St. Clare and her Sisters

Clare-icon-his-indescribable-delight-200x150“Gaze upon Christ;


consider Christ;


contemplate Christ;


imitate Christ.”



The Story of Clare

The Church in western Europe was not in such good shape at the end of the 12th century. But it was at this time that the Holy Spirit stirred the hearts of two young people in central Italy, giving rise to the remarkable Franciscan movement.
Clare was born Chiara Offreduccio in 1193 or 1194, the daughter of a wealthy and highly educated family in Assisi. When Francis began to preach the Gospel in the squares of Assisi in 1210 Clare was 16 years old, 11 years younger than him. Even as a child her heart was turned towards the Lord, and she would share her food with the poor and needy people of the town.clares h She had already refused several offers of marriage. At the age of 18, she was captivated by Francis’ Lenten preaching of a Christ-centred simple gospel life, and especially his emphasis on poverty as a special vocation. She had several secret meetings with him, accompanied only by a friend, Bona, and made up her mind to join him. On Palm Sunday 1212 Clare left her parents’ house secretly. She had already sold her dowry and given the money to the poor. At the little church of St Mary of the Angels, just below Assisi, she met Francis and a few of his brothers. She changed her dress for a simple habit, and took off her jewellery. Francis cut her hair, and she made a vow of obedience to him.13 Clare Becomes Franciscan At first she lived with a nearby Benedictine community of nuns, doing simple menial tasks.
Not surprisingly, Clare’s family were outraged at what she had done. They sent armed men to bring her back, without success. When Clare’s younger sister, Catherine, followed her only a fortnight later, the family made even more violent attempts to force her to return home. They were in fact carrying Catherine away physically, but Clare prayed, and Catherine became so heavy that they could not lift her. Defeated, they returned home.
Francis received Catherine, too, as a sister, and gave her the name Agnes. Then Clare, Agnes and several friends moved to San Damiano, the church where Francis had heard Jesus speak to him from the crucifix, charging him to “rebuild” the Church. Here the first community of Poor Clares came into being. Clare’s widowed mother joined as well.
It was said that the followers of Clare were the most beautiful young girls from the best families of Assisi. The community grew rapidly, and in 1215, very much against her will, Clare was made Abbess.
The women devoted themselves to prayer, nursing the sick, and works of mercy for the poor and neglected. The order came to be called the “Poor Clares.”clares 1 They wore no shoes, ate no meat, lived in a house that was unsatisfactory even by the standards of that era. They also kept silent most of the time. They had no beds, but slept on twigs with patched hemp for blankets. Whatever they ate was food they begged for. Clare made sure she fasted more than anyone else. 
Clare Remained in charge until her death in 1253. In spite of long years of sickness, we know the depth of her love for the Lord by the letters she wrote. Two years after her death, in 1255, she was declared a saint by the church.
In the early years of the movement Francis visited Clare often, but as his own community grew his visits decreased and she had to find within herself the inspiration she had received from him.clares c Their relationship grew more equal, and Francis would consult her on important decisions. In his last illness he came to San Damiano and Clare cared for him.
Although she called herself “the little plant of Francis” Clare was in fact a powerful and innovative woman, the first woman to write a Rule (a guide to a way of life) for a religious community. She struggled with the institutional church for most of her life, as Popes and Cardinals resisted the renewal movement and sought to draw her away from the poverty which was at the heart of her following of Jesus. But she remained firm and her Rule was finally approved by the Pope himself just a few days before her death. By that time there were more than 150 communities which followed her way of life, mainly in Italy, southern France and Spain, but spreading as far east as Prague, and as far west as Bruges.

The Poor Clares Today . . .

99ee26e44aa4bc5dab12d6964dfc16bdSt. Clare was the first Franciscan woman, a follower of St. Francis. Together they founded the Second Order of the Franciscan family, the Poor Clares in 1212. She lived in the church of San Damiano which St. Francis renovated for the Sisters to live in, for almost 40 years until her death.

To the foundation of Franciscan poverty and simplicity of life, Clare added the contemplative vision, bringing a unique gift to the Church. The combination of evangelical poverty and simple, Gospel living, with the silence and solitude of contemplative life within enclosed community, is Clare’s legacy to her sisters and the Church.

clares 7Clare’s first Rule was modified by the Pope, but she remained true to the vision God gave her and, on her deathbed, secured for the Order the “privilege of highest poverty.” Thus, her desire was affirmed to depend totally on God’s providence and live the Gospel wholeheartedly.

Today, the Poor Clares form a worldwide Order of more than 17,000 sisters in 900 monasteries, 42 of which are in the United States. All follow the same Rule and share the same basic Constitutions. Yet each monastery remains totally autonomous, with its own abbess, chapter of professed sisters, and novitiate. Each community gives expression to its own particular nuancing of Clare’s spirit. In this way the Order’s “form of life” can be as wide as the world and as unique as each particular monastery.

From the oldest monastery in Assisi to the latest foundation in the world, the central elements of the Poor Clare life remain the same.

Each monastic day provides the opportunity for long periods of personal prayer, as well as the enrichment of Eucharistic celebration and its continuation through the Liturgy of the Hours. Poor Clares blessing the crowd at the end of Mass.  Photo by Colleen KelleySilence and solitude, so necessary to contemplative life, are balanced by close community living and the warm support of sisters who truly love each other. Simple manual work is another staple of the life, contributing toward the material support of the sisters and giving expression to their desire to serve others. Since theirs is a purely contemplative call, the sisters do not directly engage in any apostolate outside of the monastery.

Following Vatican II, the ideals of Poor Clare living have been renewed and the Order’s Constitutions have been updated. Within the approved constitutional framework each Chapter makes decisions about particular expressions of enclosure, contact with those outside of the monastery, types of work and daily schedules. Such adaptations are accidental differences; the Poor Clare spirit of evangelical poverty, prayer and contemplation remains essentially the same.


Branches of the Poor Clare Family

Over the 800 years since St. Clare and St. Francis founded the Poor Clares, there have been times when both the friars and the Poor Clares needed reform.  There have been courageous women and men who responded to that call by challenging the status quo and/or beginning new branches of the family. Thus, the friars today are: Friars Minor(OFM), Conventual Friars (OFM Conv), Capuchin Friars (OFM Cap) and Third Order Regular Friars (TOR).

Likewise, today there are a variety of Poor Clare expressions; besides the OSC, there are Colettine Poor Clares (PCC), Capuchin Poor Clares (OSC Cap) and Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration (PCPA).  If you are interested in these other branches, we encourage you to look for more information about them on the Internet.

Capuchin Poor Clares: Four monasteries are located in Alamo, TX; Denver, CO; Pueblo, CO; Wilmington, DE

Colettine Poor Clares: Ten monasteries are located in Los Altos Hills, CA, Barhamsville, VA, Belleville, IL, Cleveland, OH, Chicago, IL, Joliet, IL, Kokomo, IN, Rockford, IL, Roswell, NM, and Santa Barbara, CA

Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration:  Six monasteries are located in Birmingham, AL, Canton, OH, Charlotte, NC, Cleveland, OH, San Antonio, TX, Tonopah, AZ and Washington, DC

For more information . . .

Poor Clare Sisters (OSC) (International)

Poor Clare Colettine Nuns (PCC)
(Cleveland, Ohio – First permanent foundation in the USA)

Capuchin Poor Clares (OSC Cap) (Federation of Our Lady of the Angels of North America)

Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration (PCPA) (Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, Hanceville AL)




God of peace, 
who in the poverty of the blessed Clare 
gave us a clear light 
to shine in the darkness of this world: 
give us grace so to follow in her footsteps
that we may, at the last, 
rejoice with her in your eternal glory; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 





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