By SISTER BERNADETTE CAPPOLA
GREENVILLE In a time when religious vocations are low in most communities, the Poor Clares Monastery in Greenville is blossoming. In a two month span, three women are moving forward in their formation journey as they enter the novitiate stage.
On Feb. 2 Elizabeth Oughton from Murfreesboro, Tenn., became a novice, and on March 28 Patricia Shutts from Steger, Ill., will be received into the novitiate.
More recently, Sister Bernadette Marie Cappola, a transfer sister from the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur, entered the novitiate on March 1. For 34 years Sister Cappola was a Sister of St. Mary, an apostolic congregation serving in South Carolina. Sister Cappola taught at St. Jude Elementary School in Sumter for eight and a half years.
In becoming a novitiate, she took the habit of the Poor Clares’ at a private ceremony. Her habit was blessed by Franciscan Father Robert Galanic and those who participated in the Eucharist on Sunday, Feb. 28.
The novitiate is the second stage of the formation process in the call to religious life. A candidate in the novitiate stage recognizes their divine vocation, particularly to the specific order. After two years, the women will take temporary vows.
Before the sisters consecrate themselves to God by a definitive profession, they must spend at least six years in probation. The three stages of probation are postulancy, novitiate and the time during which the sisters are bound by temporary vows.
For over 10 years, Sister Cappola felt God’s call to live a contemplative life, and in her search for a contemplative community she was introduced to the Poor Clares by Franciscan Sister Helen Godfrey. Prayer is the basic foundation of the Poor Clares, who are called to make their whole lives a prayer, in solitude and silence and in community. These contemplative sisters make a life-long journey to God and strive to attract others to him.
For Sister Cappola, being received into the Poor Clares is a dream come to reality. Living in poverty, prayer and community with the 18 other Poor Clares has brought her a deep peace and an inner joy.
She describes the kingdom of God like a treasure that someone found hidden in a field. Sister Cappola, Elizabeth and Patricia believe they have found that treasure in the Poor Clares Monastery and are willing to sell everything to obtain it.