Bishop Frank J. Dewane poses with the Poor Clare Sisters after celebrating Mass with them Aug. 11, 2020, the feast of St. Clare, at the San Damiano Monastery of St. Clare on Fort Myers Beach. (BOB REDDY | FC)

Annual Poor Clare feast celebration muted

FORT MYERS BEACH  |  The Poor Clare Sisters who live a secluded life in a monastery on Fort Myers Beach are examples for all to follow, shaking off their worldly burdens to live as St. Clare of Assisi called, in cloister, devoting their life to serve as the Lord called.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane expressed his profound gratitude to the Poor Clare Sisters for their response to God while remarking how the ongoing global pandemic has forced many into isolation, which he prays has encouraged the faithful to use that time growing closer to the Lord.

The Bishop celebrated Mass Aug. 11, 2020, the feast of St. Clare, for the religious sisters at the San Damiano Monastery of St. Clare on Fort Myers Beach.

Abbess Sister Mary Frances Fortin and the other religious sisters at the monastery expressed their appreciation for the Bishop’s presence, particularly on the feast day of their founder, which is an annual occasion. 

“We are deeply grateful to have Bishop here with us every year, but his presence has a greater meaning to us during this pandemic,” Sister Mary Frances said. “The continued support we receive from the Bishop and Diocese is overwhelming.”

The Mass was celebrated without the normal standing-room-only congregation as the Chapel is too small to accommodate the faithful and still maintain social distancing.

“We miss the people who come to visit,” Sister Mary Frances said of those who would attend the daily Mass or come to pray in the Chapel. “Our prayers are with everyone who is suffering through these difficult times and we turn to the Lord in joyful hope that will we be able to open our doors again soon.”

Bishop Dewane said the good work of Poor Clare Sisters, “through your prayers and your example that should inspire all to devote one’s life in service to the Lord.”

The Poor Clare religious community of women was begun 800 years ago when Chiara Offreduccio, a young noble woman of Assisi, Italy, cast off her rich garments and donned the simple garb of St. Francis of Assisi to live, as he did, the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Poor Clare Sisters have called Fort Myers Beach their home since 1988. The monastery became independent in 2009. Although the Sisters never solicit donations, many parishioners bring them groceries and send them money each month.

The daily life of the Poor Clare Sisters is set into a traditional monastic framework of prayer and work. Holy Mass and Liturgy of the Hours are the anchor of their day. Outside these times, the sisters engage in all the ordinary tasks of life in a spirit of sisterly sharing, joy and peace. A sister might be found packing up an order of hosts for one of the local parishes, taking care of the altar, sweeping the cloister walk or doing some laundry. Or you may find a sister at a desk, doing bookkeeping, answering mail, preparing spiritual cards or planning the liturgy.

While the chapel is currently closed to the public due to the pandemic, you can contact the Poor Clare Sisters by calling 239-463-5599, emailing prayer requests to saintclare@comcast.net, or by visiting www.fmbpoorclare.com.  Donations in support of the Poor Clare Sisters can be sent to: San Damiano Monastery of St. Clare, 6029 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931.