The Discalced Carmelite Friars of Holy Hill
The Discalced Carmelite Friars of Holy Hill belong to the reform order of Carmelites begun by St. Teresa of Jesus (1515 - 1582) and St. John of the Cross (1542 - 1591). Teresa and John worked to establish the reform of the Carmelite order in Spain during the later part of the sixteenth century. This reform resulted in the Discalced Carmelites becoming a separate branch of the Carmelite order. Teresa's goal in the reform was for members of the order to return to the original rule of St. Albert as mitigated by Pope Innocent IV. The ancient Order of Carmelites is designated by the letters "0. Carm." and the Order of Discalced Carmelites by "O.C.D."
The images of Teresa and John are portrayed in mosaics above the two side altars in the upper church. Teresa is represented with the child Jesus in the mosaic above the left side altar. The illustration represents an experience Teresa had of being interrupted by a little boy while at prayer in the courtyard of her cloister. The child asked, "Who are you?" She answered, "I am Teresa of Jesus, and who are you?" The child replied, "I am Jesus of Teresa" and disappeared. St. Teresa of Jesus is also referred to as Teresa of Avila (she was born in Avila, Spain) or the Great St. Teresa. Canonized in 1614 (her feastday is October 15), she is the first woman to be declared a doctor of the church. This honor was awarded to her on September 27, 1970.
St. John of the Cross was canonized in 1726; his feastday is December 14. The honor of doctor of the church was given to him in 1926. John is represented in the mosaic above the right side altar. The illustration is from an occasion when John heard the Lord speak to him while looking at a painting of Christ carrying the cross. The Lord asked John what he could do for him and John replied, "All I ask is to suffer and be despised for you." This painting is hanging in the Historical Museum of Segovia Spain.
The Discalced Carmelites came to Holy Hill from Bavaria at the invitation of Archbishop Messmer on June 26, 1906. These first Carmelites were Fathers Eliseus Mackina and Irenaeus Berndi and Brothers Adam Modimayer and Alphonse Merl. The men were officially introduced to the local community by Fr. Bertram on the feast of the Visitation, July 2, 1906. Three more friars, Brothers Andrew and Martin and Fr. Otto, joined the Holy Hill community in September of that year.
The men braved their first Wisconsin winter in a farm house known as the old Whelan home. The conversion from house to friary was complete by December 8, 1907. Hardships were many. The men wanted to leave often, but Br. Adam insisted upon staying. He was convinced that God wanted the Carmelites to remain at Holy Hill. Br. Adam died on October 7, 1916 and was originally buried behind the second shrine. During excavation for the third shirne, his body was moved to the approximate location of his marker, which is near the tenth station just below the current friary parking lot. His actual grave site was covered over during construction of the present friary.
Fr. Kilian Gutmann, then superior of the Discalced Carmelite residence in Fond du Lac, replaced Fr. Eliseus as superior of Holy Hill in October 1906. Fr. Kilian remained as Holy Hill's superior until October 1914. His administration was responsible for digging a 230 foot well near the top of Holy Hill to provide water for the pilgrims. His greatest privilege was to celebrate the Hill's Golden Jubliee (1863 - 1913). Fr. Kilian was succeeded by Fr. Corbinian Penzkofer in April 1914. Fr. Corbinian's office commissioned sculptor Joseph Aszklar of Milwaukee to create the third (present) set of outdoor stations. These are life-size statues of Bedford Stone set in fieldstone grottos. Work on them began about 1918 and was completed in 1928. Fr. Corbinian also supervised construction of the building that is known as the Old Monastery Inn and Retreat Center.
Construction for this monastery (friary) began in 1919; the dedication took place in 1920. It was a novitiate from 1921 until 1943. The position of novice master for the first nine years of the novitiate was held by Fr. Gottfried Hirschberg. From 1934 until 1953 it was a minor seminary. Fr. Patrick Shanley was the first rector. By 1955 remodeling of this building into a retreat center was complete. What was once the oratory and choir (second level) became a cafeteria in the late 1940's. The friars cells on the third and fourth levels became guest rooms. The assembly room and parlor became conference room and lounge. In the late 1970's that conference room was made into a chapel (fourth level) and that lounge into a conference room (third level). A new lounge replaced what was formerly the cafeteria supervisor's quarters (third level). For the convenience of private retreatants, a rustic home style guest kitchen was installed on the first level in 1982.