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Poor Clares Gather at SBU

ALLEGANY, N.Y. – Poor Clare nuns have gathered at St. Bonaventure University for the Poor Clare Enrichment Program, which runs from June 26 to July 14.

The program is designed to allow English-speaking Poor Clares from different monasteries and parts of the Poor Clare tradition to come together for a three-week experience at the university. Sponsored by the Poor Clare Endowment, established about 14 years ago, the program is known as “Know Your Vocation.”

“The Clares’ presence on campus creates the opportunity to bring an important part of Franciscan life to the campus community and enriches not only the Clares who come but also the students of the Franciscan Institute, the faculty and staff by participating in classroom study, meals, liturgy and prayer, and ordinary interaction,” said Sister Roberta McKelvie, managing editor for Franciscan publications at St. Bonaventure and coordinator of the enrichment program.

This summer’s program will include 23 Poor Clares from monasteries in 11 cities, including Amarillo, Texas; Cincinnati, Ohio; Columbus, N.J.; Delray Beach, Fla.; Denver and Pueblo, Colo.; Great Falls, Mont.; Greenville, S.C.; Jamaica Plain, Mass.; New Orleans, La.; and Wilmington, Del. Although all are linked by the vows of obedience, poverty and chastity that St. Clare of Assisi bequeathed to them more than 800 years ago, each monastery remains completely autonomous. The program allows Sisters from varying traditions the unique opportunity to interact and learn from each other.

The program is in its second three-year cycle. The first cycle took place in 2001-2003 and brought together more than 70 Sisters from Canada, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines and the United States.

“Poor Clares from the first cycle were so pleased with the program that they insisted I don’t let it die,” said Sister Roberta. Some of the Sisters’ comments from the last year include:

“This was fascinating and exciting for me, most of it stimulating a desire for more reading ….”

“It was very helpful to be able to view and learn about the Poor Clares in the Medieval era.”

“The reading and sharing of Mother Magdalen’s letters opened a greater appreciation and understanding of the personalities and struggles and faithful commitment needed to establish the Poor Clares in the United States.”

This summer, in addition to times of prayer, study and reflection, the program is broken down into three main modules. The history module will enflesh the history of the Order of St. Clare through stories of Sister Mary Magdalen Bentivoglio, founder of the first Poor Clare monastery in the United States.

The theology module will focus on a major text of St. Bonaventure, “The Tree of Life.” Finally, an “arts and letters” segment will showcase artwork and letters participating monasteries use as sources of prayer and devotion.