Nuns harness social media to grow vocations

An ancient enclosed order of nuns has embraced social media to reach out to the world.

The Poor Clares in Cork, who live a hidden life of prayer behind closed doors, launched their own dedicated website last night as the global order celebrated the 800th anniversary of its foundation.

And the eight nuns living in the Poor Clare Colettine monastery on College Rd also allowed a team from Sandymount Productions in to their chapel to film their Sunday rosary and benediction for the first time — clips which are now available to view in full on YouTube.

“It was a community decision. We’re dipping our toes in,” said the mother abbess, Sr Colette Marie.

“If a girl feels like she has a vocation, the first place she’s likely to look these days is on the internet or Google.

“We don’t want the website to draw attention to us. We want it to draw attention to the Lord.”

Sr Francis, who celebrated her silver jubilee in 2009, agreed.

“We are slow to take new steps. It is not the essence of our lives to be involved in social media. But it is the herald of today.”

Poor Clare nuns take vows of poverty, chastity, prayer and obedience, and devote themselves completely to God.

Once they enter a monastery, they never come out. They follow a deeply religious way of life, largely unchanged since the 13th century. They are completely dependent on donations from the outside world for their survival.

And they only see their families three times a year — and even then they have to greet them from behind a grille.

The Poor Clares in Cork last welcomed a new member in to their community in 2005 — Sr Faustina from Newmarket in North Cork.

Now, they hope the website and the YouTube presence, which is being developed with the help of the Diocese of Cork and Ross, will give young women considering a vocation an insight into their remarkable lives. Sr Francis said they checked with other enclosed orders about their experiences with social media before they made the decision to go for it.

“We asked did it encroach on community life and they said once the decision was made, the website itself doesn’t interfere with living the Poor Clare life,” she said.

And she pointed out they haven’t taken on email or blogging just yet.

Bishop John Buckley, who attended the 800th anniversary celebrations in Cork last night, described the monastery as a “haven of prayerfulness”.

“Poor Clares are loved by generations of Cork people,” he said.

* www.poorclarescork.ie

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