Winnebago County, Illinois
AVON STREET SITE FOR CATHOLIC HOME
Poor Clares Sisters to be Established in West End of City--Purchase John T. LaForge Property for $10,000.
The John T. LaForge property at 136 North Avon street has been purchased by the Catholic diocese of Rockford as a residence for the Poor Clares Sisters, a branch of which is soon to be established here.
CATHOLIC ORDER BUYS RESIDENCE FOR HOME HERE
POOR CLARES SISTERS WILL BE ESTABLISHED ON NORTH AVON STREET
The Rockford Catholic diocese is soon to be strengthened by a branch of the Order of the Poor Clares Sisters, which will be established here within a short time. The Rt. Rev. Bishop Muldoon has made announcement of their coming. The John T. La Forge property at 136 North Avon street has been purchased as a residence for the Sisters and possession is to be given at once. After alterations and improvements have been made, several members of the order will come to Rockford. The Poor Clares Sisters comprise an Order of cloistered nuns who spend their time in prayer and are secluded from the world at all times. That a branch of the order might be established here has been desired for some time, but only recently have developments made it possible for them to come. The property which will be the home of the Order has upon it a twelve room residence. The lost is 80 by 260 feet, fronting on Avon street and running back to Lakin terrace. The transfer was made to the diocese through the Knapp Barnes agency and Mr. La Forge received in the neighborhood of $10,000. [--Rockford Morning Star, April 14, 1916]
POOR CLARES RECORD LIFE AT MONASTERY
Although the Poor Clares of Corpus Christi Monastery have been a part of the Rockford Community for 46 years, their daily activities behind cloister walls have remained a mystery.
For this reason, the Morning Star asked the Poor Clares to record their life of prayer and penance with a news camera. The Poor Clares consented and Morning Star Photographer James Quinn gained special permission to teach basic photography methods to two cloistered nuns.
The result: For the first time, the Poor Clares tell their story in photos and words for general publication.
This is the first in a series of three articles about the 750-year-old-order, one of the most austere of the Roman Catholic Church
POOR CLARES HERE LEAD LIFE IN PERPETUAL LENT
They have nothing, yet they have everything. They are the Poor Clares of Rockford, cloistered in Corpus Christi Monastery, 2111 S. Main st. Continuation of an order founded 750 years ago by St. Francis of Assissi, the Poor Clares lead a life of perpetual Lent. They have voluntarily shed the mantle of materialism and have withdrawn from the world in order to more effectively pray for it. A never-ending stream of prayer in both words and work for the salvation of souls rises from behing the high weathered wall which marks the cloister. The Poor Clares of Rockford like their predecessors of the 13th century, take vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and enclosure. Too, they depend entirely upon alms and Divine Providence for their sustenance. The order came into existence in 1212 when St. Clare, daughter of a noble family in Assissi, and a few companions adopted a life of absolute poverty coupled with full dependence on God's providence. On Aug. 8, 1253, 41 years after the order was initiated, the rule of St. Clare was approved by Pope Innocent IV. Three days later, St. Clare died at the age of 59. In 1255 she was canonized--declared a saint--by Pope Alexander IV. Religious discipline and the original austerity of life had given was to less severe practices by the end of the 14th Century The order, howeve,r was restored by St. Colette of Cordie, France, who was given permission by Pope Benedict XIII to again profess the rule of St. Clare. Permanence and complete adherence to the Rule was insured when St. Colette drew up articles explaining and defining the Spirit of the original regulations. These articles are referred to as the Constitutions of St. Colette and all who observe them are called Colettine Poor Clares. These, then, are the rule under which the Poor Clares of Rockford live. Among other things, the Constitutions call for Midnight recital of the Divine Office and a perpetual abstinence from meat. On Sundays and Christmas the Sisters do not fast but even on those days no meat is permitted. The Constitution also declares the nuns should go completely barefoot unless illness or outside work demands the alleviation afforded by footwear. The Order was established in Rockford in March, 1916. At the request of Most Rev. Peter James Muldoon, first bishop of the Rockford diocese, two poor Clares were sent here from the Monastery of the Blessed Sacrament, Cleveland. Monastic life here started in a small residence on N. Avon St., on the city's northwest side. Mass was offered for the first time in the little monastery on June 29. Dedication under the title "Corpus Christi" followed on Aug. 12, the feast of St. Clare. Growth of the religious community through the entrance of postulants and additional nuns sent from Cleveland, necessitated larger quarters. This was achieved in March, 1920, when Bishop Muldoon purchased the Broughton Sanitarium, present site of Corpus Christi Monastery. Solitude afforded by the 14-acre tract proved perfect for the Poor Clares. There they found separation from the material world and space, for garden in which to grow the needed vegetables and fruits for their meals. The basement of the remodelled sanitarium was converted into a chapel. Alms from their relatives, friends, and benefactors, both Catholic and non-Catholic, permitted the Poor Clares to build their present chapel in 1926. The chapel serves as a center for Poor Clare activity, which includes eight hours of prayer daily. Another eight hours of their day is spent in labor, the lot of the poor, for it was the wish of St. Francis that his nuns labor, since labor was the first penance imposed by God in the Garden of Eden after the fall of Adam and Eve. After the death of Bishop Muldoon in 1927, the Poor Clares of Rockford were watched over with fatherly interestr by the Most Rev. Edward F. Hoban, then bishop of Rockford who now is Archbishop of Cleveland. Under his direction a wall was built around the cloister area in 1931-32. In 1934, he added a wing to the monastery to provide a convent for the extern sisters. The extern sisters take only three vows--poverty, chastity and obedience. It is the extern sisters who take care of the daily business of the monastery and serve as a buffer between the cloister nuns and the community in which they reside. There are three such sisters at Corpus Christi Monastery. Abbess of Corpus Christi monastery is Rev. Mother Mary Petra, P.C.C. Under her directions are 22 professed nuns and seven sisters in the novitiate. [--Rockford Morning Star, July 15, 1962]
POOR CLARE'S DAY BEGINS AT MIDNIGHT
Midnight. The city sleeps. For most persons this hour marks the end of another day.
For the Poor Clares, however, midnight signals the beginning of another day of prayer and penance. It means another 24 precious, God-given hours to labor in the field of souls for the inevitable divine harvest. Rising from their straw mattresses at midnight after less than four hours sleep, the Poor Clares cloistered in Corpus Christi Monastery here assemble in the chapel for recitation of their divine office. The office consists of an orderly arrangement of psalms, selected readings from the Old and New Testaments and prayers to ask God's blessing on the world. Once recitation of the office is completed, the Poor Clares meditate in silence until 2 a.m. when they return to their tiny monastic cells for more sleep. They rise again at 5 a.m. and about 20 minutes later participate in a period of morning prayers and meditation. Prim and Terce, prayers commemorating the seizure and scourging of Christ, are recited. Mass reception of the Blessed Sacrament and thanksgiving follow at 6 a.m. Observing a rule of silence broken only by necessity, the nuns leave the chapel and go to the refectory (dining hall) for breakfast. Breakfast for a Poor Clare consists of a piece of bread and a cup of coffee.
Assembling again at 8:15 a.m., the sisters recite the Litany of the Saints and continue a perpetual novena on behalf of their benefactors through whose generosity they are able to lead their cloistered, contemplative lives.
Work starts at 9 a.m. and continues for two hours. Some nuns will make altar breads for churches in the Rockford diocese while others work in the kitchen and garden. Still others will do housework, sew church vestments and make small religious articles which will be sold to help support the monastery. First communion and chapel veils, rosaries, wooden plaques, greeting cards and miniature shrines are some of the items fashioned with loving care by the Poor Clares. All their work is offered to God in reparation for the ingratitude and forgetfulness of the world. The nuns accept manual labor happily and in a spirit of obedience and humility, observing the Rule of St. Clare which states: "Let the sisters to whom the Lord has given the grace of working, labor faithfully and devotedly after the hour of Terce." Now it is 11 a.m. and the barefoot sisters again assemble, this time for recitation oft he prayers of Sext and None which mark Christ's carrying the heavy cross and His three hours on the cross. Sext is offered by the nuns for the sins of the world while None is offered for those who will die this day.
Typical of the prayers offered daily by the Poor Clares for all mankind is the prayer for the conversion of sinners:
"Mercy, mercy O my God, mercy for so many souls who are lost each day around us. We ask them by the wounds of Jesus Christ, our Savior, Who came Down from heaven to redeem them, and Who, at this moment, forced to chastise perhaps only awaits a prayer to stay the punishment. Mercy for the guilty soul on the point into hell. Mercy for the weak and wavering soul, on the point of committing mortal sin. Mercy for the unfaithful soul about to abandon its vocation. Mercy for the rebellious soul which at this moment is about to despair. With Jesus, through Jesus, in the name of Jesus and in the name of Mary, we cry to Thee, mercy, mercy, O my God."
The Poor Clares pray, too, for those who do not pray at all or pray poorly. They pray for our nation, for peace and for the special intentions of those who seek their prayers. The menu for dinner is in keeping with the order's perpetual role of abstinence from meat. It consists of meatless soup, servings of two vegetables, and a simple dessert. Served at 11:45 a.m., dinner occasionally includes cheese or eggs. Fish is a special food reserved for feast days.
Stations of the Cross, prayers centering on Christ's passion and death, are said at 12:30 p.m. At 1:30 p.m., the great monastic silence is lifted for one hour. During this recreation hour, sisters are allowed to talk as they work. And talk and laugh they do for they are a happy group. Following recital of the rosary, vespers and a period of spiritual reading from 3 to 4:30 p.m., the Poor Clares return to their assigned labors.
Collation, which is light supper, is taken at 6:15 p.m. It consists of a beverage, bread and jelly, and a fruit if in season.
Thirty minutes later the sisters assemble in chapel for recitation of Comoline, a prayer commemorating the burial of Christ. It is offered for the benefactors and friends of the Poor Clares. Meditation and night prayers end the day and the sisters retire to their cells at 8:30 p.m.
This is the busy day of a Colettine Poor Clare. The monastery is her home, her church and her temporal life. Unless she is transferred to establish a new monastery, a Poor Clare will live, die and be buried within the confines of the monastery where she took her vows. The only adornments in her tiny cell are a crucifix anda crown of thorns. Both are affixed to the wall. On the sister's death, the crucifix will be placed in her hands and the crown of thorns on her head. A simple white cross bearing only her name and date of death will mark her grave in the small cemetery area of the cloister. The deceased sister's place in choir, that part of the chapel screened from public view and within the enclosure, will eventually be filled by another who wishes to forsake the material for the spiritual. The fledgling Poor Clare will quickly learn the austerity of the order during her year as a postulant and two years as a novice. She also will learn a curtained grille will forever stand between herself and any relatives who might visit her.
Visitors and personal mail are not received in Advent, a period of about four weeks prior to Dec. 24, and Lent, which starts Ash Wednesday and continues through Holy Saturday. Exception to the mail rule is made for monastery mail which is always answered. Should the would-be Poor Clare enter Corpus Christi Monastery she will find herself a member of a religious family composed of sisters from England, Ireland, Czechoslovakia and Poland in addition to those from Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Missouri, Iowa, Ohio and Massachusetts. [--Rockford Morning Star, July 22, 1962]
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