St. Agatha, Ontario, Canada ~ Carmel of St. Joseph

The History of the Carmel of St. Agatha, Canada

In 1952, Bishop Joseph F. Ryan of Hamilton, Ontario, wrote to the Carmel of the Holy Family in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, USA, urgently inviting them to found a Community in his diocese in Canada and especially to pray for his priests. The Nuns discerned this request with caution as they had recently sent 6 Nuns to reinforce the Carmel of Nairobi, Kenya. But they finally decided this was the Lord’s will and they sent 4 more of their Nuns, this time to found the first English-speaking Carmel in Canada.

On Ascension Thursday that year, Mother Teresa, the Prioress of the Cleveland Carmel, and Sister Teresa Margaret, one of the future foundresses, came to Kitchener, Ontario, to find a suitable place to begin the foundation. Among the homes that they visited they chose the former residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Mr. Louis O. Breithaupt at 2 Lancaster Street East. Situated on a hill in a quiet neighbourhood, it offered enough scope to serve as a small monastery.

On the following October 22nd, four Nuns departed from the Carmel of Cleveland to begin a new page in the Carmelite Order, to bring Carmel into English-speaking Canada. Arriving in Kitchener they were warmly received by Bishop Ryan and a group of benefactors. For the first three months they were given hospitality by the Sisters of St. Joseph at St. Mary’s Hospital while the former Breithaupt home was being prepared as a little monastery. The living room became the public chapel. The enclosure was set up with a turn and grates and the choir for the daily prayer of the Nuns. Then, on January 23nd the first Mass was offered and the Nuns began their cloistered life of prayer in their new diocese and their new country. Gradually candidates came and stayed. After 10 years, the monastery was filled to capacity and more. It was time to consider a larger and more permanent place.

After many trips to look at different properties, Mother Mary of the Angels, chose our present piece of land near the small village of St. Agatha, well out in the country. And that is all it was, simply 20 acres of land with a small steep little hill in the middle, then a valley where a little creek would murmur every day, and then another steep hill at the back. It was all wild and rustic where the odd cow would come mooing, and the frogs would sing all night. But Mother had a vision! And she had plans! And so with the money received from the sale of the Breithaupt home, construction began to build a proper monastery with a central courtyard, like those in Spain, but designed for Canadian winters. Progress on the building began and went as far as the money held out. Only as funds came in could the building continue. But on May 27th, 1963, the little band of young Carmelites from 2 Lancaster Street came in the cars of friends and relatives to enter their new monastery while workmen were putting finishing touches to walls, doors, etc. etc. The next day was the first Mass, and then conventual life could continue as before. Since then the community has grown until we had enough Nuns so that we could make a foundation in British Columbia in 1991. God has been good to us. The last of our foundresses, Mother Mary of the Angels, died on February 26th, 2016. She became Prioress when only 29 years of age, and died at 91, having given her life and her heart to this foundation that she carefully prayed over and watched grow and develop to what it is today. We are so tremendously grateful to our foundresses and we wish to continue the work they left to us.

Contact St. Agatha Carmel


Carmel of St. Joseph
1127 Carmel-Koch Rd., R.R.1
St. Agatha, Ontario N0B 2L0