Our Founder and History
The Carmelite Sisters of St. Thérèse were founded by Fr. Eduardo Soler, O.C.D., a Discalced Carmelite Friar of the Oklahoma Province of St. Thérèse. They are a congregation of active women religious, entrusted with the mission of living the Carmelite spirit of prayer while dedicating themselves also to the education and Christian formation of young people. The Discalced Carmelite Friars serve as their chaplains. The friars and the Carmelite Sisters of St. Thérèse also collaborate in various ministries and support and encourage one another as we all strive to serve the Lord as members of the Carmelite family.
In 1916, Fr. Eduardo Soler, O.C.D., became pastor of the Carmelite parish in the mining town of Hartshorne, Oklahoma. This parish had two mission churches in the small towns of Gowen and Pittsburgh. Fr. Eduardo wanted to start a school in the mission of Gowen. He found a young woman who expressed some interest in establishing a mission school. Her name was Marie Loretta Cavanaugh. Edward brought this “young frail woman from Central Falls, Rhode Island,” to help him teach the Indian children in that mission. By July 1917 Edward had found three teachers from back East, convinced them to become Tertiary Carmelite Sisters, and built them a convent and set up a school in Gowen. During the summer of 1920 these Sisters were invited to take over the school in Hartshorne from the Incarnate Word Sisters. Enrollment at that time was over 200 pupils from elementary to high school.
In 1925 the Sisters community had grown to 12. Soon there were enough Tertiary Sisters to be formed into a religious order, and on December 27, 1928, Bishop Kelley canonically established the Carmelite Sisters of St Thérèse as a new congregation. Fr. Edward aided the process of forming this congregation, and Marie Cavanaugh was elected their superior. She took the religious name, Mother Agnes Teresa C.S.T.
Once Fr. Edward was able to establish a community of Discalced Carmelite Friars in Oklahoma City, he brought the Sisters to that city and helped them build a wooden frame Motherhouse there in 1926. When they acquired a large brick house on Classen Drive, the first Villa Theresa School was set up in 1933 in the daughter-in-law’s house next door.