously, she met then Archbishop Gerety] who offered us an empty convent, rent-free. He befriended us then and remains our good friend to this day. In each phase of our journey we deepened our understanding of what it means to be Hermits of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. One day a woman approached me, saying, “God has sent me to help you. I think you should have Days of Recollection. ”I replied “I would like to name them “Desert Days’ because we are hermits-in-the-making. I will give one talk in the morning, followed by prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.” Our monthly Desert Days stem from this humble beginning. . . W needed a steady source of income; the ongoing Desert Days provided a good one."
"During our time in Westfield, Mountainside and Short Hills we gained many friends who both sought our prayer and encouraged us. They also brought food, purchased items in our budding gift shop, and gave generous donations. We sold hand-painted cards and cassette tapes, and we tried to meet every request for things we could do or make to help us earn our own living. Our first newsletter was mailed in 1977."
"Carmel moved to Chester on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, August 15, 1980. Ten acres surrounded by tall trees welcomed me. I asked Jesus to shine his Light in and around our Carmel. From the first moment on this holy land I felt his presence, protection and love in my spirit. Close the entrance a pop-up trailer had been installed. In the cornfield were four stakes with red bows to indicate the location of the chapel and main building. Across the top of the mountain, in thick brush were four more sets of stakes to indicate the sites of the first four hermitages. From my hermitage-trailer I wrote to Bishop Rodimer, asking his permission to build the first four hermitages. It was readily given."
"Construction began in October. On the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 1980, Sister Teresa Margaret and I moved into our new hermitages. No words can describe the joy of being permanently planted on this holy land. As hermits, our formation is on-going and daily; self-surrender in the Eucharistic Celebration, struggling to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, pondering the Word of God, living constantly in God’s abiding presence."
"Over the years women of faith have come to share our life. God called each one to be with us for a time. Desiring to become a hermit, Sister Mary Rose came to us from another Carmel. She entered into the desert with determination and profound love. The entire life of a hermit of Carmel is an unceasing quest to grow in the love of God and of one’s neighbor."
"We purchased a Pocono barn in the Autumn of 1981; this served as a chapel, kitchen and refectory, as well as a meeting place for the monthly Desert Days and family visits. Constant love, prayer and work went into preparing to build the first chapel. An anonymous donor sent us a check for $30,000 in honor of St. Lucy!. Today the stained glass window of St. Lucy in our chapel speaks of the power of her prayer and the generosity of our anonymous friend. Our construction continued in 1985 with the building of two additional hermitages, and a hermitage for a priest who desired to celebrate Mass forus."
"In September 1990, Bishop Rodimer established the Hermits of Our Lady of Mount Carmel as a Public Association of Christ’s Faithful; in January 1997, he issued the Decree of Erection of the Hermits of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Chester, as a Diocesan Community of Hermits."
"In 2001 I awakened from a sound sleep by the ringing of the intercom, the banging on the hermitage door and the shout: “The chapel is on fire!” I saw the flames rising 20 feet or so above the building. The Chester firefighters with several local departments heroically risked their lives to stop the fire. The whole structure was destroyed. In so many ways God is very tender. During the fire, despite the 900 degree heat in the chapel, all the stained glass windows stood strong; not a one was destroyed. Likewise the altar and everything in the chapel was not destroyed but able to be restored. Financially, money came in and promptly went out to pay our mounting debt. In 2002, Bishop Rodimer celebrated Mass and blessed our rebuilt chapel."
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