Q&A Offers Insightful Glimpse into the Lives Of the Cloistered Poor Clare Colettines
By Lynne Conner, Observer Correspondent
April 20, 2017

ROCKFORD—People wanting to deepen their faith this Lent had a rare opportunity March 29.

More than 75 people visited the Poor Clare Colettines Corpus Christi Monastery for a chapel tour and slide presentation by Mother Abbess Maria Dominica Stein.

The event was part of “Engaging Lent,” a six week lecture series sponsored by Rockford Urban Ministries.

After a tour of the monastery’s chapel, Mother Dominica showed slides and answered questions from the audience.

Stanley Campbell, executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries, speaking from a script, talked about the chapel.

He explained the meaning of Christian symbols surrounding the altar, including its mosaic background. The chapel’s stained glass windows, he said, tell stories of saints and Biblical parables.

“I thought the chapel tour was very interesting,” said Nathan Bevineau. “That’s one of the most unique things about the Catholic Church ... all the beautiful stained glass and the detail and intricacies contained in the church buildings. ... It was great to hear an explanation of these symbols and get an up-close view.”

Bevineau was especially interested to learn the meaning and relations of the icons and sculptures in the altar area.

Mother Dominica addressed a full parlor as she narrated a slide presentation of life at the monastery.

In addition to vows of poverty, chastity and obedience,  she said, most of the Poor Clare nuns take an additional vow of enclosure.

Being enclosed means, with the exception of a few “extern” sisters, the majority of the 21 nuns at the monastery do not leave the grounds, except for medical help.

The sisters, who range in age from 21 to 85, pray for eight hours per day, rising at midnight to begin their daily prayers.

The rest of their day is spent making communion hosts, cooking, doing various craft projects and working in the monastery’s garden.

One of the slides Mother Dominica showed was of a young sister dusting furniture.

“I have to let you in on a little secret. The angels do not do our cleaning,” she quipped.

Other slides showed the nuns’ resourcefulness. One sister, a competent carpenter, brought her woodworking tools with her to the monastery when she professed her vows.

Some sisters are skilled in sewing and make religious vestments while others repurpose mechanical items into wagons or tool carts for gardening.

“I was interested to learn about how the sisters live and the fact that they spend so many hours a day in prayer and solitude,” said Kay King.

“The sisters live such a different kind of life than most of us, that I thought it would be interesting to learn a little about how we can simplify our lives,” she said.

Jim Andrews, an associate with the Sinsinawa Dominicans, helped to organize the monastery visit. He sees the “Engaging Lent” series as a way to put his ministry into action.

“What I learned in putting this event together was that, although I’m Catholic, this series has become non-denominational,” he said. “We’ve found that there is a real hunger and spiritual need among folks in our community.”

Andrews said that he was delighted to see such a strong turn-out for the Poor Clares visit. He hopes events such as this one help those who are seeking spiritual direction.

“In a country where it is estimated that 60 percent of people don’t go to church, it was amazing to see such a large crowd tonight,” he said.

“I think that people still have a deep need for spirituality and that maybe they’re not sure where to look. I hope that tonight’s event and others like it help to plant the seeds of faith and spiritual renewal.”