Sisters of Sr. Clare (Poor Clares)
By Sr. Joseph
In Assisi, Italy, in March 1212, Clare Favorone, a young woman belonging to a powerful and wealthy family, broke away from the demands and expectations of her social position. She searched for a simpler lifestyle, where she could ahve the freedom 'to live according to the Gospel', as her friend and guide, Francis Bernardone (St. Francis) was already doing. This move, which she later happily described as 'a great exchange', was a shocking blow to her family's ambitions for her, but she was quickly joined by other women with similar ideals. This group evolved into a cloisterd community focused on prayer, sharing manual work and offering what help they could to anyone in need, and eventyally becoming the widespread international Order of St. Clare, also called Poor Clares. The first community of the Order in Papua New Guinea was established in July 1971 at Aitape, in what was then West Sepik District, now Sandaun Province. This community was a joint project of the communities at Campbelltown, N.S.W., Australia and Ennis, County Clare, Ireland.
Following the teaching and example of Saints Clare and Francis, the sisters aim to be of service to the local church and to all those among whom they live, while observing a simple lifestyle of prayer sheared community activities and work compatible with contemplative monastic life and local culture. The Poor Clare Order is part os the Franciscan Family and the Sisters chose to join the Vice Province of St. Francis of Papua New Guinea / Solomon Islands when this was established in March 1985. The community is therefore incorporated into the life of PNG.
Recruitment, training, etc.:
Candidates are usually expected to be in the twenties age-bracket, preferably with at least Grade 10 or equivalent and some work experience. Fromation is carried out almost entirely within the monastry and is directed towards personal maturity, spiritual growth and the capacity for both prayerful soltitude and community sharing. The time of preparation before final commitment can last up to nine years. The lifestyle is oriented to 'being' rather than 'doing', though various activities are undertaken. Clare Favorone was still a child when she sensed another dimension to life, something - Someone - attractive and fulfilling, beyond both the wealth which whe rejected and the poverty which she chose. Her story continues to inpire people of all cultures to sense and respond to this other dimension, this something, Someone beyond.
Currently (November 1999), the Community numbers eight Sisters and comprises four nationalities.