Companions of Clare

Mission Statement for the Companions of Clare
Summary of Purpose

Mission Statement: to create a group of contemplative seniors dedicated to God, following the Franciscan spirit and charism and whose work is prayer for the church and world. We will adhere to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church and follow the rules of Canon Law.

Overview

We wish to create a Roman Catholic community following the Primitive Rule of St. Clare, involving older women. The primary focus in the organization of our group will be women 62 or older who left religious life and wish to reenter, or those who wish to give the rest of their lives to God.  However, we realize the Spirit may direct others to us, so we will be willing to accept other age brackets. Originally this concept was meant to fill a personal need. However, very few people stand alone so the concept of this community was developed to provide a venue for others.

Acknowledging the growth in understanding of religious life after the Vatican Council II and studies of the life and manner of Francis and Clare, a newly created community would be built accepting older women who would not normally be accepted in religious life due to their age.

Our community will be first and foremost a house of prayer for contemplatives. We will re-evaluate different ideas and practices current in existing religious communities, and incorporate good principles in our understanding and manner of living.  We believe such a community would nourish the prayer life of the Church, the immediate surroundings and, at the same time, act as an answer to the call for vocations for which the Church has earnestly prayed.

Our community will follow the Rule of Clare of Assisi.  This Rule, approved by Pope Innocent IV in 1253 is a proven, acceptable way of life for contemplatives.  It is simple and straightforward and is built on the Rule of St. Francis of Assisi who wanted to live a radical following of the Gospel. Our group will understand the need for the contemplative life and will understand how it feeds the Church.
Franciscans have always professed a counter-culture but maintaining this has been difficult.  Our community will always keep this in our radar, since we believe it lies at the essence of the Francis’ and Clare’s understanding of the Gospel. While retaining our legal autonomy, we have been blessed by receiving sponsorship by the Friars of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Province.  Our agreement with them includes a Spiritual Guide, supplied by the Province, who will monitor our prayer life and practices to assure we are in keeping with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and the Spirit of Francis and Clare.

Our research has determined the cutoff age for entrance into existing communities is generally 50 years of age.  We believe the Spirit works in older individuals, as well.

Acceptance of retired women as a norm would set us apart from existing communities, would justify our request to build this community and fill a real need in the Franciscan Order and the Church.
Age brings about wisdom. Older women, who are called by God to live a radical existence and consecrate their lives in intensity of holiness, are stable, and have had a wide variety of real life experiences. They are able to make an educated choice to answer God’s call with a “fiat.”

Consideration of the Mystery of Vocation and Screening

We will make every effort to support and encourage the vocation mystery in each person who inquires. We know screening potential candidates will be imperative. While everyone is called to contemplative prayer not everyone can live a contemplative lifestyle. The Companions of Clare choose to live a marginal lifestyle and this reality creates a partial, natural screening process.  Discernment involves the nurturing of the vocation mystery, and careful and prayerful discretion in dealing with the fragility of each person’s spirit. Our interviews before acceptance into the Companions of Clare will be tempered with honesty, compassion and kindness. 

 The path of living in community, and giving your life completely to community while following the Franciscan and Clarian interpretation of the Gospel is not an easy one and we give the Holy Spirit the task of enlightening us so few mistakes are made. We wish to push the limits of age acceptance so older women can partake of the blessings of religious life. The work of the Spirit and our prayers will bring about the union of Christ, community and the applicant.

Objective

We are neither a nursing home nor a retirement community. We are rather a God-centered, Franciscan motivated group whose basic expression is engagement and attendance in the Roman Catholic Liturgy and praying the Divine Office in common. We expect complete understanding and full participation in these activities. We will provide classes in both to assure our members are clear on the teachings and accepted understandings of the Roman Catholic Church.

Sustainability, Income, Work

We will also expect each sister to contribute something in the form of work. Realizing the talents we each have, and developing simple, new skills will provide income and personal fulfillment. Working in manual labor is a discipline long proven by contemplatives.  Also each person will be expected to perform some sort on household maintenance.

The sisters will be expected to pool their Social Security for the common good.  Pooled resources would alleviate financial concerns of the sisters. Respecting Lady Poverty, any other passive income, pensions or annuities will be pooled resources after the candidate has completed the formation process.

Prayer and Community

Our principle work and expression of community will be Liturgy in the Roman Catholic Rite and praying the Divine Office.  Other engagements of community would be somewhat limited.  Silence, time and personal space are keys to contemplative living. Older, professional women understand this and are content living quiet lives.  They also know the necessity to honor the space and quiet of others.

External signs of Consecration

Sacramentals are visible signs of grace and have long been accepted by the Church as signs of Christ’s presence. Our sisters will wear a Franciscan habit to remind them of the steps they have taken to belong to God. 

Conclusion

It is apparent the Spirit is breathing new life in religious commitment.  Our measure for success is in the quality of dedication each sister displays, not in numbers who join.  We anticipate a limit of 10 sisters. As stated above, contemplative lifestyle is marginal. Those called to the Companions of Clare will find, develop and participate in a new kind of home.