Charles Neale, s.j.

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About Charles Neale, s.j.

Father Charles Neale, S.J., (1751-1823) was a leader of the Jesuit mission in America. He was born in the Catholic colony of Maryland to a prominent family, descended from Captain James Neale, who had settled in the colony in 1642 with a royal grant of land of two thousand acres. The family traced its origins to the noble O'Neill family of Ireland, from whom came the kings of Ulster. Among his direct descendants were Oswald Neale (grandfather to Charles) and his brother, Father Bennett Neale, S.J., one of the first Jesuits in the English colony.

The Carmelite Nuns Come To America

In 1754, Ann Matthews, a descendant of one of the first families in Maryland, in religion Sister Bernadina Teresa Xavier of St. Joseph, left her home, Mt. Airy, in Charles County to answer the call to the cloister in Hoogstraten, Belgium. She was soon joined by her two nieces, Ann Teresa and Susanna Matthews. In 1790 they, accompanied by an English woman, Sister Clare Joseph Dickenson, quietly took ship and sailed for America to establish a monastery.

Sailing from Antwerp, May 1, 1790, they reached New York July 2, 1790, accompanied by Father Charles Neale, S.J. their spiritual director. On July 4th they left New York and reached Brentfield, opposite St. Thomas Manor, landing 5 o'clock in the morning of the 10th. They proceeded to the home of Mr. Robert Brent where Father Neale celebrated Mass.

The nuns next went to the home of Ignatius Matthews where they remained eight days, when they removed to Chandler's Hope, the paternal estate of Father Charles Neale. This property, lacking the seclusion suitable for a sanctuary, Father Neale exchanged it for a tract of land of 860 acres, known as Durham, owned by Baker Brooke, and about three miles north of Port Tobacco.

On this land, now known as Mount Carmel, the buildings more suitable to the needs of a cloistered Order were completed. On October 15, the feast of the Carmelite foundress, St. Teresa, the nuns canonically established in the permanent monastery.

The Carmelites return to Port Tobacco

In 1831, the Nuns left Port Tobacco to settle in Baltimore. According to an almanac published by the Nuns, there was a tradition in southern Maryland where the people would pray for the return of the nuns on the very day that they left. These prayers reportedly lasted for over one hundred years. The Nuns did not return during that time of prayer, but in 1933, a band of laity stepped in and began to restore what remained of the Mount Carmel Monastery. The faithful continued their hope that the Nuns would one day return.

Approximately 43 years later, the prayers of the faithful were answered. The Nuns returned to the Monastery on May 10, 1976. Just prior to returning to Port Tobacco, the Nuns settled in Great Mills, St. Mary's County, on December 21, 1973 while they awaited completion of the restoration work at the Monastery. The Carmelite Nuns of the Carmel of Port Tobacco remain there until today.

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Charles Neale, s.j.'s Timeline

Age 72