St. Clare was the first Franciscan woman, and also a Nun. While Francis travelled, she felt her calling was to establish a contemplative dimension to the early Franciscan movement. She seemed to be much clearer in her calling, a determined young woman inspired by her faith and Francis’ new way of life. Remember St. Clare had obstacles too, even within her own family (although eventually some of her sisters and even her mother joined her in the convent).
Catholic Sisters are women who lead active lives of service in a variety of ministries such as education, or health care. Depending on the congregation or order, a Sister serves where her order is called.
Catholic Nuns are women who are cloistered and live contemplatively and prayerfully in an enclosed environment, or monastery. They may leave occasionally for needs such as visit to the doctor, but they are committed to a life of stability.
Both Sisters and Nuns are referred to as Women Religious.
Though both active and contemplative religious spend time in prayer, they also usually have work to do! Prayer and service are interrelated in everyday life for Religious Sisters.
Rarely, a Sister may feel called to become a member of another community. A Sister may become a Nun. Or a Nun may become a Sister.
Reflections from a Nun who was a Sister
Sr. Maria of Jesus, OCD reflects on the grace of joining the Carmelite Monastery of the Holy Cross, Iron Mountain, Michigan after being a Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity.
“Praised be Jesus Christ! Just a few words from a former teaching Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity who transferred to become a cloistered Discalced Carmelite Nun. Why would one do this? Dissatisfied with one’s Community? Oh, No! Tired of teaching? No! I loved the Franciscan Sisters and enjoyed teaching-all for the Glory of God and the salvation of all His people. So, why transfer? Simply because God called me to the Cloister-deeply, persistently for a couple years. Having grown up in a small village quite unaware of Cloistered Communities, He Himself needed to alert me through prayer and Spiritual Direction. If you find an element of mystery in this, so do I. But then love in one’s heart always has an unexplainable element of mystery too precious for words.
And so I packed my meager belongings and following the Love call in my heart-in tears and yet in sure and joyful anticipation-crossed the threshold of Carmel.
Carmel is truly a life of prayer and penance. There I found yet another loving religious family with the same gifts and graces always treasured-fidelity to the Church and to Carmel’s charism-regular, faithful, prayer life-joyful sisterly love and care for one another-all imbued with a tender love for Jesus, the Bridegroom of every Consecrated Heart-sheltered ‘neath the mantle of His Mother. All for the Glory of God and the salvation of His people. -Sr. Maria of Jesus, OCD