b Poor Clare Sister Makes Solemn Vows -b

As Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde extended his hands in blessing over Poor Clare Sister Mary Charitas of the Child Jesus, he proclaimed, "And I, on the part of Almighty God, promise you if you observe these things, life everlasting." The blessing was part of the Rite of Solemn Profession, a formal ceremony in which a sister?s public profession of vows is similar to the vows exchanged in marriage. Sister Mary Charitas, formerly Patricia Schneible of Bentonville, Virginia, made her final profession at the Monastery of the Poor Clares in Alexandria last Sunday. A host of friends and family witnessed the ceremony, literally a marriage made in heaven according to Church teaching. In his apostolic exhortation Vita Consecrata, Pope John Paul II wrote: "It is a source of joy and hope to witness in our time a new flowering of the ancient Order of Virgins, known in Christian communities ever since apostolic times. Consecrated by the diocesan bishop, these women acquire a particular link with the Church, which they are committed to serve while remaining in the world. Either alone or in association with others, they constitute a special eschatological image of the heavenly bride and of the life to come, when the Church will at last fully live her love for Christ the Bridegroom." Bishop Loverde officiated at the Mass and profession. Five priests, including Fathers John J. Riley and Ronald J. Gripshover from St. Louis Parish in Alexandria, Father Terrence R. Staples from St. Luke Parish in McLean, Capuchin Father Emilio Biosco, a missionary priest from Papua, New Guinea, and Father Kevin J. Beres from St. Bernadette Parish in Springfield concelebrated the Mass. Acknowledging the twofold cause for joy and the sacrificial offering of the religious life, the bishop said it was fitting that Sister Charitas should make her solemn profession on Trinity Sunday, as the consecrated life is a particular expression of the Trinitarian nature of the Christian life. "The Church is essentially a mystical union. We must model the Trinity in living out our lives, reflecting the Trinity in prayer, in reaching out to the poor and needy, in defending life," Bishop Loverde said. The bishop explained the consecrated life is a particular way of living out the universal call to holiness. Quoting Vita Consecrata, he said the call is an invitation coming wholly from the Father who asks those who are chosen "to devote themselves to him with an undivided heart" and to leave everything behind in order to serve Christ and others. The Poor Clare nuns are a contemplative order founded by St. Francis and St. Clare in Assisi in 1212. Both saints strove to live an ideal of Gospel poverty and simplicity. By the time of St. Clare?s death in 1253, more than 100 monasteries had been established. Today, there are approximately 18,000 Poor Clare nuns in monasteries throughout the world. When then-Arlington Bishop Thomas J. Welsh invited the sisters to the diocese in 1977, six sisters from the Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Roswell, N.M., came to establish a monastery in Alexandria. The cloistered community lives a life of prayer and penance, dedicated to the apostolic mission of lifting up the failing members of the body of Christ. Though the life is rigorous in its demands, the sisters exude a spirit of peace and joy. Sister Charitas is one of five children born to Dorothy and Daniel Schneible. She announced her vocation suddenly at age 14, when she surprised her parents by telling them she wanted to be a nun. As a student at Christendom College, she made her first visit to the Poor Clare Monastery, where she met Mother Miriam. After graduating, Sister Charitas worked for several years, exploring different orders and remaining active in the Legion of Mary, before returning to the Poor Clares at age 27.
Before entering the community, young women are invited to spend time with the sisters, sharing in their work and prayer, and maintaining dialogue with Mother Miriam and the novice mistress to discern and test God?s call. When there is a mutual readiness and sense that God is indeed calling her to be a Poor Clare nun, a young woman enters the cloister as a postulant, a time of more formal inquiry, before beginning her official formation as a novice. The community, which celebrated 25 years in the diocese last year, now numbers 16. Mother Miriam said that they have always had at least one person in formation, and have at times had as many as six postulants or novices. Most young women, she said, work for several years after graduating from college before entering the community. With the exception of two, all the young women who have joined the Poor Clares are from the Arlington Diocese. After her profession, Sister Charitas, who is close to her family, enjoyed a moment with each of her 11 nieces and nephews, sisters, brother, parents and in-laws. "We feel very blessed, but it is also very emotional day," Dorothy Schneible said. "We are a very close family, and it is our sacrifice as well." Following the Mass, Sister Charitas received numerous visitors. Poor Clare nuns are permitted to receive two visits from family each year.

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