The Poor Clare Colettines are a religious order of women in the tradition of St Clare and St Francis of Assisi, who live in enclosed communities of prayer, silence, and peaceful work to pursue perfect Christian love in lives given entirely to Jesus Christ.
The community of Poor Clare Sisters at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, Kennington, have served the Church through prayer for over 50 years, as a blessing to the entire Diocese of Sandhurst, the people of Bendigo, and Kennington Parish.
The number of sisters has declined over the years and there are currently three Poor Clare Sisters in Kennington, who are advancing in years.
After considering the Church’s 2018 guidelines on the number of members needed for a viable monastery, the Poor Clares announced to their supporters and collaborators that they have decided to continue their religious mission in larger communities of female religious within the Franciscan tradition, located outside of our diocese.
“I would like to thank all our many friends and benefactors,” Mother Anthony, leader of the community, said. “Their memories will be etched in our hearts and held in prayer. Prayer is a wonderful thing, it crosses seas, from wherever we are in the world.
“We are grateful for all the support we have received from the diocese and from parishioners,” she said.
“It is with great sadness that I learned these devoted women of faith will be leaving our diocese,” Bishop Shane Mackinlay, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sandhurst, said.
“Their prayerful and contemplative presence in our midst is a powerful reminder to us all of the importance of simplicity, reflection and humble listening for God’s spirit.”
“Contemplative religious communities enrich us with their constant prayer, as they hold the needs of the whole world before God,” Bishop Mackinlay said.
The Poor Clares persevered through extraordinary circumstances to establish their monastery in Kennington in 1966. Mother Mary Bonaventure, the foundation Mother Abbess, had led a group of sisters from their convent in York, England, to establish a new community in Sri Lanka in 1953.
The eight founding sisters of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, Kennington, departed Sri Lanka in 1965 after some years of national instability to establish their monastery in Bendigo. Bishop Bernard Stewart had accepted their request to establish a new monastery, while he attended the Second Vatican Council in Rome.
The Poor Clares have been embraced by members of the Bendigo community, who supported their practical needs, and became close friends. Many visitors to the monastery appreciated the sisters’ availability to meet with them in the front parlour to listen to their concerns, offer spiritual advice, pray with them, and simply to have a chat. The Poor Clares also supported the Church in the Diocese of Sandhurst and beyond by making special cakes for occasions such as Christmas, weddings, and ordinations, illuminated prayer and greeting cards, and liturgical vestments and altar breads for the celebration of the Eucharist.
The process of relocating to other religious communities and closure of the monastery is a lengthy one, requiring the involvement of the Holy See and liaison with the leaders of other Poor Clare monasteries. It is expected that it may take some time for the Poor Clares to finalise details of their departure. Celebrations to thank the Poor Clares will be arranged to take place in due course. The future of the monastery property is not yet decided, though the sisters are planning that before their departure, they will relocate the graves of the five deceased community members to the Axedale Catholic cemetery.
We thank Mother Anthony, Sr Christopher and Sr Clare and assure them of our prayers and support as they prepare to enter this new stage of their religious lives.