Prayer is the very fabric of our lives, interwoven with manual labor and our daily hour of recreation, permeated throughout by our devotion to the Holy Eucharist, the source and summit of the Church's life, and the very heart of our monastic living.
The joyous poverty, radiant chastity, and humble obedience of Saint Francis and Saint Clare are the ideal in each of our individual communities, where we dwell enclosed, hidden with Christ in God.
In our humble, hidden daily tasks, we unite ourselves with the poor, who must work for their daily sustenance, and with the Blessed Virgin Mary, who cared with the greatest possible love for her family in their home at Nazareth.
Federations became a new chapter in our Poor Clare history when Pope Pius XII issued his Apostolic Constitution, Sponsa Christi, which first proposed the federation of autonomous monasteries.
Pope John XXIII granted the petition of the Poor Clare Nuns of St. Colette in the United States of America to form a federation among themselves. The charter member monasteries of the Federation are: Blessed Sacrament Monastery, Cleveland, Ohio (founded from Dusseldorf, Germany, 1877); Monastery of the Immaculate Conception, Chicago, Illinois (founded from Cleveland, 1893); Maria Regina Mater Monastery, Kokomo, Indiana (founded from Chicago, 1959); St. Joseph's Monastery, Aptos, California (founded from Cleveland, 1921); Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Roswell, New Mexico (founded from Chicago, 1948); Bethlehem Monastery, Newport News, Virginia (founded from Cleveland, 1956), relocated to Barhamsville, Virginia in 2004.
The Sacred Congregation for Religious approves the Federation Statutes ad experimentum, for a period of seven years. The decree was signed on July 6, 1959.
Mother Mary Francis of Cleveland, who had been elected the first federal abbess, began her first visitations of the monasteries of the federation. Mother Francis later had this to say about the communities she visited: "I found the respect and fidelity with which our communities are preserving the spirit of our holy Order and its traditions most impressive and gratifying."
The request of the Los Altos Hills community to become a member monastery is approved.
We welcome the Santa Barbara monastery into our federation.
The Monastery of Mary, Mother of the Church, Alexandria, Virginia (founded from Roswell), became a member monastery of our federation.
From the beginning of the federation, the need for the revision of our Constitutions had been evident to our communities. On March 5, 1981, Archbishop Augustine Mayer, O.S.B., Secretary of the Sacred Congregation for Religious, signed the decree approving the new and definitive text of our Constitutions, which had been written by Mother Mary Francis, abbess of the Roswell monastery, who had been chosen by common consent of the federated monasteries at the chapter of 1970 to undertake the monumental task. The revised Constitutions had been painstakingly discussed and edited over the course of several federation chapters, with capitulars from each member monastery carefully reviewing each article of the proposed text. These Constitutions are still in use today throughout our federation, having also been adopted by many foreign monasteries who have petitioned the Holy See and were granted the permission to do so.
Mother Mary Francis, abbess of the Roswell monastery, completed her translation of the Rule of our Holy Mother Clare and the Testament of our Holy Mother Colette. These were gratefully received by all the sisters of our federation, which numbered 190 members at that time. Most Rev. Augustine Mayer, O.S.B., was made a Cardinal by Pope John Paul II in May of that same year, and appointed Cardinal Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments. Cardinal Mayer examined very carefully the newly translated Rule of Saint Clare and the Testament of Saint Colette, and commented that it was his desire that the newly translated texts along with our Constitutions "will be a source of spiritual encouragement and ever deeper commitment for an always greater number of monasteries of Poor Clares." Copies of the new translations were shared with the two other federations of Poor Clares in our country and with communities abroad as well.
The Monastery of Our Lady of Mercy, Belleville, Illinois (founded from Roswell), became a member monastery of our federation.
We welcomed the St. Louis monastery into our federation.
We welcomed the Sauk Rapids monastery into our federation.
The Monastery of Maria, Moeder van de Kerk, was founded in Elshout, The Netherlands, by the Roswell monastery. In 1993, the Elshout monastery relocated to Eindhoven, The Netherlands, and became a member monastery of our federation in 2009. Due to lack of vocations, the monastery closed in 2015 and the community returned to the United States.
The Monastery of the Immaculate Conception, Chicago, Illinois (founded from Roswell), became a member monastery of our federation.
Today, the Poor Clare Federation of Mary Immaculate in the United States of America continues to grow and flourish. Our desire is that the genuine spirit of St. Clare and St. Colette be both preserved and promoted in each of our monasteries, and our bond of federation has always been and will continue to be a valuable help in that direction.
The monstrance holding the Blessed Sacrament (depicted in our federation’s logo) is commonly found in iconography of St. Clare. It recalls an incident that took place during her lifetime in September 1240, as well as her lifelong devotion to our Eucharistic Lord.
During an enemy attack on her monastery of San Damiano, Our Lord Himself promised our Holy Mother Clare His protection in the words, "Ego vos semper custodiam." This Latin phrase, variously translated into English as,“I will always defend you,” “I will always protect you,” or “I will always take care of you,” is the escutcheon of the Order of Poor Clares.
The following text, taken from the Legenda Sanctae Clarae Virginis Assisiensis (written in 1255), relates the incident:
The Spoleto Valley more often drank of the chalice of wrath (Rev. 14:10) because of that scourge the Church had to endure in various parts of the world under Frederick the Emperor. In it there was a battle array of soldiers and Saracen archers swarming like bees at the imperial command to depopulate its villages and to spoil its cities. Once when the fury of the enemy pressed upon Assisi, a city dear to the Lord, and the army was already near its gates, the Saracens rushed upon San Damiano, entered the confines of the place and even the enclosure of the virgins. The hearts of the ladies melted with fear; their voices trembled with it, and they brought their tears to their mother. She, with an undaunted heart, ordered that she be brought, sick as she was, to the door and placed there before the enemy, while the silver pyx enclosed in ivory, in which the Body of the Holy of Holies was most devotedly reserved, preceded her.
When she had thoroughly prostrated herself to the Lord in prayer, she said to her Christ with tears in her eyes: “Look, my Lord, do You wish to deliver into the hands of pagans Your defenseless servants whom You have nourished with Your own love? Lord, I beg You, defend these your servants whom I am not able to defend at this time.” Suddenly a voice from the mercy-seat of new grace, as if of a little child, resounded in her ears: “I will always defend you.” “My Lord,” she said, “please protect this city which for Your love sustains us.” And the Lord said to her: “It will suffer afflictions, but will be defended by my protection.”
Then the virgin, raising her tear-filled face, comforted the weeping sisters, saying: “My dear children, I guarantee, you will not suffer any harm. Just have confidence in Christ.” Without delay, the subdued boldness of those soldiers began to be alarmed. They were driven away by the power of the one who was praying, departing in haste over those walls which they had scaled.
Immediately Clare advised those who had heard the voice mentioned above, saying eagerly to them: “Dearest children, be careful not to reveal in any way that voice to anyone while I am still in the body.”
We desire never to forget the tremendous promise given to us by our Lord through our Mother St. Clare. As our cloistered contemplative life is centered so fully upon the Blessed Sacrament, our federation logo fittingly serves as a reminder that the Lord to whom we promise, “We will always take care of You,” through our vowed lives, will always defend, protect, and take care of His little poor ones.
Monastery of Poor Clares
215 E. Los Olivos St.
Santa Barbara, CA 93105-3605