St. Clare of Assisi, who founded the Poor Clares in 1212, believed that no sister should be held above another. Instead, she instructed that the abbess should strive to “preside over the others more by her virtues and holy behavior than by her office, so that, moved by her example, the sisters may obey her more out of love than out of fear.”
On Oct. 1, the 16 sisters residing at St. Clare’s Monastery in Sauk Rapids came together as a community and carefully selected Franciscan Sister Mary Matthew Tomsyck as their newest abbess. She succeeds Franciscan Sister Marie Immaculata Schintgen, who served as abbess for the last seven years, including an extra year due to COVID-19.
This is not Mother Mary Matthew’s first time as abbess. She first was elected as abbess in 2008 and served two consecutive three-year terms, followed by a three-year term as vicaress from 2014 to 2017. Prior to that, she served as novice mistress and was responsible for working with the women in formation at the monastery.
Generally, the abbess is responsible for the bulk of the administrative work, including overseeing financial matters, ordering necessary supplies and scheduling necessary medical appointments as well as maintenance of the facilities.
“Above all, the abbess is a spiritual mother. She is meant to serve and guide the sisters, to make sure we are living our life as we ought to,” Mother Matthew said.
This time around, she said she is more prepared for the challenging position.
“The first time I was terrified,” she said. “I had no idea what I was doing. Although I’m still going to make little mistakes, this time I have a bit more confidence.”
“Let her console those who are afflicted. Let her also be the last refuge for those who are troubled, lest the sickness of despair overcome the weak should they fail to find in her the remedies for health.” — Rule of St. Clare, regarding the role of the abbess
She is most looking forward to serving her fellow sisters.
“An abbess should be a servant to her community. I am most joyful to be their servant, to be at their disposal, to care for the elderly sisters. And to really care for all the sisters, who each have our own aches and pains. It is a great privilege for me.”
Additionally, the community chose a team of new councilors, who advise the abbess. The group includes Sisters Consolata Nazar, Angela Elbert, Barbara Muehleck and Mother Elizabeth Pistulka, who will serve as vicaress.
“Let all who hold offices in the monastery be chosen by the common consent of all the sisters to preserve the unity of mutual love and peace.” — Rule of St. Clare, regarding the councilors
“I am very excited to be working with this lovely group of sisters and I greatly appreciate their counsel to me, to help guide me and make sure I stay on the straight and narrow,” Mother Matthew said. “They all have a great sense of co-responsibility with me for the good of the community.”
Mother Matthew requests that the public continue to reach out to them by writing or calling with prayer requests.
“Our vocation is always to increase in holiness and our life of prayer can be very effective. I hope that people remember we are always here for them,” she said. “Please don’t hesitate to call with your prayer needs.”
Learn more: Prayer requests can be made by calling 320-251-3556 or in writing to Poor Clare Sisters, 421 4th St. S., Sauk Rapids, MN 56379.
Tea for Poor Clare Sisters canceled
The annual Poor Clare Benefit Tea has been canceled for the second year in a row as a precaution against spreading the coronavirus. In lieu of the event, financial donations may be sent directly to St. Clare’s Monastery, 421 S. 4th St., Sauk Rapids, MN 56379-1898.
For over 70 years, women of the St. Cloud area parishes have traditionally hosted this event in October to raise funds to assist with defraying the heating costs at the monastery. The Poor Clare Sisters depend on the generosity of the community for their livelihood. They offer gratitude through the spiritual impact of their silent prayerful presence in the St. Cloud Diocese.