July 24, 2012 // Uncategorized

Franciscan Sisters Minor transition to solitude of cloister

Open House planned for August 8

By Kay Cozad

FORT WAYNE — The lives of the Franciscan Sisters Minor have been rich and full since their arrival in Fort Wayne some two years ago. Living at the Providence House on St. John the Baptist Church grounds, the sisters were regularly engaged with the church and surrounding community assisting wherever they could with evangelization, catechesis of children, prayer and much more.

But their life of community service is about to change, as the 12 sisters will transition to cloistered life beginning in August.

The cloistered life, according to Franciscan Sister Stella Francis, is a convent of sisters whose apostolate is prayer and penance. She says, “We don’t leave. We are enclosed in the radical practice in the passion of Christ.” Any other apostolate, she adds, would be a distraction to their real mission. “By prayer and sacrifice we are intimately united with all the works of the Church, calling down the graces needed,” she notes.

Founder and superior of the community of sisters, Mother Celeste Marie says the idea of monastic life has been discerned among the ranks for several months following a formation class on St. Clare led by Sister of Perpetual Adoration Sister Anita Holzmer from the University of Saint Francis.

“Over the summer we were discerning how to deepen our charism. With the class we became intimate with St. Clare and saw the beauty of the saint and the feminine expression of Franciscan life,” says Mother Celeste Marie, adding, “Finding that expression is a hidden treasure. It is the footprint of Our Lady.”

Italian born St. Clare, who was the first female follower of St. Francis, became a mother to his followers after his death. She faithfully followed the austere lifestyle of manual labor and prayer emulated by St. Francis and established what was to become known as the Order of St. Clare in the 1260s.

Following the cloistered life of St. Clare is not for everyone, concede the sisters. Several of the sisters were musing on the cloistered life prior to the class, but as the idea developed each sister in the community discerned the transition differently.

Sister Stella Francis says initially she was burdened by the thought of leaving her life of community service where she taught children’s Bible study and more.

“It is painful, but love requires sacrifice. God will take care of us,” she says.

Sister Mary Clare, who is looking forward to the joy of enclosed life, feels it will “deepen our prayer life and our own sanctification. And deepen our relationship with Christ.”

Mother Celeste Marie agrees saying, “Cloister spells freedom. St. Clare saw it as joyful.”

Of course, say the sisters, they will miss the community activity, but will focus now on their central mission: praying for their bishop, priests and churches.

Sister Mary Clare adds, “We love the parish life. But we are moving to the cloister for the greater good. … We’ll support all parishes there.”

Though they will be enclosed and isolated from the outside world, the sisters report that they will speak with each other within the monastery walls.

“The Franciscan way is one of informal family life,” they say. “There will be lots of prayer and silence, and joyful community as well.”

Within their monastic life of prayer the sisters will receive private intentions from the outside community by mail, word of mouth or slips on their doorstep for which they will pray. And, on occasion, they will receive visitors for personal conversations. As for their own sustenance, they say faithfully, “It’s all Divine Providence.”

Surprisingly, since the decision has been made to transition to monastic life, vocations have increased. Five postulants have recently entered the community bringing their number to 12.

As for the direction of their call for vocations, Mother Celeste Marie says, “The Brothers (Minor) will direct woman to us. They will use their website. God always provides for cloistered life.”

The Sisters are grateful to the St. John the Baptist Church community for welcoming them two years ago and say, “It was a great gift to be here.”

In their new cloistered existence, the sisters, soon to be known as the Poor Sisters of St. Clare, will not only pray for the St. John Church community but the entire Catholic community of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.


The Franciscan Sisters Minor, soon to be known as the Poor Sisters of St. Clare, invite the public to 9 a.m. Mass at Our Lady of Angels at St. Andrew Church on Aug. 8, followed by an open house of the Our Lady of the Angels Monastery and grounds until 5 p.m. There will be a Holy Hour at 5 p.m. in the church that will include vespers with Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades.

On Aug. 9 the sisters invite all to join them at a special 10 a.m. Mass of Enclosure at the church, followed by a meal on the grounds.

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