JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday our weekly newsletter regularly posted to our blog and designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and various projects we have helped to bring into being together with ACN benefactors.
This week : Columbia
Support for the life and apostolate of 16 Poor Clare Sisters
Popayán, in the south-west of the country is the home of the Poor Clare Sisters. Two years ago, given the steady flow of new vocations, seven of the sisters left the convent here in order to establish a new convent in another part of Colombia. Since then there have been 16 nuns living in the convent of Saint Clare in Popayán. The eldest among them can look back over no less than 74 years of religious life since taking her permanent vows. She is now 94 years old! The youngest – a postulant – is just 17 years old.
A time of ongoing crisis
Every year dozens of young Colombian men and women opt for a life of service of their fellow men, whether as a male or female religious, or as a priest. Some 96.7% of Colombia’s 46 million inhabitants are Christians, and one third regularly participate in Church life. The number of vocations is high. But at the same time the need for priests, religious and lay pastoral workers is enormous, for the people of Colombia are living through a time of ongoing crisis. Despite recent hopes for peace, guerrilla groups, drug cartels and paramilitaries continue to kill and do battle with police and security forces in a conflict that has now lasted half a century. Hundreds of thousands have been killed during this time, most of them civilians. In the 1990s alone there were around 40,000 victims. The Catholic Church is responding to the destruction and violence with initiatives for reconciliation and love, and with a special care for the needy and suffering population of the rural regions.
For their part, the Sisters of Saint Clare pray daily for those around them in a region that is marked by extreme poverty. Indeed, the economic situation in this region has grown still worse, following a particularly hard winter. But this poverty affects not only the ordinary people; the Poor Clares also struggle to support themselves from day to day. As their prioress, Maria Letica of the Child Jesus explains, their efforts to support themselves by their bakery, the embroidering of liturgical vestments and the manufacture of candles and other items are simply not enough. Humbly, she asks us for financial support to sustain the lives of the 16 nuns. They will need an extra $2,300 simply to be able to make ends meet.
Contemplative sisters – of inestimable value
ACN has been supporting the Poor Clares in Popayán for many years now, and we will certainly help them again this year. The congregation has many new vocations, and there is a steady stream of young women wishing to join the sisters. In fact there have been so many that two years ago they were able to found a new convent.
“We pattern our lives on the poor, humble and crucified Christ, and on the example of Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi, who lived the Gospel,” the sisters explain. Their daily life follows a structured pattern of contemplative prayer, silence, community life, joy, poverty and work. In fact their whole life is prayer.
For the diocese the presence of these contemplative sisters is of inestimable value. Their presence is a witness to living faith in a world marked by poverty and violence. The local people often come to visit the sisters and even bring them gifts from the little they themselves possess. So the presence of the sisters becomes a mutual exchange of love and charity and their enclosed community becomes “a hidden powerhouse of mission and of the Church” as the founder of ACN, Father Werenfried van Straaten described it. For Father Werenfried it was through the contemplative brothers and sisters that the “sacred and spiritual” is made visible “in a world that is losing the sense of the sacred.”
Like other contemplative communities, the Poor Clares offer up their trials and difficulties for the good of the universal Church and for their fellow men. Through their prayers they are helping the Church, the priests, all who are suffering. Let us not abandon these sisters, with their living faith and unshakeable trust in God. In return, they will not forget you, but well respond with the precious and priceless gift of their prayers for your own personal intentions.