Into this New Year…

Yes, the Sisters of St. Clare are back. It is a new year, even though so many of the directives for surviving a pandemic are the same. We here at the Motherhouse of the Franciscans follow all the rules with fervor because what we might get as a simple cold could cause an older Sister to die. The elders here at Assisi Heights are much too beautiful to let go of just yet. So…we follow the guidelines to keeping Assisi Heights free of the viruses.

Breaking news: The Roman Catholic Church world wide, is called forth by Pope Francis, to engage in a Synod, 2021-2023. I can hear the Roman Catholics now. Are not Synods the work of Anglicans and Lutherans and Reformed Churches. It is true they engage in Synods much more frequently than the Romans. For myself and for you I looked at Webster’s take on “Synods.” We Catholics can definitively have one. I must say that for me I am weeping for joy.


Christmas at Assisi Heights

  • This Christmas season was beautiful in all aspects except there were no people to join us in singing and celebrating the birthday of Christ and our Christian faith. Our families and friends were tucked away in their homes caring for one another and watching our Eucharistic celebration on Zoom.


Easter Everyday

Easter, 2021

Dear Friends ,

This has been a year like no other.  We have learned a lot about ourselves and what is deeply important to us. In first place, is the daily Eucharistic celebration called by the familiar name, “the Mass.” We were quarantined in our little third floor monastery. On first floor there were no Eucharistic celebrations in the large, elegant Lourdes Chapel. Within a few weeks of the Pandemic lockdown we found our liturgical home in Ireland.  At 7:00 a.m. we gather around the television screen in our community room and celebrate the Eucharist with the priests and a few women of the choir at Sts. Peter and Paul, Portlaoise, Ireland.  Their parish church is shut down but thanks to international television their Mass is broadcast all over the planet.  Each morning they read off the names of individuals and families who have written in for mention at the Mass.  And so we know we are praying with the whole wide world.

We die repeatedly, they say:
despair, depression, disappointment,
every dark human helplessness
hints at death.

And yet it happens also that some unscripted word
(not our own) sets life moving in our veins again.
Strange that we cannot do this for ourselves,
and how that little spring surprises us.
Quick as heartbeat, the paralysis of death gives way;
Subtle as breath, life claims us and we rise.

Sister Kate Martin, OSC

Please know our love and prayer is for each and all of you, dear friends and family,

              your Sisters of St. Clare                             


Peace into our New Year

Christmas, 2020 “Deep and Lasting Peace” Mike Joncas

PEACE…it is the largest word on our Christmas Card. Peace takes the most space in our Webster Unabridged Dictionary. It takes three quarters of a column of small print to spell out all the aspects of peace. Likewise our large map of the world covers a third of the wall space in one of our office/work rooms. But peace is larger than the globe, and worthy of space on our Christmas card, peace circling the planet at this time of year, with a pandemic ragging over our world.

Peace we send to you our friends, that you might distribute it to all you know. And distribute it we can. Thanks to Zoom we can arrive at everyone’s table. And if our computer is down, we can put on a mask and knock on our neighbor’s door, keeping, of course, social distancing.

By email we received an invitation to celebrate Los Posadas with friends across the country via Zoom. This Christmas enactment of the Los Posadas is among one of the most heartfelt folk traditions in our hemisphere. It commemorates the journey of Mary and Joseph to find a safe refuge where Mary can give birth to the baby Jesus. You notice the small figures at the bottom of our Christmas card: Mary is seated on the donkey, led by Joseph searching out a place for the Child to be born.

Let the Child be born in us this Christmas,
wherever and however,
with tenderness and care, and above all in peace, gentle peace.

Your Sisters of St. Clare

Deep and Lasting Peace, used with permission from Father Michael Joncas


“God is a Circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.”  William of Lille, 11th century

At the center of the Circle is fire, the ever burning fire,
Like the bush of Moses, that is never extinguished.

This is the fire that burns to enlighten the mind and warm the heart,
Enticing and drawing all into the orbit of God’s love.

This is “the Holy Spirit and fire” of which Jesus speaks,
Inviting us to “come here and wait with me, my hour has not yet come.”

And this is our hour, with fire at the center of our being.
This fire will burn within us until we return from where we came, from the Center of Love.

The scourge of the Coronavirus has brought us back to the hearth,  the fireplace of God’s love.

Stay at home, abide at the center,
let your heart rest in the heart of Jesus.
Never forget this moment in time, your time
when the whole planet came together on its knees.


Easter Morning in our Little Chapel

Here on third floor of Assisi Heights, Franciscan Motherhouse, “sheltering in place”, we celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection.   It is amazing what one thinks of when locked in a small space.   To begin with, one can imagine the early followers of Jesus.  They had locked themselves in the Upper Room “for fear of the Jews.”  As followers of Jesus would they be implicated in His actions?



Easter 2020

April 1, 2020

Beauty rises from scarred branches


Easter, 2020

“I have called you friends…” John 15:15

We have taken our Easter greeting to you, whether by card, email or website, from the words of Jesus in the Gospel according to John. The setting is the Last Supper, which we celebrate on Thursday of Holy Week. “I have not called you servants, but friends.”

How will we celebrate Holy Week this year: in our homes “sheltering in place,” or in protective gear caring for others in hospitals or testing stations? We can think of ourselves as the disciples of Jesus who were hiding out because of fear from the “authorities.” We too are hiding out, not because of the authorities, but because of something so elusive that a special test is needed for identification. We are hiding out because of fear, fear for ourselves and for our loved ones. This is a righteous fear, a godly fear.

In times of fear humans find that words are a bulwark for courage. We are a planet of words. We are able to communicate with compassion throughout our world. We realize in this tragic moment that many on our little blue planet are sick and we need to be gentle and provide that necessary care for them.

To all those who are out and about caring for others, to those who are staying at home to stop the spread of the Coronavirus,to each and all of you, family and friends, we send our love and prayer. Get well, stay safe.

Your Sisters of St. Clare

     Rochester, MN

Shelter Me by Father Michael Joncas


On the last day of the Christmas season…and into Ordinary Time…

Sr. Jo, with her friend’s gift from Florida, leads us into not so ordinary times.    May we all keep smiling in these days of decision.


Journey into Christmas

The Latino parishioners from St. Francis church in Rochester, Minnesota led us in the celebration of the Las Posadas.

Mary and Joseph and their supporters are locked inside Lourdes Chapel at Assisi Heights.

Mary and Joseph are gathered with the people, knocking at the door.  They need to get out and find a place for the child to be born.

Outside the Chapel we are singing back and forth until—miracle of miracles, the doors are opened wide and all of the people join together to find a good place for Christ to be born.

Father Jose, pastor of St. Francis Parish, cheers the people on as they prepare to welcome the holy Child.

May Christmas live forever in your hearts, and children continue to enter our country without roadblocks in their path.


Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy) ;Misa Cataluña -Durán from Mission Music of California










The Child As Gift

Dear family and friends

“Let the little Child Come!

I, as a little child came to you, was within you

Living and loving from your mother’s womb.”

This is not hard for us to believe if

We trust that our God is creator, lover, guide.

In all creation and in the stages of our lives

There is a model and mirror of our God and

We join Jesus who says,

“Let the child come to me.”

Those who dream let them come.

Let the strong and healthy, the sick and wounded,

The elders and their care givers,

Let them all come-

Running, dancing, limping, being pushed along”

Because all are invited to

The birthday party of Jesus.”

Loving thanks to each and all of you

For your friendship over the years.

Little Miss Doctor makes her rounds. She checks wrist pressure and ears, then announces “No ear monkeys.” All are relieved, especially Sister Kate.


Padre Serra, his love for and commitment to the native Americans

Padre Junipero Serra

Here is my servant in whom I am well pleased.”Isaiah: 42:1-4 

Serra was 34 years old when he left a sought after professorship at the Llullian University in Palma, the capitol of Spanish Mallorca. He was a brilliant and extremely well read Franciscan friar. Junipero studied Aristotelian philosophy and held the chair of Scotistic Theology at the University named for Ramon Llull, the great theologian, missionary and friend among the Muslims in the late 13th century. In other words Junipero was on the progressive side of theological studies with a blossoming career before him. At that moment Serra headed out from Mallorca to the Missions of New Spain. Martyrdom was not uppermost in his mind. According to his student, life-long friend in the Missions, and Serra’s first biographer, Padre Francisco Palou, Serra felt the call to the missions as a path to spiritual renewal. He had a burning passion to baptize gentiles, children and their parents, bringing them through water and the Spirit into Christian life. As Jesus said to the Apostles: “Go out and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Matt. 28:19

Miguel Josep, his baptismal name, was born into a poor family in the village of Petra on the Spanish island of Mallorca, a small island with great vistas, as a center for cartography and trade with the Muslims of Southern Spain and North Africa. He learned farming and animal husbandry from his father which would stand him well in his later years as president of the missions of Alta California. His early schooling was with the Franciscans and later at the Franciscan novitiate in Palma. At profession he chose the name Junipero, after the beloved companion of St. Francis of Assisi. We have four of his sermons to the Clares of Palma, recently translated from Catalan into English. His words are tender and loving as he speaks of a merciful God to tlhe Clares and others who came to hear him. Junipero was small of stature and in his preaching he was dynamic, articulate and sweet.

Junipero earned a doctorate in theology and held the chair of Scotistic theology at the Llullian University. On one occasion Junipero preached the sermon for the feast of Ramon Llull. One of the retired professors at the University was heard to say that “Serra’s presentation on Llull should be printed in gold.” Junipero had spent almost 20 years in studies, teaching and preaching in and around Palma. He was fully engaged in ministerial work when he and Padre Francisco Palou, decided to offer themselves to Mission work in New Spain. It was three months after Serra’s sermon on Llull.

New Spain 1750-1784“O Sing to our God a New Song.” Psalm 98:1-3 Junipero was assigned to ministry in Ciudad de Mexico and later in the Sierra Gorda area of Mexico. These were areas that had been Christianized long before Serra’s arrival. Serra waited 15 years before he got the assignment of his heart’s desire. He was missioned through Baja California to Alta California, a new area of missionary work for the Franciscan friars, and the beginning of a clash of cultures and religious practices between the local peoples and the friars. And this class wasn’t just between the Franciscans and the native Americans but also between the Spanish military and Padre Serra.

As Serra crossed into Alta California, his first meeting with the Kumeyaay or Diegueno people of California might be surprising to us. The men of the San Diego area whom Junipero encountered wore no clothing. (Remember, this is California not Minnesota. For Serra it was as if these people were from the Garden of Eden before there was any encounter with sin or the need for clothing.

     “He went among the villagers teaching…Mark: 6

On the third occasion of traveling north from San Diego, Serra and his small group were passing through Chumash territory. They were bogged down in the muddy hills above Santa Barbara. Chumash warriors came to their aid and carried Serra through and out of the mud and set the party on their way. Padre Serra could never forget that experience. He referred to it many times.

Later it was Diegueno men who burned Mission San Diego and tortured and killed young Friar Jayme who was in charge of the mission. When the men who perpetrated this gruesome horror were captured Serra refused to have the men killed but insisted they live on to repent of what they had done. One of the leaders of the massacre became a close collaborator of Serra.

The Franciscan missionaries traveled with the Spanish and Mexican soldiers. Their objectives in Alta California were different. The soldiers were commissioned to acquire land for the Spanish crown and stop the Russian incursion from the north. Serra and the friars were concerned for the welfare and protection of the indigenous peoplesand therefore their assimilation for survival as Catholic Christians with skills of farming, ranching, wood working,tanning hides, etc, depending on the location of the Mission, as well as encouraging music, dance and the arts. The assimilated local peoples were called “ladinos.”

As long as Serra was alive the indigenous people had a fierce advocate for the people with the “commandants” and the soldiers. We see the greatness of the work of Serra and the Franciscans in contrast with what happened to the native peoples, as well as to the Mexicans, when California acquired Statehood in 1849.: the Mexicans lost their rancheros and the natives lost their lives. Long live the memory of Padre Junipero Serra.

Mexico seceded from Spain and claimed Alta California as well as New Mexico and Texas. In 1832 the anticlerical Mexican government began the secularization of the Missions and the friars were sent away. The plan was to hand the mission properties to the Native Americans but instead the new governing body sold off the Mission lands or gave them to friends. When California acquired Statehood in 1849 the Mexicans lost their rancheros and the natives lost their lives. Long live the memory of Padre Junipero Serra. May he intercede for us.

El Pastorcillo, The-Little-Shepherd from Mission Music of California

Feast of St. Clare

August 14, 2019
Clare of Assisi
                          This beautiful icon was written by
                                       Bonnie Hardwick.
Homily for the Mass.

     From the first reading, “I will allure her…and speak to her heart.  “Hosea 2:16. Where will You allure her? Real estate agents love to say “Location, location, location…”Where was God leading Clare? God was leading her outside the walls of Assisi, down the hill to a tiny chapel, called the Little Portion, to meet with a motley crew of young men who would cut off her hair as a sign that she was joining their gang. That was her espousal to Our Lord Jesus Christ, and Francis was the best man. Clare joined the Friars.

     It was a challenge to find the right spot for Clare, and for the women who would be with her. Bishop Guido, the ordinary of the diocese of Assisi, had a spot. He offered a small chapel that was under his jurisdiction. It was outside the walls of Assisi and down the hill on the well-traveled road that led up into the town of Assisi. There to this day, is the chapel of San Damiano even if the Clares are no longer there. San Damiano was on the other side of the hill from the Little Portion of the friars. Between the two Franciscan Chapels was the Leprosarium. “Location, location, location…”
     The second reading for the feast is taken from Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians, “God let light shine in our hearts…even when we are affected in every way…” These exquisite readings for the feast of Clare were chosen by the friars after Vatican II for the feast of Clare. In this second reading we hear that the light is always there shining in the hearts of Clare and her Sisters that they might make known the glory of God shining on the face of Jesus. And they would do that in the presence of great challenges. There is no doubt that the light was shining on the face of Clare and her Sisters at San Damiano when they stared down the Saracen invaders. What I would like to bring to your attention at this point, is that it was a shared light, shared with Francis and the brothers who the Clares always had with them “through the kindness of the Order of Lesser Brothers.” Chap 12 in the Form of Life and “who were always faithful to the Sisters” the words of Clare. Francis and his closest companions never abandoned Clare and the Sisters at San Damiano. Clare and her Sisters were never distant from Leo, Juniper, Angelo, her cousin Rufino, Elias, and others. When Clare was dying Brother Rainaldo got Clare’s ire up when he told her to be patient in her sickness. She, in a “very unrestrained voice” (shouted) responded, “that since she came to know Jesus through Brother Francis nothing has been too hard.” At Clare’s death bed Juniper was there with his hijinks delighting Clare. Angelo, her cousin, while mourning himself was consoling the others, and Leo kissed her bed. The sisters and brothers were all crying. So much for strict enclosure.
     And poor old Celano writes “Who could narrate the rest without crying.” But, of course, he continues. Listen to this line, “Faces were swollen with tears and the fury of the mourning heart supplied ever new waters.”
     At that moment Clare turned away and said quietly to herself, “Go without anxiety for you have a good guide for your journey, for the one who created you has loved you and made you holy.”
From today’s Gospel, John 15:4-10, Jesus says “My Father has been glorified in your bearing much fruit.”
     After Clare’s death her body was carried up the hill into the city of Assisi to the Church of St. Georgio where Francis’s body had been laid at his death before being transported to the grand basilica named for him. Clare’s remains were buried deep under the altar of the Church of San Georgio which was incorporated into the grand basilica of St. Clare. It was more than 7 hundred years before the bones of St. Clare were exhumed and placed at a barred window in a side room of the basilica.
     When I visited Assisi in 1970 on the way to our new Clarian foundation in Zambia I visited the window where Clare’s remains were on view. I saw some bones with a black gauze pulled over the bones. Those were the remains of her earthly life. But where was Clare? “Location, Location, location.”
From Clare’s 4th and last letter to Agnes of Prague, Clare writes “Farewell, dearest daughter with your daughters, until we meet at the throne of the glory of the great God. This is what I desire for us.” End of quote.