The Evolution of the Teresian Carmelites
Founded in 1971, the Teresian Carmelites emerged from the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement as a small prayer group called Domus Marie (House of Mary). Seeking profound intimacy with God, members of the community dedicated themselves to a personal relationship with Jesus. Cultivating a mystical bond with God by abandoning their lives to their Creator, they pursued truth and love as expressed in the Gospels, while fostering Christ-centered friendships. Prayer meetings held at member’s homes were marked by music, singing and praying. Extraordinary healings of cancer and other maladies occurred regularly. In time, the gatherings grew to eighty or more people.
Recognizing a majority of people were participating in the prayer meetings to witness miracles rather than cultivating an intimate relationship with God, the community began to shy away from healing services. Although participants dwindled, the evolving lay community was committed to restructuring its gatherings, focusing on spiritual development of the Carmelite tradition as expressed in the writings of St. Teresa of Ávila vila (1515-1582) and St. John of the Cross (1542-1591).
By 1981, a more mature group of religious men and woman emerged, dedicated to a contemplative, semi-cloistered community. Guided by the Way of Life of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, day-to-day life revolved around the discipline of prayer, solitude, clerical work and chores. From time to time, the monastery brought in small business jobs, though fundamentally relying on donations to meet its fiscal needs.
The Teresian Carmelites were founded in 1971 with Dennis joining the community in 1976 at the age of 13. He spent 34 years devoted to prayer, contemplation and service.
The leadership of Brother Dennis Wyrzykowski
During its first three decades, the Teresian Carmelites were led by Brother Paul Richard, a brilliant, charismatic and articulate man who was committed to his vision for the burgeoning community. His tireless dedication attracted countless admirers. However, over the expanse of almost thirty years, Brother Paul became known for his controlling authority and scandalous behavior—resulting in a forced resignation and laicization. By unanimous vote, the community elected Brother Dennis Wyrzykowski as the new leader of the Teresian Carmelites.
Brother Dennis was one of the earliest members of the Teresian Carmelites. He was just 13 years old when first introduced to the community; three years later he made the decision to commit his life to prayer and service. In early 1981, at the age of 18, Brother Dennis professed his vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to the Formulae Vita (Way of Life) of the Carmelites—as re-founded under the direction of St. Theresa of Ávila.
Upon taking the reigns of the community, Brother Dennis faced serious challenges. The community’s numbers were shrinking, morale was low, and finances were unsteady. Brother Dennis set about breathing new life into the community. He re-established a deeper practice of prayer, study and solitude—core tenants of the Carmelite tradition. To create greater emotional and physical balance in the life of the community, the doors of the monastery were opened to outside ministries consonant with the Carmelites Order. Finally, Brother Dennis guided the monastery from reliance on donations to a self-sustaining business enterprise model.
Leading the monastery, Dennis was responsible for the spiritual and financial needs of the monastery.
Early Lessons in Building Sustainability Through Entrepreuneurship.
Entrepreneurial approaches to supporting religious communities have a long tradition in Europe. In France, Trappist monks developed beer and cheese businesses as early as the 6th century (e.g. the famous “Chimay Trappists”). Bringing this approach to the Teresian Carmelites was one of Brother Dennis’ most important contributions to his community. His natural business acumen and affable demeanor suited him well in his role as a monastic entrepreneur. This approach, however, was not without its challenges, providing hard lessons and many bumps in the road.
Brother Dennis’ first business venture was the Teresian Carmelite Wind Project; created to provide revenue for the monastery and to aid low-income families with lower-cost energy. Once news of the wind project appeared in the media, two companies unsuccessfully sued Dennis for rights to the wind project. Numerous wind developers interested in further developing the wind project approached Dennis to purchase. After prayerful refection, Dennis chose a developer who was willing to negotiate terms with an option for Dennis to buy back the project. After two years of development and winning a lawsuit against two communication companies who wanted unlawful rights and access to his wind project, Dennis decided to sell the rights to a wind developer. The revenue generated from the sale of the wind project provided enough money to pay off the monastery’s debt and move to another location in Massachusetts.
Simultaneously, Dennis collaborate with a Dutch Brewery, owned by the Koningshoeven Abbey in the Netherlands, to bottle and distribute the Abbey’s beer in the United States under a Teresian Carmelite label. After 18 months of development, design, research and distribution preparation, the plans were thwarted by an unknown source within the Catholic church.
Three days after the abrupt end of the beer project, Brother Dennis pursued a Licensing Agreement with the University of Massachusetts Medical School for a cutting edge anti-aging patent known as the Adenosine Skin Technology. The financial goal was to create an anti-aging skin care product-line to generate annual revenue—providing for the needs of the community and low-income and marginalized individuals in Worcester. The creator of the technology, Dr. James G. Dobson, Jr., was a lay member of the Carmelite community who supported Brother Dennis’ vision for the patents, and the project’s profits for social impact. Brother Dennis set about licensing the technology and launching a company to produce the anti-aging product line—Easeamine. Two weeks prior to its launch date, the cosmetics giant, L’Oréal, released a new product line illegally exploiting the Carmelite’s patented technology. This devastating blow by a corporate behemoth left Brother Dennis with no recourse, but the legal system. Aided by a pro bono legal team, Brother Dennis, representing the Teresian Carmelites, brought suit against L’Oréal for patent infringement. Currently, the lawsuit is moving forward after L’Oréal’s attempts to invalidate their patents.
The Teresian Carmelites launched a five-product skincare line, utilized the Adenosine Skin Technology licensed from the University of Massachusetts Medical School. (Left: Susan Dobson, Dr. James G. Dobson, Jr., Brother Dennis)
Conflict with Church Hierarchy and Withdrawal of Recognition
The last twenty years have brought the Catholic Church to an unprecedented crisis of credibility. Decades of sexual predation and abuse perpetrated by clergy have been revealed—along with deep-seeded and insidious patterns of institutional cover-up designed to protect a privileged culture of clericalism shielding a portion of the Church’s elite hierarchy.
Sadly, the Teresian Carmelites were not untouched by these extensive wrongdoings. In 2012, Brother Dennis began to speak about the many years of sexual abuse he endured at the hands of two clergymen of the Diocese of Worcester, MA. Beginning in the summer of 1976 as a teenager, the abuse continued into his early adulthood. The affects of abuse steeped Brother Dennis in daily shame, guilt, fear and remorse. Faced with these revelations—and fueled also by the local Bishop’s fear the Teresian Carmelite’s new business model would cost the Diocesan coffers donations—Brother Dennis and his community were subject to systematic harassment, intimidation and threats by the Diocese. While Brother Dennis had been successful in stabilizing the finances of the community, this malevolent atmosphere began to undermine the growth and development of the Teresian Carmelites, leading to dwindling membership. In 2008, the Bishop of the Worcester Diocese dissolved the Diocese’s official recognition of the Teresian Carmelites. Nonetheless, Brother Dennis continued to embrace his Carmelite life of prayer, though disappointed and heavily burdened by the local church’s rejection.
After two years of prayer and reflection, on July 16, 2013 Brother Dennis ended his old story of being a monk and began a new story as a secular man of God. He set out to continue the Teresian Carmelite’s mission to serve the needs of the poor and marginalized, pursuing his vision to create sustainable business structures providing social impact.
Ending his old story as a monastic and beginning a new story as a secular man, Dennis’ profound love for God and humanity compels him to service, while sharing his business acumen and spiritual wisdom at the Teresian Institute of Ethics.
The Teresian Institute of Ethics
Compelled to create sustainable revenue to serve those experiencing poverty of the heart, mind and body, Dennis founded the Teresian Institute of Ethics in April 2018..
The non-profit institute is dedicated to ending the perpetuation of poverty, crime and prejudice—one person at a time—through education and social impact. The institute’s is developing aVenture Studio, Research Center and Social Initiatives dedicated to creating an ecosystem of profitable businesses, social impact, and in-depth research of social issues to provide the most effective and efficient solutions.
Providing venture capital, core resources, and expertise to nurture new ideas into sustainable and viable businesses, the Institute of Ethics’ purpose is to educate, empower and enlighten the disadvantaged.