Bernadette Marie Cappola
“The Traveling Nun Who Came to a Stop”
In 1964, I entered the Sisters of St. Mary in Kenmore, New York. At the time the community was a teaching order. In 34 years in the Order I have taught 3 year olds to 8th grade in Kenmore, Buffalo and Binghamton, NY; in Lowell, MA; Sumter, SC. I also worked with the Inuits (Eskimos) in the Northwest Territory in Canada for four summers.
Believing God was calling me to “something more”, I asked my community to send me to Lebh Shomea, Texas a House of Spirituality for 2 years and then to Eskadale in the Highlands of Scotland for one and half years, where I taught religion and worked in a winery in a castle. That more which God was calling me to was Contemplative LIfe. I entered the Poor Clare Monastery in Greenville, SC in 1998 where my outer journey came to a stop. But in my inner Spiritual Journey, God continues to lead me to places I have never experienced before.
As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a sister. I grew up on the southside of Chicago in a large Catholic family. There were aunts and cousins that were sisters. I wanted to be one of them before I had any understanding of what that even meant.
I went to a Catholic college and when it was time to graduate I didn’t feel quite ready. After my graduation, I did social work with the Department of Public Aid in the city for several years. This was a time of learning for me. I met women my own age who had families that they were supporting on small incomes and often with serious disabilities. There were other individuals who were unemployed, losing homes because of financial problems. There were also the elderly who faced multiple challenges. The work was beyond me and the only thing I could do was turn increasingly to the Lord in prayer. I prayed for those I met each day but I also prayed that God would show me how I could help alleviate some of the pain that I saw all around me. One winter I decided to come south, visit a friend at the monastery, and spend some time discerning where God was leading me in all of this. I was in the chapel one cold and snowy day and the answer seemed so clear, God was calling me to serve the poor in a life of prayer as a Poor Clare. I asked the community if I could return and make a vocational discernment visit. I came back Easter week of that year and on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, I entered the community as a postulant.
As I look back on my years as a Poor Clare, I am grateful for all of God’s gifts. Each day I have the opportunity to offer praise as we gather to worship at Eucharist and throughout the day at the Liturgy of the Hours. There have been opportunities to learn more about scripture, franciscan spirituality, liturgy, and theology. I have sisters to share my life and who enrich me by their faith filled lives. I can say with St. Clare, “God has blessed me with a tender love, blessed be God for creating me.”
I was born in Garfield New Jersey and moved to Baltimore Maryland with my family when I was four years old. At the age of 24 I entered the Franciscan Sisters of Baltimore. I was a Franciscan Sister for nearly 25 years when I felt God directing me to explore the contemplative life. In 2001 I began my journey as a Poor Clare.
As a Franciscan Sister I ministered with the poor in a variety of ways. As a Poor Clare I continue my ministry to the poor and to all God’s people through our mission of prayer and contemplation.
My life has been an interesting journey. Along the way I have encountered many blessings and also some challenges. I am very grateful to God for both. As I continue to grow I know that it is only with God’s good grace that each and every challenge can become a blessing.
Thanks for visiting our web site and for supporting our Poor Clare vocation with your prayer and support. You and your loved ones are never far from my heart and are always in my prayer.
I was born on Long Island, the sixth of eight children, four boys and four girls. From an early age I felt drawn to a relationship with God and to religious life.
Franciscan values spoke to my heart: following the poor Christ, a simple Gospel life, a joyful loving community, love of all God’s beautiful creation.
As a Poor Clare my contemplative life in the Church lifts up to the Father the joys and sorrows and needs of all people.
I join my life to the prayer of Jesus: “Thy Kingdom come!”
Sr. Carolyn Forgette, originally from Toledo, Ohio, joined the Poor Clare community in 1985 when she transferred from the Sisters of Notre Dame. Carolyn grew up with six siblings and now rejoices in having several sisters. For Carolyn being sister, as Jesus is brother, is what life is all about; sister to those with whom she rubs elbows each day, sister to family and friends who are in her daily prayer, sister to all who call the monastery for prayer and support.
Kathleen Ann Horvat
Hello and welcome to our website. I’d like to share a little bit about myself and something about St. Clare and her form of life.
My roots are in the Great Lakes bioregion—beautiful Michigan and Ohio. My life “up north” included many happy years in an active religious community doing parish work, teaching, and peace and justice ministry. In midlife I got up enough courage to respond to a call that I had been hearing for a long time, a call that seemed clear as I was on pilgrimage in Assisi.
We visited the places where Francis and Clare lived. I heard about Clare’s focus on poverty, community, and prayer. I was happy in my apostolic community and ministry so…could God really be asking me to leave my beloved Sisters of St. Francis and my family to be a Sister of St. Clare? Could I ignore God’s invitation? After much discernment and prayer I transferred to this Poor Clare community. Each day I come to more fully understand and treasure my Poor Clare vocation. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
Several years ago, we celebrated the 750th anniversary of Clare’s form of life. She received approval for it on her deathbed. Clare wrote this rule having lived it with her sisters in San Damiano for 40 years. She was able to inspire others over some 800 years to continue to live this Gospel form of life. She is a model for us today.
Please come back and visit us again. We are here for you and pray for your intentions. May God give you Peace!
Thirty-seven years ago, I transferred to Greenville from our Monastery in Philadelphia and it was here that I began rediscovering myself and my gifts and growing in a deeper prayer life, as well as, bonding and forming deep relationships. Deciding on this move was not easy but moving here was God’s way of providing me with new opportunities for growth in my spiritual life.
After fifteen happy years here, I answered a call to pioneer a new foundation in Stamford, Connecticut and again bonded with so many friends. In Stamford, I lived with four other Clares in a very small Monastery in the midst of twenty-two acres of God’s beautiful woodlands. In many ways we were blessed and I believe a blessing yet after eighteen years painful circumstances led to a discernment to close the Monastery. I returned here in October 2003. It seems the painful decisions I have accepted in life are the ones that have brought me the greatest gifts and to be here in this community of Clares is a gift.
“God’s glory is revealed in the enfolding of your life”. My Clare life has not been easy but I would say it has been an adventure and a joyful unfolding. I am a Clare today because of the grace of God. It’s been gift and continues to be gift. My silver jubilee card reads “You filled my soul with longing and answered my desire with the promise I am enough for you.”
Epiphany 1980, I journeyed from Charleston to the Poor Clare monastery in Greenville following my inner star seeking my heart’s desire: to follow in the footsteps of Jesus in a way of life reflecting the joy of the gift of Baptism.
Accompanied by my Mother and two brothers, Earl and Terry, we joined the Sisters for Eucharist. My family had the opportunity to meet the community for the first time. I’m a convert, so the idea of contemplative, monastic Poor Clare religious life was a mystery to my family, one which I hardly had the words to explain.
As the first Magi came bearing gifts, it seemed on this occasion the gift given, or more accurately the sacrifice made, was by my family – especially my Mom, as she graciously gave me the freedom to follow my call, knowing that enclosure would restrict my availability to her. Through the years my Mom continues to be very supportive of my vocation as well as sharing in the blessings.
For me, instead of bringing gifts that first Epiphany, it seemed I was the receiver of gifts; good measure, pressed down and flowing over. The enriching spiritual heritage of Clare and Francis, the blessing of sisters and brothers in the extended Franciscan family, the joys and challenges of life in community, the leisure of a way of life structured with the time, silence and solitude to foster a life of prayer plus like-minded companions to journey with, and the support and encouragement of our many friends and benefactors. So many blessings and graces which through the years seem to multiply, becoming ever more precious.
Sharon Ratteree is from St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Charlotte, NC. She has many interests, including music, cooking and gardening.
“My passion is Jesus Christ. Whatever He wants, wherever He leads is where I want to be. I am so happy He has led me to a life of prayer with the Poor Clare Sisters. God longs for us to know how deeply He loves us and then to share His love and grace to all people. This mission begins with prayer. It is by God’s grace that I look forward to becoming ‘prayer for the world.”
I was a Franciscan for quite awhile even before I unknowingly arrived on the doorstep of the monastery for what I thought was going to be a one time retreat experience.
God had other ideas and as Jeremiah said to God, “I’ve been duped and I let myself be duped!” So that week in the summer of 1993 God swept me off my feet very much to my shock and surprise. I felt something special here that spoke to my heart’s desire and I didn’t even know I was missing something – but I was.
Now I can say that being called to be a Poor Clare has been the greatest gift and making that transition was both the hardest thing I’ve ever done and the best! Being able to make my relationship with God the priority of my day, to live with others who have the same priorities and values and to live simply are all important to me.
I am grateful. And humbled. And sincerely trying to become fully who God has called me to be. God is a God of surprises and I try to be open to receiving all that God wants to give me each day.
My journey to this community of Poor Clares was as winding – and wondrous – as the journeys of other sisters. I grew up in the Northeast as an Episcopalian; I ended up in the Southeast as a Catholic nun. At different times and from different places and conditions of life, God called each of us to live as contemplatives, here, with these women. Together, we follow the Poor Christ, striving to “preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3), in communion with all of God’s creation, as we pray for the needs of the world. It is a challenging life, certainly, but it is also beautiful and joy-filled!
Hi, I am the second of nine children, born in Chattanooga, TN. My mother was a Catholic, my dad a Methodist.
I wanted to be a Sister from the time I was three. Ever since high school I thought I wanted to be a nursing Sister. Thus I took Chemistry. I couldn’t figure out, though what Chemistry had to do with nursing. I felt enough insecurity that I didn’t even think about nor look into a possible scholarship for college. So after graduation and paying off my debt of tuition, I went to work at Memorial Hospital to try and earn enough money to go into nursing school. I loved the job (newborn nursery), but after almost a year and not being able to save anything (I was doing what I could to support my family) I decided that maybe God had other plans for me.
But one Saturday during Mass I felt the Spirit say “go talk with Father.” I objected saying, “All my life long I’ve been talking about a vocation to anyone who would listen — but no one did.” (A little exaggeration, but…) The Holy Spirit said “GO.” So I went — it was Fr. Pack. Before a word was out of my mouth, he said to me, “How about the Poor Clares in Memphis”. I said, “The who?” I had never heard of them, didn’t know anything about them — but it’s where He wanted me. I entered Oct. 2, 1968 (the Feast of the Guardian Angels).
When I received the habit I also received the name: Sister Mary Claudia of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, O.S.C.
In my earlier days I learned to play the guitar — at least enough to play for Mass. During those post-Vatican II years, we were in the midst of many changes. We had workshops to experience different forms of prayer. There were meetings of both Poor Clare Sisters and other Contemplative Sisters. At our doctors’ bidding we began eating meat for the first time in 1972. This same year dad died. Gratefully, I was allowed to go to his funeral.
In 1980 we were asked by a Guatemalan Bishop for some of our Sisters to make a foundation in Huehuetenango. He said, “Prayer is the only thing that could save this country.” We prayed over this and decided that, yes God was asking this of us. So began the preparation; learning Spanish, something about the culture and packing things needed to begin a new Monastery. Praying over who would go, five of us offered and were accepted. I was one of them. I was there a year and a half when through many circumstances it became clear that I was to return. Today there is a community of 8 native Guatemalan Poor Clares with one of the original North American sisters.
In 1986 we were given the opportunity to do a Franciscan Study Pilgrimage (28 days) in Italy of the places where St. Francis went, including Assisi. That first year six of us went. Coming into Assisi I felt a very strong sense of “home”. What a blessed experience this was!
In 1987 I was given the opportunity to study nursing. I was in a Practical Nurse program. With challenges along the way I made it to second week of the fourth quarter and then was in a car accident. This ended my studies, but not my spirit.
I have performed many services during the time God has given me. I have worked in the Altar Bread department, in the laundry, the kitchen, the sacristy, in the yard, caring for the sick, taking care of book orders for Fr. David Knight’s books, computer work: billing for the Altar Breads, for the books, helping with the community mail. I have served on our council and been Vicaress for the community. I served one term as President of the Mother Bentivoglio Federation, one of two Poor Clare Federations in the U.S.
For a few years we became aware that we could no longer fully live our Poor Clare life with so few sisters in our large monastery in Memphis. So we worked toward closing the Monastery and just before Thanksgiving in 2019 two of us moved to our community in Travelers Rest. I feel very welcomed and at home here.
Even as a child I wanted to be a sister but the only ones I knew were the ones who taught me in school. It became clear to me that I didn’t have the gift of teaching so I wrote many communities for information. Reading the brochures didn’t help as all the communities seemed wonderful to me. So I told God, “If you want me to be a sister you’ll have to show me where.” I never thought God would answer – how could he possibly show me?
A few years later a surprising convergence of events resulted in me getting invited by the Bishop to help form a House of Prayer in his diocese. While exploring the possibility he had me live with the Poor Clare Sisters. Much to my surprise, while living with the sisters I found myself feeling very much at home. As a result I became a Poor Clare sister instead of starting a House of Prayer and here I am 47 years later – thanks be to God! He has asked much of me over the years, but given me so much more than I ever could have imagined.
The moral of the story? Don’t ask God for something unless you really want it, impossible as your request may seem.
I first heard about St. Clare when I was a young kitten; the stories of her close bond with cats stirred something in my heart. As I grew older, I grew more curious about the life of Poor Clares. When God gave me the opportunity to visit the monastery in Travelers Rest, I leapt at it… and kept on leaping. I knew immediately that this was going to be my forever home and was determined to be accepted into the community. After all, what is a Poor Clare monastery without a cat? The sisters needed me as much as I needed them! I am very much a Franciscan, and a contemplative, at heart. St. Clare interceded for me, and now I am an official member of the community. I delight in the close bonds that I have formed with my sisters, and I feel blessed to support their life of prayer for the world.