Who are the Poor Clares?
We are contemplative sisters based in Memphis, Tennessee. Our foundress is St. Clare of Assisi. Clare, a close friend of St. Francis of Assisi, lived during the 13th Century. Her reputation was like that of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, "a saint in our midst". There are over 20,000 Poor Clare sisters throughout the world, with Poor Clare monasteries in some 67 countries.
How did we get to Guatemala, Central America?
In 1980 the Poor Clare community in Memphis received a letter from Bishop Victor Hugo Martínez, Bishop of Huehuetenango, Guatemala, asking us to begin a Poor Clare community in his diocese. At that time, Guatemala was still in the grips of what would be a 36-year-old civil war that finally ended in 1996. Bishop Martínez felt that the contemplative presence, expressed by a Poor Clare community, was missing in his diocese and was very much needed in an atmosphere of violence and bloodshed. After prayer, discussion, and a visit by two of our Sisters to Huehuetenango, we accepted his invitation. We lived in Bishop Martínez’s house for four months, which was actually a “center” where the priests came down from the villages they served for meetings and mutual support. One of our suppers with Bishop Martínez was especially memorable. At the table with us were three “guerilla priests”. The army had plastered their names and faces throughout the mountain region accusing them of subversive activity by teaching the people how to farm and form co-operatives to sell their goods. The Bishop had to smuggle the priests to the capital and then out of the country in the days that followed. A Christian Brother who wasn’t so lucky was Brother James Miller, from Stevens Point, Wisconsin, who was killed in 1982. His bullet-riddled shirt hangs in a place of honor, along with testimonies and pictures, in the Santiago Miller Casa Indígena in Huehuetenango, named in his honor.
What is Guatemala mission life like?
Life with the Guatemalan people has been a wonderful, broadening experience during these eye-opening years. Holy Week is a case in point. Whereas Holy Week in the United States is a solemn experience with a somber reflection of the great mystery of God’s Presence on the earth, Holy Week in a Latin country (and especially on Good Friday) has a tone of festivity and gratitude. “Rugs” made of flowers and colored sawdust line the streets for the portable platforms carrying the suffering Christ and the saints which will pass over them in procession later that evening. Venders sell cotton candy, “chéveres” of tacos, hot dogs, enchiladas. There is camaraderie as well as great devotion and love as the people walk in the processions (that finish at 1 a.m.), visit the churches, pray the Stations of the Cross and perform live scenes of the Passion.
Who are the Sisters in Guatemala?
We are seven in the community now, our most recent member entering June 13, 2009. Two of our Sisters are from El Salvador, another two are from the area of Santa Rosa close to the capital, and one is a Mayan from San Sebastián Coatán here in Huehuetenango. We support ourselves by making the hosts used for Mass in the Diocese of Huehuetenango (Huehue has almost one million inhabitants). We also have learned to make vestments for Mass. One Sister makes cards, another rosaries, and one Sister gives talks on our life and prayer. Although none of this covers the costs of living, God’s provident care is always looking after us.
How do you support yourselves?
Our Sisters in Memphis have been our main donors through the years and we are truly grateful. Our deepest prayer is for sister parishes in the United States to partner with our mission of prayer and support us with tithing. You can help us by making an online donation to us through PayPal, or you can mail your donations to Memphis – sometimes mail does not get through in Guatemala:
- Poor Clare Nuns Foundation Fund
- 1310 Dellwood Ave
- Memphis, TN 38127
What is our call?
Because we are a place of prayer here in Huehue, we join with the people in their concerns and offer to God, with the people, our prayer for a just world, for healing in their families, for jobs, and for their family members who have migrated to the States because of unjust conditions here in Guatemala. We feel close to the people as we share their pains and their joys.