Greenville Poor Clares to celebrate order’s 750th anniversary

GREENVILLE — The Poor Clare sisters, who live in simple seclusion in their mon-astery on North Pleasantburg Drive, spend most of their day in silence. But these contemplative nuns, known as Second Order Franciscans, are about to erupt with a joyful noise.
On Aug. 11, the community will celebrate the culmination of the 750th anniversary of the death of St. Clare and the papal approval of her Rule (which was granted two days before she died). It was the first ever Rule of Life (a constitution for religious orders) granted to a woman and in-cluded such provisions as personal and communal poverty, a meatless diet and work to support the community.
According to Sister Mary Connor of the local Poor Clare monastery, the sisters in Greenville pray together no less than seven times each day, based on the Liturgy of the Hours. Although they make altar vestments and distribute altar breads, as well as do the cleaning, cooking and maintenance at their campus, their main charism is prayer, prayer of praise and intercessory prayer.
That’s how Clare lived in the Umbrian hills in the 13th century. She was a follower of St. Francis of Assisi, having left everything she had to follow Jesus. And she had a lot.
Clare, or Chiara (“light”) in Italian, was of noble stock. She left the castle of her parents for a monastery cell and replaced her silk gowns with the coarse habit of the Franciscans. She became the abbess of San Damiano and was soon followed into her life dedicated to prayer and penance by many other women, including her sister and widowed mother. At the time of her death, there were 150 communities of the order she founded, the Poor Ladies, in several European countries.
Known today as Poor Clares, Clare’s order continues to flourish. Although all the 900 communities in 67 countries follow the Rule of St. Clare, each is autonomous.
The community in Greenville was started in 1954, Sister Connor said, so that this year will be its 50th anniversary as well as the anniversary of its founder.
Events start off with a day of reflection on Aug. 7. It will feature a guest speaker, Sister Gabriele Uhlein, an artist, a doctor of philosophy and a leader in the international Franciscan federation. The theme of the day of reflection is “St. Clare of Assisi: a mirror of joy and a guide to a life of blessing.” The day will begin with Mass at 9 a.m. and will continue until 3 p.m. at St. Anthony of Padua Church on Gower Street. Lunch will be served to participants. Call (864) 244-4514 for more information.
The moveable feast will continue with a Franciscan prayer vigil for peace at 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 8 at the monastery chapel, followed by an evening prayer dedicated to the transitus of St. Clare two days later at the same time and place. Then on Aug. 11, a eucharistic liturgy celebrated by Franciscan Father Steven Pavignano at the chapel will close out the anniversary celebration.
Sister Connor emphasized that everyone is welcome to join the Poor Clare sisters and the greater Franciscan community at every event.