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Carthusians in America : the foundation

The first actors of the story of how Carthusians came to the United States are three : Fr. Thomas Verner Moore, an American psychiatrist, educator and Benedictine monk, who had strong "founder" instincts and who became a Carthusian monk in the late forties, and his close friends Robert and Louise Hoguet, active catholics from New York City.

Fr. Thomas Verner Moore entered the monastery of Miraflores in Spain in 1947 and was solemnly professed in 1949 under the name of Dom Pablo. In 1950, his prior told him "You are called by God to bring the Carthusians to the United States." He took this very seriously and communicated immediately with his New York friends about it.

That same year Fr. Moore's friends, Robert and Louise Hoquet, made a Holy Year pilgrimage to Rome and other places in Europe. On March 29, 1950, they had lunch with Msgr. Giovanni Montini, later Pope Paul VI, whom they had met several times in New York City, and the following day they were granted a twenty-minute audience with Pope Pius XII. Following Moore's suggestion, they broached the subject of bringing the Carthusians to the United States, suggesting that the time for such a move had come. Later they called on the procurator of the Carthusian order in Rome to make the same appeal. Traveling north by car, the couple then visited the superior general of the Carthusian order at the Grande Chartreuse and reiterated their request. They then proceeded to Burgos, Spain, to visit Dom Pablo (Thomas Verner Moore) at Miraflores. Robert Hoguet described the trip in his autobiography and recorded the response they received:

"At that time, although the idea was favorably considered, we were assured by all concerned that nothing could be determined upon until after the next general chapter of the Carthusian Order, to be held in April 1951. But shortly after the invasion of Korea, and perhaps as a consequence thereof, a change of heart took place, and we were advised that an immediate foundation was being considered. My wife, in fact, was asked to look for a site, which she did, visiting various estates on Long Island and elsewhere."

In the spring of 1950, Louise Hoguet found a donor, Ms. Elizabeth Pierce, who was intending to join the Carmelite order and wanted to dispose of her property : a 550-acre farm in Vermont. She was happy to help another contemplative order get its start in this country in the process.

Fr. Moore was sent to the United States in October 1950, along with the prior of the charterhouse in Jerez, Spain, Dom Luis Maria de Arteche, to investigate the prospects for the proposed foundation. After making the arrangements to accept Ms. Pierce's property, called Sky Farm, and after Dom Luis returned a few weeks later to Spain, Fr. Moore undertook to make the coming of the Carthusians to America widely known.

The religious life at Sky Farm began with the celebration of Midnight Mass, 1950, celebrated by Dom Pablo along with Ms. Pierce, a handful of Benedictine oblate friends, and several American candidates for the new foundation (among whom was a future prior, Dom Raphael Diamond). The new community, at first composed only of Dom Pablo and one of the candidates, was known as the Carthusian Foundation, since it could not initiate the full Carthusian life until a charterhouse could be built. In March 1951, a new superior was appointed, Dom Humphrey Pawsey from Parkminster in England, accompanied by Br. Bede Sanders. Dom Pablo graciously turned over responsibility for the fledgling enterprise. The following month, on April 24, 1951, a cable arrived from France announcing that the general chapter of the order had officially approved the Vermont foundation. It was an astonishingly quick accomplishment, taking only one year from the first public mention of the idea to its approval by the Carthusian general chapter.

Sky Farm in Whitingham, Vermont

Fr. Moore remained at Sky Farm until the summer of 1960. In the decade he lived there, the community grew slowly, acquiring more property and building a few primitive huts to be used as hermitages until the permanent monastery could be built. Dom Richard Littledale replaced Dom Humphrey as superior in 1954 and he, in turn, was succeeded by Dom Stephen Boylan the following year.

When the community received a much larger tract of land at Mt. Equinox, near Arlington, Vermont, it was decided that the 82-year-old Dom Pablo would not fare well in the new situation; so he returned to the charterhouse at Miraflores in the summer of 1960. Eventually the monastery, known as the Charterhouse of the Transfiguration, was completed on Mt. Equinox and the monks occupied it in 1970, a year after the death of the man who, more than anyone else, was responsible for the coming of the Carthusian to the United States.

These details of the story of the foundation have been assembled from the following sources:

  • Benedict Neenan, O.S.B., Thomas Verner Moore, Psychiatrist, Educator and Monk, Paulist Press, 2000, especially p. 229-235.
  • Robert Louis Hoguet, Robert Louis Hoguet (1878-1961): An Autobiography, Vantage Press, NY, 1986.

 

The Name ->
The Foundation ->
The Early times ->

The landscape ->
Inside the monastery ->
Inside the cells ->

 

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