Poor Clare Sisters celebrate 100th Anniversary

This month, the Poor Clare Sisters will celebrate 100 years of supporting the people of the Diocese of St. Cloud with their ministry of prayer.

The sisters of St. Clare Monastery in Sauk Rapids are members of the Franciscan Order of St. Clare, an order of nuns founded by St. Clare of Assisi in 1212 and considered the second of the three Franciscan orders. They serve the Church through a life of prayer, penance, contemplation and manual work.

Poor Clare Sister Christiana blesses the vaults of deceased sisters under the monastery’s chapel. (All photos by Dianne Towalski / The Central Minnesota Catholic)

In 1923, 11 sisters arrived in Sauk Rapids to establish the monastery, and in July 1924 they were officially enclosed as a contemplative community. The cloistered monastery is now home to 14 sisters with two in formation. Over the years, it has housed up to 30 sisters at one time.

The sisters don’t use email but receive prayer requests by mail and phone from all over the diocese and beyond. People ask for prayers for everything from the health of a loved one to good weather for a special event.

“Our vocation is always to increase in holiness and our life of prayer can be very effective,” said Mother Mary Matthew Tomsyck, abbess of the community. “I hope that people remember we are always here for them.”

They also pray for the intentions that are sent with donations to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal.

“We partner with the good sisters at St. Clare’s Monastery to ensure that each petition receives the individual attention and prayer it deserves,” said Anna Kampa, director of stewardship and development for the diocese. 

“Having witnessed the deep healing power of prayers offered by the sisters, I am filled with gratitude for their devotion to this ministry.” — Anna Kampa

Poor Clare Mother Elizabeth, left, and postulant Carleen work on trimming the lilac bushes in the enclosure.

Father Matthew Crane serves as chaplain for the community and celebrates Mass with the sisters daily at 7 a.m.

“The thing I appreciate most about being chaplain for the Poor Clares is the way they have created a truly Catholic space there on the hill in Sauk Rapids,” Father Crane said. “People can come together at the St. Clare’s Monastery simply because they are Catholic, not because they are Catholic and they belong to this or that parish. To be able to celebrate the Eucharist in the presence of such a gathering is a great honor.”

To celebrate their jubilee year, the sisters are hosting special events.

“We are grateful to mark this important milestone in our history,” Mother Matthew said.

There will be a special Mass on July 16, with an “open parlor” from 1 to 7 p.m. This is an opportunity for people to share fellowship and refreshments and meet with the sisters at the parlor grate.

They also plan to have a historical display with photos explaining their history and the changes that have taken place in the monastery over the years, Mother Matthew said.

Postulant Carleen and Poor Clare Sister Gabriel share a laugh as they work on crafts on the patio during recreation time.

Throughout the year, the sisters are hosting a special Mass of Thanksgiving each month and inviting relatives, friends and benefactors based on the first letter of their last name (see schedule below). Those with last names starting with A or B, for example, were invited to the first Mass Jan. 18.

“These Masses are being offered in thanksgiving for all the spiritual and material gifts we have received and continue to receive from our good God through the hands of our gracious and generous benefactors,” Mother Matthew said.

“The life of a Poor Clare is a gracefully hidden life,” Father Crane said. “It is mysterious. God himself, though, abides in mystery. So, it should not surpriseus if those who strive to live so closely to him wind up doing the same.”

Jubilee Mass schedule

The Masses are celebrated at 7 a.m. on the designated day. The schedule is:
Q-R: Tuesday, Aug. 13;
S:  Friday, Sept. 6;
• T-U: Saturday, Oct. 12;
V-W: Saturday, Nov. 16;
X-Z: Monday, Dec. 16.

Please RSVP by calling 320-251-3556  if you plan to attend one of these Masses.

July celebration

Jubilee Mass: Tuesday, July 6, with an “open parlor” from 1 to 7 p.m.

Author: Dianne Towalski

Dianne Towalski is a multimedia reporter for The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine.

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