Poor Clares receive grant

GREENVILLE – The contemplative Order of Poor Clares is giving thanks for a $250,000 grant it received from the National Religious Retirement Office. The grant will assist in the order’s efforts to relocate and build a new monastery.

“We have worked very hard to plan for our future living space that is in keeping with God’s plan for our life of prayer,” said Sister Carolyn Forgette, abbess of the cloistered order.

The Poor Clares received the check from the National Religious Retirement Office during a ceremony April 25 in the chapel of the current monastery at 1916 N. Pleasantburg Drive in Greenville.

The NRRO, together with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, sponsors a collection of funds in parishes in dioceses throughout the United States each December. The organization uses the funds to award cash grants to religious communities who have members who are 65 and older. Selection is based on financial responsibility and eldercare issues that include visits of the applicants’ facilities.

The Poor Clares’ monastery is in an area with traffic congestion – not the best location for the contemplative religious order – and has hallways that are especially difficult for wheelchairs to maneuver in, said Don Kilburg, a member of Prince of Peace Church in Taylors who is a supporter of the order.

The sisters are hoping to build a handicap-accessible monastery on 15 acres of property in northern Greenville County on McCauley Road. The architectural drawings have been completed; relocation and construction are estimated to cost about $5 million.

The NRRO, in giving the grant to the Poor Clares, recognized that the order is planning ahead to build a monastery to meet the needs of their elderly members.

“The donors to the Retirement Fund for Religious give their money to help religious communities deal with the fact that their Social Security benefits are about one-third of what other Americans receive, and to address issues specific to aging and eldercare,” Ginny Cunningham, communications director for NRRO, said in a statement.

The sisters are self-sufficient and live a very simple life centered on prayer, Kilburg said.

A lot of discernment and consultation with groups, such as one from Clemson University, has aided the order in deciding to leave their aging living quarters, he said. The monastery was built about 50 years ago, and the infrastructure is in need of a lot of renovation and repair. Kilburg said that the cost of relocating is about the same as renovating.

“They have found a beautiful spot north of Travelers Rest,” he said.

The Poor Clare nuns hope to raise the rest of the money for their new home from private donors. Donations and money that the sisters earn for distributing altar breads provide for their living expenses.