Poor Clare Sisters celebrate Feast Day Print this post

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic


St. Clare was a noblewoman who more than 800 years ago heard St. Francis of Assisi and was overcome with a desire to imitate him and live a poor humble life for Jesus.

St. Francis cut her hair and gave her a rough worn brown robe to wear tied with a plain cord around her waist. Despite the efforts of her parents to have her return home, she did not. In fact, her sister, St. Agnes soon joined her, as well as other young women who wanted to be brides of Jesus joyfully embracing a life of poverty, prayer and contemplation, solitude and seclusion that they might serve the Lord and His Church through this holy manner of living as Francis had foretold.

A statue of St. Clare of Assisi outside of San Damiano Monestary in Fort Myers Beach, home to Poor Clare Religiosu Women.

It was with these humble beginning that St. Clare became the foundress of an order of religious sisters now known as Poor Clares. A group of seven women from the Poor Clare religious order have called Fort Myers Beach their home for the past 29 years. The San Damiano Monastery of St. Clare is on land shared with Ascension Parish. The Sisters first arrived in the Diocese of Venice in 1988 and the Monastery became independent in 2009.

Living a secluded life, the Poor Clare Sisters do not minister outside their residence, but dedicate their lives to contemplation and prayer for others. They also make vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and enclosure. Their day is set into a traditional monastic framework of prayer and work. Holy Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours are the anchor to their day.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane, and other visiting priests are seen here with Poor Clare Religious Sisters at the San Damiano Monastery in Fort Myers Beach on Aug. 11.

Outside these times, there is seldom a dull moment inside the cloister. The Sisters engage in all the ordinary tasks of life in a spirit of sisterly sharing, joy and peace. At other times, a sister might be found packing up an order of hosts for one of the local parishes, taking care of the altar, sweeping the cloister walk or doing some laundry. Or you may find a sister at a desk, doing bookkeeping, answering mail, preparing spiritual cards or planning the liturgy. The monastery is surrounded by a high wall and the Sisters leave the property only when absolutely necessary.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane, and other visiting priests are celebrate Mass for the Poor Clare Religious Sisters at the San Damiano Monastery in Fort Myers Beach on Aug. 11, the Feast Day of their foundress St. Clare of Assisi.

On Aug. 11 each year the Poor Clare Sisters take time to celebrate the Feast Day of their patroness, St. Clare of Assisi. The Feast Day concludes an annual weeklong reflective contemplation of their Faith and their commitment to God. To add to the festive occasion, a Mass was held for the Sisters and their devoted supporters in which Bishop Frank J. Dewane was the principle celebrant.

Bishop Dewane called the Sisters a reflection of the Light of Christ that shines within the Diocese. “You are an example to others for who you are and who you have become in your life. Thank you. We treasure you for what you represent.”

Poor Clare Religious Sisters sing during a Mass on the Feast Day of their foundress, St. Clare of Assisi, at the San Damiano Monastery in Fort Myers Beach on Aug. 11.

The Bishop noted that there is a special affinity for the community of Sisters, represented by the overflow of people at the Feast Day Mass, which bespeaks to the impact their example has on so many others. He also praised the Sisters for praying to St. Clare to intercede on behalf of the faithful of the Diocese of Venice.

“Thank you for choosing to grace the Diocese with your presence and continued prayers,” the Bishop added.

Abbess Sister Mary Frances of Jesus Fortin said it is a special honor for Bishop Dewane to celebrate Mass for the Sisters.

“The support we receive from Bishop Dewane and the Diocese has been remarkable through the years,” Sister Mary Frances said. “We are blessed by this recognition of our commitment.”

A stained glass window of St. Clare of Assisi in the chapel of San Damiano Monestary in Fort Myers Beach, home to Poor Clare Religious Women.

The homilist for the Mass was Father Regis Armstrong, OFM Cap., of Catholic University in Washington, D.C., who described the Poor Clare Sisters as mirror images of their foundress, who entered into a tremendous love affair with the Lord.

“Like St. Clare, you have a magnetic energy from listening to what the Lord called… you are a spark of light that is brighter still that you may be brilliant for the whole world,” Father Armstrong said.

The San Damiano Monastery of St. Clare includes a Chapel, which was designed to recall the first San Damiano Monastery of St. Clare in Assisi. The Chapel is the heart of the monastic home and is where Christ dwells in the Blessed Sacrament. It is where the sisters gather as a community throughout the day for Holy Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours and times of silent prayer and meditation.

The chapel’s stone arch, the San Damiano Cross and the handmade wooden altar in the form of the Tau cross so familiar to St. Francis, all remind the Sisters of their roots in Assisi, Italy. The Holy Spirit rose window is based on a window in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and reminds the sisters of the loyalty and great devotion St. Francis and St. Clare had to the Church of Rome and the successors of St. Peter.

The Poor Clare Sisters do take prayer requests. This can be done by sending an email to saintclare@comcast.net or by visiting their website at www.fmbpoorclare.com. Mass is open to the public and takes place in the summer at 6:45 a.m. on Sundays, 8 a.m. daily weekdays. During the winter, Mass times are 6 a.m. Sundays, and 6:45 a.m. daily. Please call 239-463-5599 before coming as these times may change.

If you would like to support the Poor Clare Sisters, you can mail them at: San Damiano Monastery of St. Clare, 6029 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931.

Prayer to St. Clare “O glorious Saint Clare, God has given you the power of working miracles and the favor of answering the prayers of those who invoke your assistance in misfortune, anxiety and distress; we beseech you, obtain for us from Jesus, through Mary, what we beg of you so fervently and hopefully if it be for the greater honor and glory of God and for the good of our souls. Amen.”

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