The Poor Clares, officially the Order of Saint Clare (Latin: Ordo sanctae Clarae) – originally referred to as the Order of Poor Ladies, and later the Clarisses, the Minoresses, the Franciscan Clarist Order, and the Second Order of Saint Francis – are members of a contemplative Order of nuns in the Catholic Church. The Poor Clares were the second Franciscan Order to be established. Founded by Saints Clare of Assisi and Francis of Assisi on Palm Sunday in the year 1212, they were organized after the Order of Friars Minor (the first Order), and before the Third Order of Saint Francis. As of 2011 there were over 20,000 Poor Clare nuns in over 75 countries throughout the world. They follow several different observances and are organized into federations.
The Poor Clares follow the Rule of St. Clare, which was approved by Pope Innocent IV the day before Clare's death in 1253. The main branch of the Order (O.S.C.) follows the observance of Pope Urban. Other branches established since that time, who operate under their own unique Constitutions, are the Colettine Poor Clares (P.C.C.) (founded 1410), the Capuchin Poor Clares (O.S.C. Cap) (founded 1538) and the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration (P.C.P.A.) (founded 1854).
The Poor Clares were founded by Clare of Assisi in the year 1212. Little is known of Clare's early life, although popular tradition hints that she came from a fairly well-to-do family in Assisi. At the age of eighteen, inspired by the preaching of Francis in the cathedral, Clare ran away from home to join his community of friars at the Portiuncula, some way outside the town. Although, according to tradition, her family wanted to take her back by force, Clare's dedication to holiness and poverty inspired the friars to accept her resolution. She was given the habit of a nun and transferred to Benedictine monasteries, first at Bastia and then at Sant' Angelo di Panzo, for her monastic formation.
By 1216 Francis was able to offer Clare and her companions a monastery adjoining the chapel of San Damiano where she became abbess. Clare's mother, two of her sisters and some other wealthy women from Florence soon joined her new Order. Clare dedicated her order to the strict principles of Francis, setting a rule of extreme poverty far more severe than that of any female order of the time. Clare's determination that her order not be wealthy or own property, and that the nuns live entirely from alms given by local people, was initially protected by the papal bull Privilegium paupertatis, issued by Pope Innocent III. By this time the order had grown to number three monasteries.
The movement quickly spread, though in a somewhat disorganized fashion, with several monasteries of women devoted to the Franciscan ideal springing up elsewhere in Northern Italy. At this point Ugolino, Cardinal Bishop of Ostia (the future Pope Gregory IX), was given the task of overseeing all such monasteries and preparing a formal rule. Although monasteries at Monticello, Perugia, Siena, Gattajola and elsewhere adopted the new Rule - which allowed for property to be held in trust by the papacy for the various communities - it was not adopted by Clare herself or her monastery at San Damiano. Ugolino's Rule, originally based on the Benedictine one, was amended in 1263 by Pope Urban IV to allow for the communal ownership of property, and was adopted by a growing number of monasteries across Europe. Communities adopting this less rigorous rule came to be known as the Order of Saint Clare (O.S.C.) or the Urbanist Poor Clares.
Clare herself resisted the Ugolino Rule, since it did not closely enough follow the ideal of complete poverty advocated by Francis. On 9 August 1253, she managed to obtain a papal bull, Solet annuere, establishing a rule of her own, more closely following that of the friars, which forbade the possession of property either individually or as a community. Originally applying only to Clare's community at San Damiano, this rule was also adopted by many monasteries. Communities that followed this stricter rule were fewer in number than the followers of the rule formulated by Cardinal Ugolino, and became known simply as "Poor Clares" (P.C.) or Primitives.
The situation was further complicated a century later when Saint Colette of Corbie restored the primitive rule of strict poverty to 17 French monasteries. Her followers came to be called the Colettine Poor Clares (P.C.C.). Two further branches, the Capuchin Poor Clares (O.S.C. Cap.) and the Alcantarines, also followed the strict observance. The later group disappeared as a distinct group when their observance among the friars was ended, with the friars being merged by the Holy See into the wider observant branch of the First Order.
The spread of the order began in 1218 when a monastery was founded in Perugia; new foundations quickly followed in Florence, Venice, Mantua, and Padua. Saint Agnes of Assisi, a sister of Clare, introduced the order to Spain, where Barcelona and Burgos hosted major communities. The order further expanded to Belgium and France where a monastery was founded at Reims in 1229, followed by Montpellier, Cahors, Bordeaux, Metz, and Besançon. A monastery at Marseilles was founded directly from Assisi in 1254. The Poor Clares monastery founded by Queen Margaret in Paris, St. Marcel, was where she died in 1295. King Philip IV and Queen Joan founded a monastery at Moncel in the Beauvais diocese. By A.D. 1300 there were 47 Poor Clare monasteries in Spain alone.
The first Poor Clare monastery in England was founded in 1286 in Newcastle upon Tyne. In Medieval England, where the nuns were known as "Minoresses", their principal monastery was located near Aldgate, known as the Abbey of the Order of St Clare. The order gave its name to the still-extant street known as Minories on the eastern boundary of the City of London.
After the Dissolution of the Monasteries under King Henry VIII, several religious communities formed in Continental Europe for English Catholics. One such was a Poor Clare monastery founded in 1609 at Gravelines by Mary Ward. Later expelled from their monastery by the French Revolutionary Army in 1795, the community eventually relocated to England. They settled first in Northumberland, then in 1857 built a monastery in Darlington, which was in existence until 2007.
Following Catholic Emancipation in the first half of the 19th century, other Poor Clares came to the United Kingdom, eventually establishing communities in, e.g., Notting Hill (1857, which was forced to relocate by the local Council in the 1960s, and settled in the village of Arkley in 1969), Woodchester (1860), Much Birch (1880), Arundel (1886), Lynton (founded from Rennes, France, 1904), Woodford Green (1920–1969), York (1865–2015)  and Nottingham (1927).
The community in Luton was founded in 1976 to meet a shortage of teachers for local Catholic schools. It was originally based at St Clare’s Convent, 18 London Road, a large Edwardian house. In 1996, the community refocused on a ministry of social work and prayer, and moved to a smaller, modern home at Abigail Close, Wardown Park. 
Communities of Colettine Poor Clares were founded in England at Baddesley Clinton (1850–2011), Ellesmere, Shropshire and Woodchester. They have communities in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and in Bothwell, Scotland (1952). In Wales, there is a monastery in Hawarden. The one that used to be based in Neath has moved to Glasgow.
In Ireland there are seven monasteries of the Colettine Observance. The community with the oldest historical roots is the monastery on Nuns' Island in Lough Lene, Galway, which traces its history back to the monastery in Gravelines. Originally a separate community of Irish women under a common mother superior with the English nuns, they moved to Dublin in 1629, the first monastic community in Ireland for a century. The first Abbess was Cicely Dillon, a daughter of Theobald Dillon, 1st Viscount Dillon. War forced the community to move back to Galway in 1642. From that point on, persecution under the Penal Laws and war led to repeated destruction of their monastery and scattering of the community over two centuries, until 1825, when fifteen nuns were able to re-establish monastic life permanently on the site.
Later monasteries were founded in 1906 in both Carlow and Dublin. From these, foundations were established in Cork (1914) and Ennis (1958). In 1973, an enclosed community of nuns of the Franciscan Third Order Regular in Drumshanbo, founded in England in 1852 and established there in 1864, transferred to the Second Order, under this Observance.
Currently there are communities of Colettine Poor Clares in Bruges, Belgium, as well as in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, and in Larvik, Norway. There are several monasteries in Hungary, Lithuania and Poland of the Urbanist and Capuchin Observances.
After an abortive attempt to establish the Order in the United States in the early 1800s by three nuns who were refugees of Revolutionary France, the Poor Clares were not permanently established in the country until the late 1870s.
A small group of Colettine nuns arrived from Düsseldorf, Germany, seeking a refuge for the community, which had been expelled from their monastery by the government policies of the Kulturkampf. They found a welcome in the Diocese of Cleveland, and in 1877 established a monastery in that city. At the urging of Mother Ignatius Hayes, O.S.F., in 1875 Pope Pius IX had already authorized the sending of nuns to establish a monastery of Poor Clares of the Primitive Observance from San Damiano in Assisi. After the reluctance on the part of many bishops to accept them, due to their reliance upon donations for their maintenance, a community was finally established in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1878.
Currently there are also monasteries in (among other places): Alexandria, Virginia(P.C.C); Andover, Massachusetts; Belleville, Illinois (P.C.C.); Bordentown, New Jersey; Boston, Massachusetts; Brenham, Texas; Chicago, Illinois; Cincinnati, Ohio; Cleveland, Ohio (O.S.C., P.C.C. and P.C.P.A.); Evansville, Indiana; Los Altos Hills, California; Memphis, Tennessee; metropolitan Richmond, Virginia; New Orleans; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania;Phoenix, Arizona; Rockford, Illinois (P.C.C.); Roswell, New Mexico (P.C.C.); Saginaw, Michigan; Spokane, Washington;/ Travelers Rest, South Carolina; Washington D.C.; and Wappingers Falls, New York. Additionally there are monasteries in Alabama (P.C.P.A.), California, Florida, Missouri, Montana and Tennessee. Since the 1980s, the nuns of New York City have formed small satellite communities in Connecticut and New Jersey. There is one monastery of the Capuchin Observance in Denver, Colorado, founded from Mexico in 1988.
A monastery was founded in Huehuetenango, Guatemala, by nuns from the community in Memphis, Tennessee, in November 1981, in the early days of a bloody civil war which ravaged that country; as of 2011, it consisted of seven nuns; five Guatemalans and two Salvadorans.
The Poor Clares were introduced to the Philippines in the 17th century, when a small community of Colettine nuns were authorized by the King of Spain and the Minister General of the Order to go there to found a monastery. They were led by Mother Jeronima of the Assumption, P.C.C., who was appointed Abbess. Leaving Madrid in April 1620, they arrived in Manila on 5 August 1621. The monastery still stands and serves an active community of nuns.
The Capuchin Poor Clares were founded in Naples, Italy, in 1538, by Ven. Maria Laurentia Longo. The order still exists and it now has groups in Mexico and the United States. Members are referred to as Capuchinesses.Chapel of the Sisters of the Poor Clares, Bydgoszcz
The Chapel of the Sisters of the Poor Clares is a church in downtown Bydgoszcz.Clare of Assisi
Saint Clare of Assisi (16 July 1194 – 11 August 1253, born Chiara Offreduccio and sometimes spelled Clara, Clair, Claire, Sinclair, etc.) is an Italian saint and one of the first followers of Saint Francis of Assisi. She founded the Order of Poor Ladies, a monastic religious order for women in the Franciscan tradition, and wrote their Rule of Life, the first set of monastic guidelines known to have been written by a woman. Following her death, the order she founded was renamed in her honour as the Order of Saint Clare, commonly referred to today as the Poor Clares. Her feast day is on 11 August.Colettine Poor Clares
The Colettine Poor Clares are a reform branch of the Order of St. Clare, founded by Clare of Assisi in Italy in 1211. They follow the interpretation of the Rule of St. Clare established by Saint Colette in 1410, originally a French hermit and member of the Third Order of St. Francis.Conceptionists
The Order of the Immaculate Conception (Ordo Inmaculatae Conceptionis), also known as the Conceptionists, are a contemplative religious order of nuns. For some years, they followed the Poor Clares Rule, but in 1511 were recognized as a separate Catholic religious order, taking a new Rule and the name of Order of Immaculate Conception.Convent of Poor Clares, Gravelines
The Convent of Poor Clares at Gravelines in the Spanish Netherlands, now northern France, was a community of English nuns of the Order of St. Clare, commonly called "Poor Clares", which was founded in 1607 by Mary Ward. The order of Poor Clares was founded in 1212 by Saint Clare of Assisi as the Second Order of the Franciscan movement. It is an enclosed religious order which follows an austere lifestyle. After the Reformation and its consequence, the Dissolution of the Monasteries between 1536 and 1541 by Henry VIII, the only opportunity for recusant English women to enter religious life was to leave the country and join a community overseas.
In 1606 Ward departed England to enter the Poor Clare community at St-Omer, in the Spanish Netherlands, where she was admitted as a lay sister. She left St-Omer the following year to found a new house for English women in Gravelines, which she did using much of her own dowry. The convent was built within the town walls of Gravelines. The Chronicle of Gravelines, the journal of the community's history kept by the nuns, described the buildings as unfinished when they first arrived, with no furniture and little food. They lived in temporary accommodations but kept a monastic schedule as best they could, attending Mass in the local church, until the house was completed.Once the structure was complete, the community established the formal enclosure, with a grille in the door between the cloister and the parlor where visitors were received. Inside, conditions were austere: the nuns wore rough, woollen habits, slept on straw mattresses, ate meat only at Christmas, spoke only when necessary and with permission, and spent much of the day in silent prayer and contemplation. In keeping with the rule of St. Clare, the nuns supported themselves through the sale of handicrafts, such as vestments, but survived primarily on the donations of the people of the city.
Not suited to the contemplative life, Mary Ward left Gravelines in 1609, and founded the Sisters of Loreto in St-Omer, which became an international religious congregation dedicated to education. Elizabeth Tyldesley, Mother Clare Mary Ann was elected its abbess in 1615, serving until her death in 1654. The success of the convent under her leadership led to the founding of dependent communities at Dunkirk in 1625, Aire-sur-la-Lys in 1629 and Rouen in 1644, at least one of which was composed of women from Ireland.
In 1795 the nuns from all four houses were expelled by the forces of the French Revolutionary Army in the course of its occupation of the Low Countries and the nuns returned to England. The nuns of Aire-sur-la-Lys brought many possessions, including part of their library. The combined communities moved first to Haggerston Castle in Northumberland and in 1807 to Scorton Hall in North Yorkshire. The nuns established St Clare’s Abbey in Darlington in 1857 and in 2007 the community merged with the Poor Clares at Much Birch in Herefordshire, at which time they donated part of their library to Durham University.Enclosed religious orders
Enclosed religious orders of the Christian churches have solemn vows with a strict separation from the affairs of the external world. The term cloistered is synonymous with enclosed. In the Catholic Church enclosure is regulated by the code of canon law, either the Latin code or the Oriental code, and also by subsidiary legislation. It is practised with a variety of customs according to the nature and charism of the community in question.
The stated purpose for such enclosure is to prevent distraction from prayer and the religious life. Depending upon the reason and the length of time, the proper authority (usually the superior gets approval from the local bishop or the Holy See) can allow enclosed men or women to leave the enclosure "for a grave cause and with the consent of the superior". In the Catholic Church, this matter is regulated within the framework of canon law and of the particular statutes approved by the Holy See.
Enclosed religious orders of men include monks following the Rule of Saint Benedict, namely the Benedictine, the Cistercian, and the Trappist Orders, but also monks of the Carthusians, Hieronymite monks, and some branches of Carmelites, along with members of the Monastic Family of Bethlehem, while enclosed religious orders of women include Canonesses Regular, nuns belonging to the Benedictine, Cistercian, Trappist and the Carthusian Orders, along with nuns of the second order of each of the mendicant orders, including: the Poor Clares, the Colettine Poor Clares, the Capuchin Poor Clares, the Dominicans, Carmelites, Servites, Augustinians, Minims, together with the Conceptionist nuns, the Visitandine nuns, Ursulines nuns (as distinct from "federated Ursulines" of the Company of St. Ursula) and women members of the Monastic Family of Bethlehem.Franciscans
The Franciscans are a group of related mendicant religious orders within the Catholic Church, founded in 1209 by Saint Francis of Assisi. These orders include the Order of Friars Minor, the Order of Saint Clare, and the Third Order of Saint Francis. They adhere to the teachings and spiritual disciplines of the founder and of his main associates and followers, such as Clare of Assisi, Anthony of Padua, and Elizabeth of Hungary, among many others.Francis began preaching around 1207 and traveled to Rome to seek approval from Pope Innocent III in 1209 to form a new religious order. The original Rule of Saint Francis approved by the Pope disallowed ownership of property, requiring members of the order to beg for food while preaching. The austerity was meant to emulate the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Franciscans traveled and preached in the streets, while boarding in church properties. Saint Clare, under Francis's guidance, founded the Poor Clares (Order of Saint Clare) in 1212, which remains a Second Order of the Franciscans. The extreme poverty required of members was relaxed in the final revision of the Rule in 1223. The degree of observance required of members remained a major source of conflict within the order, resulting in numerous secessions.The Order of Friars Minor, previously known as the "Observant" branch, is one of the three Franciscan First Orders within the Catholic Church, the others being the "Conventuals" (formed 1517) and "Capuchins" (1520). The Order of Friars Minor, in its current form, is the result of an amalgamation of several smaller orders completed in 1897 by Pope Leo XIII. The latter two, the Capuchin and Conventual, remain distinct religious institutes within the Catholic Church, observing the Rule of Saint Francis with different emphases. Conventual Franciscans are sometimes referred to as minorites or greyfriars because of their habit. In Poland and Lithuania they are known as Bernardines, after Bernardino of Siena, although the term elsewhere refers to Cistercians instead.Margaret of Lorraine
Not to be confused with Marguerite of Lorraine.Margaret of Lorraine (born 1463 at the castle of Vaudémont, Lorraine – 2 November 1521 in Argentan, Normandy) was Duchess of Alençon, and a nun of the order of Poor Clares (Ordre des Clarisses). She was beatified in 1921.Martha de San Bernardo
Martha de San Bernardo, P.C.C., was a 17th-century Colettine Poor Clare who was first Filipino woman to become a Roman Catholic nun and renowned Catholic pending for the cause for Beatification alongside with Maddalena de la Concepcion, a religious from the Poor Clares.Mary Bonaventure Browne
Mother Mary Bonaventure Browne (born after 1610, died after 1670) was a Poor Clare nun, abbess, and Irish historian.Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God
The Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God (abbreviated S.M.I.C.) are an institute of religious sisters in the Catholic Church belonging to the Third Order Regular of St. Francis. They were founded in 1910 in Santarém, Brazil, by the Rt. Rev. Armand August Bahlmann, O.F.M., and Mother Immaculata (born Elizabeth Tombrock), both natives of Germany, to educate the children of the poor throughout the world.Order of Friars Minor Capuchin
The Order of Friars Minor Capuchin (Latin: Ordo Fratrum Minorum Capuccinorum; postnominal abbr. O.F.M.Cap.) is an order of friars within the Catholic Church, among the chief offshoots of the Franciscans. The worldwide head of the Order, called the Minister General, is currently Roberto Genuin.Poor Clares' Church, Bydgoszcz
The Church of the Poor Clares dedicated to Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (initially dedicated to the Holy Spirit, St. Adalbert, St.Clare and St. Barbara) is an historical church in Gdańska Street, Bydgoszcz, Poland.Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration
The Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration (PCPA) are a branch of the Poor Clares, a contemplative order of nuns in the Franciscan tradition.
Founded in France in 1854 by Marie Claire Bouillevaux, the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration are cloistered nuns dedicated to the Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.Shelly Pennefather
Mary Michelle Pennefather (born c. 1966), now known as Sister Rose Marie of the Queen of Angels, is a former professional basketball player. Winner of the Wade Trophy in 1987, she went on to play premier league basketball in Japan before retiring to a monastic life.St. Clare's Priory, Copenhagen
St. Clare's Priory in Copenhagen, Denmark, was a short-lived community of nuns of the Order of Poor Clares, which lasted from 1497 to 1536. The monastic buildings then came into use as a mint, which after its decommissioning became known as the Old Mint, giving rise to the present day street name Gammel Mønt at the site.Veronica Giuliani
Saint Veronica Giuliani, O.S.C. Cap. (also "Veronica de Julianis"; December 27, 1660 – July 9, 1727), was an Italian Capuchin Poor Clares nun and mystic. She was canonized by Pope Gregory XVI in 1839.Vow of Enclosure
The vow of enclosure is a religious vow taken by some Poor Clares in addition to the three religious vows of obedience, poverty and chastity.
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