Poor Clares: Experts at Being ‘In Place’
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
April 16, 2020
The Poor Clare Collettine nuns in Rockford have experienced two big changes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As far as lifestyle, day-to-day, there’s no impact,” says Mother Maria Dominica Stein, PCC. 
But the sisters do feel the difference of their now-closed and empty chapel, and are dedicating “greater prayer for those suffering from disease and their families — that is a very big impact on us,” she says.
The sisters are “focused on those suffering and also for those people who can no longer be at Mass,” Mother Dominica says. “Our hearts are very heavy that they are deprived of that. We are taking them with us to prayer ... we are very sensitive to that. Our Lord certainly would be rewarding them with the same graces” as if they were attending Mass, she adds.
“In our hearts we remember those who regularly come for Mass and for Benediction,” she says. “We hold them out there (in the pews) and keep them in mind as we pray.
“We, every day in community together, are thinking of everyone else and sharing in that misery as much as we can (and pray) also that they will be able to see the grace they can obtain in this trial, and make good use of that time, (to) draw them closer to God and to their family. It can be a real renewal for them. We are certainly praying for that.”
Calls and letters with prayer requests — especially for loved ones suffering from illness — have increased, she says. 
“Even without the letters,” she adds, “we certainly do pray for everyone.”
Plan a schedule
As women who have taken vows of enclosure — leaving the monastery only for an essential reason — the nuns live each day in a way much of the rest of the world is now experiencing.
They also keep busy, Mother Dominica says, with their regular schedule of eight hours of prayer, plus work and a bit of recreation.
In fact, planning and keeping a schedule is her first suggestion for all who are new to staying at home, day in and day out.
Have set times for meals, she says, and for some kind of work. See this as an opportunity to catch up on something you weren’t able to do before for lack of time. Also get eight hours of sleep, and take some time to exercise, she adds.
Ease in
Novices are eased into the Poor Clares’ routine. 
“With young ones, we gradually introduce more prayers over time,” she says, noting that “families can do that with themselves.”
The novices, of course, miss their families, Mother Dominica says, and “different ones in their own way have to struggle through” other personal losses. She mentions one sister who had been a teacher and had a sense of loss when she heard school buses driving by the monastery. 
The monastery’s “full schedule” helps the new sisters adjust, but if they become “overburdened with the schedule, we give them time to rest more and be by themselves more,” she says. 
“We are attentive to the needs of each one and go accordingly. It is one thing to desire (this life); and another to come and live it. It is a change for them,” she says.
Pray and study
The rosary is consoling to most of the novices and something familiar. 
“We pray the rosary together every morning after Mass,” she says. 
Some Catholics who are not ready to pray an entire rosary can take advantage of a devotion requiring just seven Hail Mary’s, the Seven Sorrows (right, see The Observer, March 23, 2018, pages 7-8) or another devotion of three Hail Mary’s (see https://aleteia.org/2017/08/14/the-beautiful-devotion-of-the-three-hail-marys/).
She recommends studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church, or even the Baltimore Catechism. Reading that older catechism again as adults might allow some to “get more out of it.”
Taking even a daily half hour to do some kind of Godly study can reap benefits, Mother Dominica says.
What she calls “a beautiful way to get to know the Lord,” is to read the day’s Gospel and then compare that scene with the same moment as described by one or more of the other Gospel writers. That can be time, she says, “to get a clearer understanding of our Lord (and) appreciate the writing of the Gospels.”
Although the Poor Clares don’t use the internet themselves, with so much technology people can pursue topics of interest on various Catholic websites, she says. 
“It can be amazing where looking up one thing leads to another, and then leads to something else,” she says
Cultivate relationships
With sheltering in place, “I think the biggest thing would be that a person could turn their hearts to God,” Mother Dominica says, using the extra time to “zero in to the relationship with God and the family.” 
Such a God-and-family focus can restore those relationships, she says, adding, “We really pray that the families will take the time as renewal.”
Those who live alone and feel isolated face a different situation. Mother Dominica sees great value to connecting with friends and family through modern technology. 
Staying in touch with family members is, she says, “a priority in this time. Be creative, think of ways to connect with the social distancing in place.” Maybe even, she adds, “surprise them with a letter.”
 She says having a pet can help a great deal, providing company. “One of our benefactors says her pet gets her exercising.”
Those who are alone also should have a schedule — complete with “things they really enjoy doing. It’s important to do what you enjoy,” she says.
Families, too, should spend “an hour (with) some kind of things (you) enjoy doing. Play cards, a table game, just to be together enjoying something (you all) like to do.”
And eating meals together, she says, “would be a very beautiful thing,” maybe while listening to favorite music or an inspirational recording.
Trying a new recipe is fun, she adds. “Take time to eat it, enjoy it. That can be a helpful thing.”
Move around
Physical activity is very helpful for mind and body, and Mother Dominica highly recommends walks and gardening. Using that energy to appreciate nature and create beauty is beneficial.
She also suggests moving around inside by “just cleaning … Simplify your things. This is the time you can go through your whole house and simplify your life.”
The sisters themselves notice that “when we clean the house real good, you have a nice feeling about it. You feel much better. Just to have space, not so much clutter, that’s something (that helps) your mind too.”
Whether it is cleaning or another activity, “Some things  (give) you a good feeling,” she says. “Think of things that uplift your spirit.”
Stay positive
One final, indispensable, help when staying in place, Mother Dominica says, is “to have a positive attitude. It is so important, to see the good that one could do.
“We do the best we can to keep our minds in a positive attitude … I think the longer it gets, the harder it will be unless you get something in place – something that motivates (you) – both fun time and prayer time and a balance between the two.”
Don’t just sit around, she instructs. “Become motivated to the next thing.”
One does not have to be a cloistered nun to pray and help others.
“You can’t control this (virus situation),” Mother Dominica says, “so you have to do something that’s outside of yourself – thinking of others more.”
Shop Religious items at HOLYART.COM