Nuns to break habit and give public thanks

Contemplative nuns who live a hidden life of prayer behind closed doors will thank the people of Cork in person today for their support as they mark the centenary of their monastery in the city.

Sisters Faustina, Colette, Francis and Anthony Mary share a lighter moment in the garden of the Poor Clares on College Road, Cork. Picture: Denis Scannel

The Poor Clare Colettines, best-known as the Poor Clares, will celebrate the feast day of their founder, St Clare, at 10am Mass today bringing to an end a weekend of special ceremonies at their College Road monastery, marking the milestone.

Mother Abbess, Sr Colette Marie, said the nuns will be on hand afterwards to meet, greet and thank people through a grille in one of their parlours.

She said the community is deeply grateful to the general public, but especially to generations of people in the Diocese of Cork and Ross who have helped and supported their community over the last 100 years.

The nuns take vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and enclosure and lead a life relatively unchanged since the order’s foundation in the 13th century.

Once they enter the monastery, they effectively say goodbye to the outside world, and commit to spending the rest of their lives behind the monastery walls.

Family members can visit three times a year, and there is regular contact by letters.

But the eight sisters — Sr Francis, Sr Faustina, Sr Miriam, Sr Clare, Sr Anthony Mary, Sr Mary, Sr Bernadette, and Sr Colette Marie — rely entirely on the outside world for their survival.

“Depending totally on God, shows that everyone can trust in God’s care,” Sr Colette Marie said.

“We have deep joy in our life and this joy is something that God wants everyone to have.”

Bishop John Buckley said the monastery has been a “powerhouse of prayer” for a century despite the fact that the sisters remain hidden.

“How many have written or called to the monastery when unemployment, emigration or illness struck?” he said.

“In 1956, the people of Cork flocked to the Poor Clare Sisters seeking their help in praying to God for protection from the polio epidemic that struck the city. The people of Cork have always acknowledged, cherished and valued the prayers of the Poor Clares.”

The community recently launched a booklet, written by Franciscan, Fr Pat Conlan OFM, charting the history of the Cork monastery.

They also launched their own website in 2012 and allowed cameras in to record Sunday rosary and benediction, clips which are available on YouTube, in the hope of fostering prayer, encouraging vocations and promoting the Gospel way of life.

While there have been no new vocations since, Sr Colette Marie said several women have sampled monastery life.

“We can’t create vocations. Ultimately, it’s God’s business,” she said.

The Cork monastery, founded in 1914, was financed by local businessman Walter Dwyer, whose daughter, Mary (Sr Maria), was a Poor Clare sister based in Tournai, Belgium.

She became one of the first nuns to serve in the new monastery where the first Mass was celebrated at midnight on Christmas Eve, 1914. There are plans to mark that milestone this Christmas.


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