The centuries-old convent closed 18 years ago due to a lack of vocations, but today the Poor Clare sisters are back.
In these times when convents are being closed, divine Providence is at work. The 13th-century convent of Santa Clara in the Biscayan town of Orduña (in northern Spain) closed 18 years ago due to a lack of vocations. Today, the Poor Clare sisters are back: the community consists of five young sisters and one who is 99 years old, all of whom came from the monastery of Belorado in nearby Burgos.
The history of this monastery dates back to 1296. Generations succeeded one after another until, in 2003, with only nine sisters remaining, they moved to the Monastery of San Antonio de Vitoria, thus closing the Orduña convent until October 2020, when the new community members arrived.
Sr. Myriam, one of the Poor Clares of the community, tells Aleteia: “We found the monastery in good condition. A man from Orduña was in charge of visiting it, doing some sweeping, checking the roof tiles … There were areas of the monastery that were in good enough condition to live in and others where the guys see that there are things to rebuild.”
The way the local people have welcomed them has been amazing, Sr. Myriam tells us: “It’s a town with deep religious spirit and a great love for the nuns of St. Clare who have been present in the town for 422 years.”
The whole town has given its time and affection so that this community of Poor Clares could return and fill their hearts. Having a contemplative convent in Orduña is a gift for the whole local community.
The first Mass
The first weeks, as for any family that moves, were a mixture of chaos and joy: seeing the whole town involved, helping them to prepare the building to be able to live there, was an unmistakable sign of Providence.
Without electricity from the street, in the low choir that serves as a chapel with illumination thanks to a generator and without heating, on October 28, 2020, their bishop, Juan Carlos Elizalde, celebrated the first Eucharist at their new residence, and Mother Abbess Isabel gave them the bull of foundation.
Now as then, these Poor Clare nuns lack many of the material things they need so that the community will not have to leave again.
In February they finished building the workshop. Until then they had been using and adapting various rooms for making sweets, an activity that began in an unplanned way at the insistence of their neighbors in Orduña.
When the locals found out that the sisters had already half moved in, the townspeople knocked on their door every day to ask if we were making sweets. It was a surprise project, but as with everything that had brought them to Orduña, they said “yes” again.
One sister began to make very simple sweets: pestiños (sweet fritters from Andalusia) and muffins. Then came the mostachones and donuts. The success was resounding. The Lord had opened a window to a new possibility.
“Is this the way we will be able to survive?” asked Sr. Myriam.
They decided to improvise a small workshop, after obtaining health and industrial permits. They adapted the room that had the necessary conditions to make sweets. Thanks to word of mouth and the talent and hard work of the sisters, who make their sweets in an atmosphere full of prayer and silence, orders and sales were quick to come.
In a few months, the improvised workshop became too small, and in February the new workshop was inaugurated. In this new kitchen, they’re going to prepare more elaborate treats.
Young volunteers at the monastery
In the summer of 2021, some 300 young people from all over Spain, belonging to the Militia of St. Mary and the Seminary of Madrid, went to help clean up and repair the monastery, under the guidance of the Delegate for Education of the Diocese of Getafe and coordinator of the work activities, Fr. Javier Segura.
“They approached it as an outdoor activity. It seemed to us that it was in tune with what we were living: the idea of rebuilding the Church after a pandemic. A project to serve the Church, all of us having in common the search for God,” explains Sr. Myriam.
They did basic tasks, which did not require specialized labor, such as cleaning, removing furniture, or knocking down walls.
It was a summer of enrichment for the students and for the sisters, who were able to get to know first-hand the concerns of the young people and their way of experiencing faith in Christ.
They still need help
In spite of the help of the town and the young people last summer, much remains to be done in the Monastery. It’s work that the Poor Clares cannot afford on their own since the projects are very expensive.
They’ve had to delay the repair of the roof due to lack of funds. It’s priority work since in the area where the monastery is located, it rains very often; if they don’t fix it, the roof could collapse.
They have another urgent need so that they can live from the cultivation of the convent’s fertile lands: they need to build a greenhouse and a workshop for the machinery.
Nowadays, it is rare to hear news of the opening of a contemplative monastery. You can make your donation through the website of the DeClausura Foundation (currently only available in Spanish, although browsers such as Chrome and Safari can translate it), specifying that the aid is destined for the Monastery of Santa Clara de Orduña.