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Humble Beginnings

Mother Mary VeronicaThe World's Fair was in progress in Chicago in 1893 when a little band of Poor Clare Nuns led by Mother Mary Veronica von Elmendorff came from Cleveland, Ohio, to make a foundation of the Order of St. Clare in the "gateway to the west."

The roots of their Order did indeed reach back to 1212 when St. Clare of Assisi embraced the Gospel ideal of poverty espoused by Saint Francis and became the first of his Poor Ladies. Her response was so total, so dedicated, so attractive to the women of her times that the Order of the Poor Sisters quickly spread during her lifetime to nearly fifty monasteries throughout Europe.

A Noble Abbess

Mother Mary Veronica was born into Westphalian nobility in 1845, entered the Poor Clare Monastery in Dusseldorf, and was among the founding group of Poor Clare sisters coming to America in 1877. Her knowledge of English was a great help to the new foundation, and throughout the years as its abbess, she labored unceasingly for the welfare and happiness of her sisters. She was abbess of monastery in Chicago until 1902.

During Holy Week, in April 1904, Mother Veronica suffered a stroke that left her partially incapacitated. She bore this illness with her usual fortitude and cheerfulness, and was to the very last the support of her community and the consolation of all who saw her. In the only photograph of her as a Poor Clare she is seated in a wheelchair, but her face is radiant with the sweetness and serenity that always characterized her.

On November 9, 1905, she went peacefully home to God at the age of 60 and in the thirty-fifth year of profession. Her life, hidden with Christ in God, like that of her Mother St. Clare, was also a light to the world and the Church in Chicago.

A Jubilee Gift to Chicago

The original Chicago Poor Clare Monastery was closed in late 1992, just before its centenary. Then in 1999, the new Archbishop of Chicago, Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., visited the Roswell, NM Poor Clare monastery to ask for a refoundation of the Poor Clare monastery in Chicago. In the Jubilee Year 2000, Mother Mary Francis led a group of her daughters to refound Poor Clare life in this historic location. The Nuns were given temporary lodging while plans were made for the building of a permanent monastery in the forest preserve area near Palos Park on a tract of land donated by the Archdiocese.

On Laetare Sunday, March 30, 2003, the new monastery was dedicated by his Eminence Francis Cardinal George. On October 23, 2004, the Cardinal met with the community to celebrate with them the diamond jubilee of religious profession of their Mother foundress, Mother Mary Francis (see picture). On November 28, 2005, the Poor Clares had the joy of receiving the official Church approval, or beneplacitum, of the monastery. The nuns held their first community elections chapter on December 5, choosing Rev. Mother Mary Teresita as their abbess and rejoicing in the Lord at this new beginning.

Cardinal George and the Poor Clares

Cardinal Francis George meets with the Poor Clares
with their Mother Foundress, Mother Mary Francis.

The Poor Clare Sisters
12210 South Will Cook Road
Palos Park, IL 60464
(708) 361-1810

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