WILMINGTON, DELAWARE — At the heart of Wilmington, near the financial district, live 7 sisters dedicated to prayer and meditation, following the example of their order’s founder.
Sister Carmen, without abandoning her permanent smile, greets us in a cozy room in the house of the Order of Saint Clare of this city. This order had its origins in the 13th century with Saint Clare of Assisi, a contemporary of Francis of Assisi, who being of noble birth renounced all of her possessions and marriage to devote her life to Christ, leaving her home one night to never return.
The experience of Carmen, who is part of a family of fifteen siblings, has some similarities with that of the saint when she went to the convent where her older sister had already joined and decided to become a nun and never return to her parents’ home.
“It has been too many years since then,” she says with a sly smile.
What led her to the decision to become a nun? We asked and she answered, “I come from a very humble family, peasants from Michoacán and one day I saw a nun dressed as I am now, and I was very shocked. I said to myself, she looks so beautiful; I want to be like her. I never saw her again,” she continues. “I did not know where she came from, or where she had gone, but at that moment I realized that that life called me, ever since I went with other girls to take flowers to the Virgin in the month of May, after the first communion and dressed in white.”
What happened next?
“When I was 12, my sister went to the convent and I visited her often, although from the outside it seemed a dark and scary place, ‘I would die here,’ I thought. Then one day I was invited to a vocational meeting and upon entering the convent I was impressed with how beautiful it was, with its halls, its gardens, it was very nice.”
Carmen tells us that experience made her very happy, and seeing on the faces of the sisters such tranquility and joy made her decide to be like them, to look for their secret.
It was not an easy decision for her family, but there she stayed, at 16 years of age and all of her life ahead of her. The Capuchin Poor Clares in Mexico in 1986 received a visit from a cappuccino from Wilmington, Delaware, Brother Ronald Giannone, who went there to invite them to come and be the strength of his ministry with the poor.
“Without the power of prayer, we are social workers and nothing else,” the cappuccino told them with great conviction. So after some hesitation, eight sisters decided to come and have stayed here ever since.
And how is your life now?
“Very quiet, I am happy and most of all we live a life of dedication to God and prayer for the salvation of souls. Our mission is to praise God day and night, going seven times to the chapel to pray. The day begins at 4:45 and from there the prayer, personal meditation and work fill the day.”
The nuns cook for the poor, who are served in different ministry shelters, sew the habits of Capuchin friars, and wash and iron the tablecloths used at a charity center.
“Our contact with the world,” says the Sister, “is with people who come to visit and those who call asking for prayers for the needs they have, problems in marriage, the children on drugs and so on.”
What do you see as the main problem of young ladies today?
“The personal void and not having a meaning in their lives; the lack of self-esteem. They have lost their values and spiritual life; that is why they encounter problems, find no support and fall into drugs.
“Everything comes from the functioning of families that would provide the necessary spiritual foundations.”
What is the most important thing for you about being a woman?
“For me, it is to be able to give myself, feeling full, fulfilled in any vocation. Knowing that life is worth living, knowing one must love oneself. The Latina woman is a fighter, strong and a lot of the functioning of the family depends on her, and her faith.
“Latina women have a lot of strength to devote to work, to help the husband and family. Because of that, they are admirable. For me to come to Delaware has opened me up to new world. It was a beautiful thing to learn another language, I love English. I have opened myself to another world completely.” concluded Sister Carmen.