Poor Clare Sister Beha celebrates 60 years of working for the Lord


GREENVILLE — Poor Clare Sister Marie Beha was honored on her 60th jubilee with a special Mass and reception at the convent Aug. 2. Father Thomas Vigliotta, OFM, celebrated Mass, and 40 guests celebrated with Sister Beha, including one of her former college students.

Sister Beha has been a part of the contemplative order for 34 years. Her first 26 were spent with the apostolic order Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate.

“I had been traveling around giving formation workshops when I visited the Poor Clares for the first time,” Sister Beha said. “Not long afterward they invited me back to give another workshop, and the second time something happened. I had begun to look for more prayer, more poverty, and more community. In retrospect I can see where God was preparing me to make the transition to this order. The charism of the Poor Clares is just that: prayer, poverty, and community.”

As troops mobilized during World War II, Sister Beha — then a 17-year-old self-proclaimed “war bride” —found herself mobilizing for the work of the Lord. She received her first Communion as a nun on Aug. 12, 1945, just a few days after the atomic bomb was dropped in Nagasaki.

Sister Beha taught high school for 10 years in Illinois, followed by 10 years as a college professor. During this time she received her master’s and doctorate degrees, but she was growing weary of life in the classroom.

“It was at this time that I began working in the national office in Washington, D.C.,” she said. “I enjoyed working with people so much, and although I felt the pull toward a more contemplative life, I couldn’t imagine at the time a life separate from society.”

But God eventually led her to the Poor Clares. The order founded by Sts. Clare and Francis is cloistered from the outside world. Its mission is that of prayer and service. The nuns lead a life very different from the rest of society, devoting four hours a day to work and eight hours to prayer. Sister Beha’s duties in the convent are that of running the library, maintaining the laundry in the house, and doing some light cleaning.

“We are in the process of rebuilding the convent, so as the librarian I have the task of weeding out some of our books since our new library will be much smaller,” she said.

The new convent will be located 15 miles from the current location on North Pleasantburg Drive. The Poor Clares receive no diocesan funds or funds from the church and rely entirely on donations and the sale of altar bread. The decision to rebuild was one that Sister Beha didn’t agree to until recently.

“I felt that we needed to balance our vow of poverty with the cost of new housing,” she said. “The housing we are in is not adequate, but I was pushing for renovating. When I realized that the cost would be almost the same either way, I finally said okay.”

Sister Beha said that the biggest lesson she has learned in her 60 years in religious life is to put God first.

“It has been a big challenge living faithfully in response to God,” she said. “It has always been the desire of my heart to serve.”

As Sister Beha nears retirement, she looks forward to having more time for prayer.

“I want to spend as much time as I can with the community, and having more hours for prayer will truly be a blessing,” she said.

Sister Annemarie Dudek celebrated her 25th year of profession the same day. Many of her family members live in the Charleston area.