Who are the Poor Clares of Montana?
We are a community of women whose origins are found in 13th century Assisi in Saints Francis and Clare. Our lives are dedicated to serving the people of God through a gospel form of life, lived in poverty, chastity, obedience, enclosure, and constant conversion. Our particular ministry is contemplative prayer and constant intercession for the needs of the people of our area and of our world.
Where is your Motherhouse?
We do not have a motherhouse or provincial house which supports us. Each Poor Clare community is autonomous. Although we belong to the international family of Poor Clares as well as a Federation, we are independent and self-governing. Holy Name Federation, to which we belong, is a group of 11 monasteries that support and encourage one another in a sisterly way, not in financial ways.
Are Poor Clares enclosed ot cloistered?
Canon (Church) law requires members of contemplative communities to observe a strict separation from secular life in order to safeguard their life of prayer. This separation is referred to as the “enclosure” or the “cloister”.
In this, as in other circumstances, the Rule written by St. Clare for her sisters (and which the Poor Clares still observe) calls for discernment on the part of the abbess and sisters when determining what is necessary to be done.
Therefore, we leave the monastery for occasions that enhance our life of prayer, for necessary business of the monastery and for personal needs. It is necessary to weigh each occasion that arises in the light of our vocation.
How many are you here at the monastery?
At present, we are five professed sisters. We have built the monastery to accomodate 10 sisters in community. We have had several inquiries from women across the country.
What is a novitiate?
The novitiate is the time of training and formation in prayer and religious life including the vows and our Franciscan history and tradition. A woman called to religious life enters a whole different way of living, so the novitiate is a time of preparation before she professes her vows. At the same time the community is discerning, praying with her and supporting her.
Life and Work Questions
How do you support yourselves?
Hospitality is an important service that we offer as Poor Clares. It also provides income from those who can afford it. Presently we support ourselves from income for the use of our retreat apartments, our gathering room and other rooms in the public part of the monastery. People who come for spiritual direction make a donation each time they come.
Does the work provide you with sufficient income?
The work done by contemplatives never provides for the full support of the community. This is because our first responsibility is the contemplative life of each sister and the life of the community. The work that is done is always subservient to our prayer. The Rule of Saint Francis and the Rule of Saint Clare say that work should not “extinguish the Spirit of holy prayer and devotion.”
Both Francis and Clare encouraged the brothers and sisters to work with their hands. They recognized that this is not always sufficient to provide for the needs of the community. When it is not they should ask for what is needed from the people of the area. Working to help support ourselves identifies us with the poor of our world. The financial support of those whom we serve supplements our income, expressing our dependence on Divine Providence.
May I come to pray with the community?
Absolutely, anyone seeking to deepen their relationship with God would be welcome. We pray the Liturgy of the Hours daily. Friday is the only day that we do not pray together in the chapel. The sisters welcome anyone to join us for Mass (Eucharist). The schedule is posted on the door. If you plan to come it is wise to call ahead of time. Individuals are invited to use the chapel for silent prayer. Just ring the doorbell.
Dp the sisters offer spiritual guidance?
Four of the sisters have been trained in spiritual direction and are open to accompanying individuals on their spiritual journey. The treasure that we have found is not to be buried but shared. We are very happy to share the richness of the spiritual life with others.
Do the sisters give retreats?
The Sisters will not give group retreats. Individuals may come for a time of prayer and solitude. During that time they may ask for spiritual guidance from one of the sisters if they desire it.
The needs of the people of Montana are so great; why don't you minister in a more concrete way?
The Church recognizes that there are many different expressions of the consecrated life. Religious Men and Women in active ministry are witnessing Jesus’ love for His people in an apostolic dimension. Enclosed communities bear witness to Christ in contemplation on the mountain. Each way of living the Gospel life is valued and protected by the Church. Everyone is called to both action and contemplation. The lives of the sisters is simply a mirror reflecting the contemplative aspect, calling all the People of God to recognize their call to meet God in contemplative prayer.
How do you live the Gospel by your community life?
In community we minister to each other’s needs and learn to love as Jesus loved. Our common goal is to live a life of prayer and solitude, the other part of living the Gospel. Through this aspect of our life we minister to the people outside our community by our life of prayer itself. As we grow in holiness, deepening our relationship with God, we affect everyone. We also share that life of prayer by inviting others to partake of it in ways that have been mentioned above.
What can the Poor Clares do for the people of Montana?
- to the importance of the spiritual dimension of everyone’s life
- to the viability of community or family, that living in harmony with one another is possible with effort and grace
- that fidelity to commitments–to God and to one another–in relationship is possible
- that prayer is essential to our relationship with God
- Masses according to our schedule
- opportunity to join us in prayer, the Liturgy of the Hours, the prayer of the Church, every day
- a community to pray with you in times of need
- a contemplative prayer presence within your midst
- space and place for solitude
- spiritual guidance and accompaniment along your spiritual journey
- a place of training for women interested in contemplative life as a vocation
Building a Home for the Poor Clares
Why did you choose to build in Great Falls?
After muuch prayer an discussion, there were several deciding factors:
- The property in Great Falls has many advantages over the other properties offered to us. It has a wonderful view and the wide-open space to the south of us invites a contemplative presence. As we visited this property together, each of us felt a strong sense of peace and a certainty that this is the right place for our monastery
- Great Falls has a small town atmosphere where we feel very much at home. From our past experience in big cities we were drawn to the simpler way of life in Great Falls.
- Great Falls is centrally located in the state and we are supported by wonderful benefactors from all over the state.
Why is the building so large?
We have built for a community of 10 sisters. We are also providing space for guests who wish to join us for prayer in the chapel and/or to stay for a few days of solitude in our guest apartments and for groups to come for single days of retreat or a conference.
What makes a monastery different from a convent?
A monastery for a contemplative community is different from a home for a family or even a convent for sisters in the active ministry. Unlike a convent where the sisters go out to the parish or hospital to minister, our entire life takes place within this one space. This is where we live, pray, work, recreate, and engage in ongoing education and formation. It is also a place where we welcome others who come to share our prayer and spirituality.
How muuch of the buuilding is for the exclusive use of the sisters?
One part of our building is specifically for the needs of the sisters. This area of the “enclosure” is private and will not be open to or used by the public. Besides the usual living areas of a home (kitchen, dining room, community room, bedrooms, laundry, garage etc.) there are additional areas that an enclosed community of women requires:
- a library to support our ongoing spiritual, intellectual and cultural growth
- office space for community business: abbess, treasurer, secretary
- a novitiate: a place for new sisters to meet for classes and other instruction
- space for the sisters to have the quiet and solitude needed to foster a contemplative way of life
What is the rest of the building for?
What plans do you have in light of ever-increasing energy costs?
We have made a decision to use wind power. Great Falls is in a perfect location to harness wind to help offset energy costs. With the help of a grant from Northwestern Energy, two wind turbines are offsetting the cost of electricity as well as protecting the environment. Respect for the environment and energy efficiency are values that are a part of our Franciscan heritage. We also have a well to accommodate the outdoor needs, such as watering our garden and the grass nearest to the building.
If I were to send money to support your life of prayer, how will my donation be honored?
All donations are recorded in a database. If a donation is given for a specific purpose we will honor that to the best of our ability.
How else can I help support the sisters?
Please go to our Partners in Grace page for more information.