ROCK HILL—Leaders of the Sisters of the Poor Clares in the United States met for a week of fellowship, prayer, education and planning at The Oratory May 9-15. It was the first time the annual meeting was held in South Carolina.
The event drew members from the two groups of Poor Clares in the United States: the Holy Name Federation and the Mother Bentivoglio Federation. Abbesses from the order’s monasteries and officers of the two councils attended.
Sister Elizabeth Mortell, OSC, of New Orleans, is president of the Mother Bentivoglio group and Sister Clare Frances McAvoy, OSC, leads the Holy Name Federation.
The Poor Clares are currently in the midst of a yearlong celebration of their 800th anniversary. St. Clare founded the Franciscan order in 1212, along with St. Francis of Assisi. About 17,000 Poor Clares live cloistered, contemplative lives in autonomous monasteries worldwide.
In South Carolina, 14 sisters live at a monastery in Travelers Rest, led by abbess Sister Mary Connor, OSC.
Sister Mary said the women religious spent several days taking part in a workshop led by Father Raymond P. Carey, from the Archdiocese of Portland.
They focused on developing their relationship with Christ, clarifying their values and mission as Poor Clares, and sharing that mission with their neighbors.
In Travelers Rest, for instance, people visit the monastery to pray and attend Mass with the sisters, and also submit prayer intentions through e-mail and the Internet.
“Poor Clares are different from other contemplatives, because we meet Christ in the people who come to us,” Sister Mary said. “We want to be welcoming communities that nourish them spiritually. That is part of who we are. We want to show them the beauty and sacredness of the life we live.”
Many of the sisters said they hope the meeting and ongoing celebration of the order’s anniversary will help people learn about Poor Clares and their mission of constant prayer for the church, the nation, its people and their intentions.
“I would want people to know that we pray for them constantly,” said Sister Elizabeth. “Our presence is important because we are always praying and we are there for the community.
“In the past, the emphasis for our order was more on being cloistered, but since Vatican II we have been able to go out more into the community, and people can come to us and pray with us, and for us,” she said. “Ours is a contemplative life lived for God, in a setting where God is the primacy of our life. We are contemplative within a certain place, and our life is consecrated because of God’s presence.”