Interviewing the ‘Power Station of the World’ – The closed order of St Clare

Living next door to the hedonistic mecca of Paceville, yet never going there? In fact, they never go out. They cannot understand the hullabaloo about staying indoors for a definite period of time, all the complaints, to them, seem nonsense. Out of the world but they know exactly what is going on through Facebook and Newsbook.

Who are these ‘strange’ people?

The nuns of the closed order of St Clare, of course!

“We are here for the world”

“We are here for the world. A lot of our time is spent in prayer from which we draw nourishment and channel it to the rest of the world…People and the Church are always in our heart. In the words of St Clare, we try to be of assistance to the weaker members of humanity. And who does not need help?” These sage words were part of an interview carried out by Fr Joe Borg on Newsbook Hour on 103 Malta’s Heart with Mother Abbess Rose Therese Ellis. Fr Joe Borg recalled that he had interviewed the nuns in this closed order twice before both for TV and for Radio. This time however, COVID-19 had made the use of an interview-by-telephone a necessity.

The feisty 72 year old nun has been in the closed order for 53 years. She is Gozitan, observed Fr Borg in his write up to the interview. A wry comment since the tiny island of Gozo too, may seem like a closed community to some. “53 years is a lifetime,” quipped the presenter. Mother Abbess laughed: “And I would do it all over again were I to be reborn”, said she, not in the least undone.

A litany of work and creativity

“But who are you, each one of you?” asked Fr Joe.

“There are nineteen of us,” she replied to the surprise of her interviewer. Most orders these days count themselves lucky if their numbers go beyond the single digit. The youngest is Christine, a new entrant who, at 32 years of age was described by the Abbess as ‘very promising’. At the other end of the spectrum is Sr Marie Claire. At 89 this elderly nun is in the infirmary and is cared for by another nun.

Fr Joe wrote that the head of the convent went through the list of nuns one by one: names, what they do, including the nuns in the sister house in Gozo. A litany of names, work, ages, villages and towns, talents, community work and creativity. Mother Ellis finds something good to say about each one of them. Three of the nuns have permission to leave the convent for shopping and other needs.

“These are nuns in the order of St Clare but they do not take the vow to be in a closed order. This follows what St Care wanted. She was a very practical woman” said Mother Ellis.

Practical perhaps, observed Fr Joe, but is it a Utopia, an idyllic paradise? “Don’t you ever quarrel?” said the interviewer with patent curiosity blended with a healthy dose of fun. The nun did not miss a beat, you could almost hear her chuckle.

“Of course we do, of course we do. We are women after all. But because we live a life of prayer, we realise our errors very quickly and fix what goes wrong. During Compline (evening prayers) we ask for forgiveness to those we feel we have wronged. We try to live in a fraternal spirit. That, after all, is the gospel: Love” said Mother Ellis.

Facebook…in a closed order?

“How come a closed order of nuns is on Facebook? A bit strange, do you not think?” probed Fr Joe Borg in his interview.

“It was a decision I pondered on at length,” said Mother Ellis. Dispelling all fantasies that the nuns spend their time posting on Facebook, Mother Abbess said that only one nun takes care of the posting and browsing and relates to the community the important stuff. She reminds the nun to eschew as much as possible trivia and, adds Mother Ellis, the nun assures her that she does not waste time. “We use Facebook to show the world what we do,” said Mother Ellis. “I follow Newsbook,” said the nun, much to Fr Joe’s gratification.

The power station of the Church

In describing the typical day, Mother Ellis listed a considerable time in prayer. This is hardly surprising especially as she had earlier said that prayer gives the nuns strength and nourishment. Through prayer, they intercede for humanity’s needs. “At the moment many are writing to us because of COVID-19 – this very naughty virus”, said Mother Ellis.

“You are like the power station of the world”, observed Fr Joe.

“We hope we are”, she answered.

Those who seek the intercession of the prayers of the Nuns of the Order of St Clare can access their Facebook page ‘Klarissi Sisters Malta’ or email santaklara11@gmail.com