Poor Clare ‘fan girls’ collect funds to upgrade sisters’ kitchen, defray heating costs

Pizza cutters.

That’s what prompted Brigetta Klemek of Cold Spring to reach out to a friend to host a Pampered Chef party just before Christmas last year. Although the party was virtual due to COVID restrictions, the online event was hugely successful, and Brigetta received much more than the high-quality pizza cutters she wanted to get her adult children for Christmas.

She thought if she could raise that much money for herself and her own wants, how much more could she do for someone else who perhaps has a greater need? And, in what she believes was a prompting of the Holy Spirit, she thought of the Poor Clare sisters in Sauk Rapids.

Brigetta, a member of St. James Parish in Jacobs Prairie, has felt a deep connection with the Poor Clares for about 22 years.

“I read about Sister Mary Angela [O’Connor] in the St. Cloud Visitor newspaper when she had professed vows and I thought, ‘How does a woman with this incredible history, who holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and a master’s degree in ecology, and once slept in the bed of her pickup for a week under Half-Dome [rock] while camping in Yosemite, end up in a cloistered monastery in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota?’”

Unable to let go of the thought, Brigetta wrote to Sister Angela, and to her great joy, Sister Angela responded. The two have corresponded on and off over the years. Brigetta, who thinks of herself as a silent partner with the sisters, has called the monastery to ask for both prayers of gratitude for blessings received as well as for help in times of difficulty. She also asks for prayer when the family travels.

“I keep the sisters’ address in my wallet and send postcards from wherever we travel. Whenever we see a sunset, we pray for them,” Brigetta said.

Brigetta believes that the sisters’ prayers triggered divine intervention during a family trip that landed them on a mountaintop during a Colorado snowstorm.

“We know it was because they were praying for us that we were able to get off that mountain safely,” Brigetta said. “When we got home, there was a letter waiting for us that said they were praying for us while we were gone, and we all realized if it wasn’t for the Poor Clares’ prayers, we wouldn’t be here.”

So for Brigetta, rounding up some much-needed kitchenware and small appliances is just a simple way to thank the humble religious women who have devoted their entire lives to prayer for others and service to the Lord.

“They are just amazing women and they have given their whole lives for others. It’s really just a small thing we can do for them,” Brigetta said.

Brigetta contacted her friend, Sarah Gadacz of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Gilman, who had helped her host the Pampered Chef party, and the two are collecting monetary donations, which they will use to purchase products that the sisters, with much coaxing, identified as most useful.

To protect the sisters from getting an overabundance of items, Brigetta, Sarah and Sarah’s 16-year-old daughter, Ava, met with some of the sisters to help prioritize a list of needs. Once the donations are collected, the two women will work on purchasing items from the greatest need to the least, and if any funds are left, they will go directly to the sisters to use at their discretion.

Brigetta Klemek, left, and Sarah Gadacz, right, meet with Poor Clare Sister Mary Angela O’Connor Feb. 11 in Sauk Rapids. (photo courtesy of courtesy of Brigetta Klemek)

During their conversation at the monastery, the women were able to meet Sister Angela and hear her vocation story, which inspired them all.

“She told us when we consider our options in life, don’t say ‘no,’ say ‘maybe,’” Brigetta said.

And the sisters, who rely solely on donations, were a bit reluctant to let Brigetta and Sarah help.

“Mother [Marie] Immaculata said she doesn’t want people to take from their own need,” Brigetta said. “But I told her that there is money out there now that people aren’t spending and when people know there is a need, they respond.”

The winter is always a difficult time for the monastery as the space is expensive to heat, even in the most carefully managed way the sisters live. So, in addition, the women will also accept donations to offset heating costs.

“Normally there are groups who host events to help defray the costs but with COVID, those events weren’t able to happen,” Brigetta said. “It’s important to Sarah and me that we go by their needs, not by what we think they need. We are just God’s hands and feet and we hope that people will open their wallets wide.”

Checks can be made out to the Poor Clares and either KITCHEN or HEAT must be noted in memo line. The checks can be mailed to Brigetta Klemek, 905 1st Street North, Cold Spring, MN 56320. Venmo donations can be made to @Sarah-Gadacz (last four digits 2665) and put in the memo “Poor Clares.” For other donation options, call Brigetta at 320-774-9089. The women hope to receive all the donations by the end of February.

“In the end, I realize that the very same voice that nudged me to write to Sister Angela 22 years ago is the same voice nudging me forward now,” Brigetta said. “Sister Angela chides me it’s the Holy Spirit. And if I’m being moved by the Holy Spirit, maybe others will feel moved to help, too.”

Author: Kristi Anderson

Kristi Anderson is the associate editor for The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine.

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