Cloistered nun at Wahpeton's Carmelite Monastery, twice deployed to Iraq

The Carmelite Sisters, outside of Wahpeton, do not have contact with the outside world. Their life has been one of intrigue and mystery. Until Monday, Oct. 24, no television news cameras had ever been allowed inside the walls of Carmelite Monastery. WDAY News was welcomed into the monastery to tell the story of their life of prayer and one nun's journey from the Army to a private, closed life.

Two pictures of Sister Maria Teresa. Sister Maria served in the Iraq War as part of the military police. She now lives at Carmelite Monastery near Wahpeton, North Dakota.
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WAHPETON, N.D. — Tucked behind a grove of trees in rural Richland County sits the Carmelite Monastery.

The cloistered sisters have been here since the 1950s. The monastery has been west of Wahpeton since the 1960's.

The cloistered sisters never leave here. They get up early, and pray seven times a day.

But for Sister Maria Teresa, the journey to this closed, cloistered community is anything but ordinary.

Sister Maria is a U.S. Army veteran who was deployed twice to Iraq as a member of the military police.


"(W)e were teaching the Iraqi army how to set up checkpoints, and how to search people and search vehicles," Sister Maria said. "We usually found roadside bombs, that was a normal occurrence. Thankfully, only one blew up on us when we were out there."

But after her time on deployment something changed, and Sister Maria traded in her military uniform for a Carmelite habit.

More from WDAY's Kevin Wallevand

"I'm a lot happier now. I have a lot more peace now," she said.

"It gives me great joy to hear her say that. A young woman that's finding this life beautiful and something she wants, and she's answering God's call," said Mother Madonna, Carmelite Monastery, said.

Now, her life is one of quiet days and nights, chores to do and prayer. There is no talking, and moments after, more prayer and chanting of the Psalms. Seven times a day they pray, away from any public view, behind a grille.

"Well, I love the community, I love the sisters, they're very supportive," Sister Maria said. "And, of course the prayer, I love the prayer."

Mother Madonna says this cloistered life is not for everyone. Because the sisters never leave the monastery and are in prayer several times a day, there is little contact with family or the outside world.

For Sister Maria, that's okay. She prefers this prayer life.


"I don't know why. It's just something that seems like it's the best thing I can do for people," Sister Maria said.

The monastery relies on private donations. Those wishing to donate to the monastery can do so by visiting

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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