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Poor Clare Sisters

The foundation stone of the Franciscan Convent, Drumshanbo was laid on January 6th 1864 by the then Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise, Dr. Kilduff.  The convent is set just on the outskirts of the town of Drumshanbo, overlooking Lough Allen and the mountains of Arigna and Sliabh an Iarainn.  It was actually by chance that the convent came to be situated here in Drumshanbo.  It is due to a series of financial difficulties that they came to be founded in Drumshanbo.  It is a very interesting story as to how they decided to locate the convent here.     
Chapel in Poor Clare Monastery

Its three founding members were Elizabeth Sophie Law, Mary Anne Hayes and Frances Maria Horne.  They were three English ladies.  Elizabeth Sophie Law was a Protestant who came from a wealthy area in London.  Her father was Charles Ewan Law, an MP.  Through her father’s mother she claimed descent from St. Thomas More.  She was always interested in religion and she and her close friend Mary Anne Hayes founded the Sisters of Charity, an Anglican sisterhood in 1850.  in 1851 when she attended Church, it was the feast of St. Peter and St. Paul and when she heard the story about Peter she decided to become a Catholic.  She was aged thirty-three.  She was converted at a ceremony in London.  At that time they met Frances Maria Horne who was nineteen and the daughter of a British Army Officer and a Catholic mother.  She joined up with the other two women.  On February 2nd 1852 the three were received into the Franciscan Order.   
After meetings, it was decided that they would move to a Franciscan convent in France, with the intention of moving back to England eventually to set up their own convent.  In 1852, in France, they received their religious names.  Elizabeth Law became Sr. Elizabeth of St. Clare, Mary Hayes became Sr. Catherine of St. Frances and Frances Horne became Sr. Mary of St. Joseph.  She was also given the office of Choir Sister. 

They moved back to London and set up a house in Halton Street.  They gained two new postulants.  Due to financial difficulties, which plagued them throughout their religious lives, they had to sell the house and move to two smaller houses in Holloway, which became their convent and chapel. 

Again, financial problems struck the convent and when Mother St. Clare had a cottage offered to them by two Irish friends, she could not refuse.  It was on the Ramsfort estate, Gorey, Co. Wexford.  It was small but just enough for their needs.  The Rams also invited some Belgian Franciscans to Gorey so in October 1858, three or four fathers from Belgium reached Gorey, and the five sisters from London arrived.  The nuns were so poor that they had not even been able to afford their journey, their friends had to pay for it. 

The group constructed a Constitution.  Included were the vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, penance and enclosure.  Again, financial difficulties struck and the Rams unexpectedly found themselves unable to support the sisters or fathers, so in 1860 they moved to Goresbridge, Co. Kilkenny.  A new boarding school had just been built and Fr. Anderson, a chaplain at UCD, granted them the use of it until they could find a permanent house.  They stayed there for twelve months, and were preparing to move in August 1862, when Hugh Cullen offered them the use of a ruinous mansion in Sherlockstown, Salins, Co. Kildare.  Fr. Anderson raised funds for the cost of the necessary repairs.  
Fr. Anderson stayed on with them as their chaplain.  While they were at Sherlockstown, two grand-nieces of Henry Grattan visited the community.  They were anxious to join the convent even though it was against their mother’s wishes.  While all this was going on, Archbishop Cullen and Fr. Anderson and the sisters were doing their best to find a permanent site for a convent in Ireland.  In 1863, Fr. Anderson had found a site of five acres in Drumshanbo on the estate of Hugh O’Beirne of Jamestown House.  This man and the Grattan girls provided the necessary money.  After formal permission was granted by Dr. Kilduff, the foundation stone was laid on January 6th 1864.  The architect was Beardwood from Dublin.  Mother St. Clare and Mother St. Frances stayed with Hugh O’Beirne in Jamestown House to see the site of their new convent.  The two nuns then stayed with Francis McKeon in Drumshanbo to see the last stages of the construction of the site.  They lived with him for about three months. 

The rest of the community left Sherlockstown and reached Drumshanbo on December 2nd 1864 and on December 8th 1864 solemn High Mass was sung in the convent for the first time. 

Due to bad health, Mother St. Clare remained as Mother Abbess only until March 1865 and died in the convent on December 5th 1888.  Mother Mary St. Joseph Horne succeeded her in March 1865.  This sister was responsible for bringing Perpetual Adoration to the convent.  It was inaugurated on May 27th 1869.  There has been unbroken adoration since that day, right up to the present. 

Shortly after the introduction of Perpetual Adoration, something strange was seen at the convent chapel.  It was the apparition of a bright, snow-white cross about two and a half feet in height, with a throbbing heart at its centre.  It was seen during Mass on two different occasions by several of the nuns for about eight minutes on the first time and half an hour the second time. 

The two Grattan girls continued their interest in the convent.  The girls came to visit the convent and brought as much cash as was possible each time.  They also sold their jewellery to raise some money for building.  Her mother was so against Marian Grattan joining that she went to Rome to get an edict from Pope Pius IX to stop her entering the convent.  The elder, Fanny, was too sick to join, but in April 1865, Marian’s dream came true and she entered the convent in Drumshanbo under the name of St. Mary.  When Mother St. Joseph died in June 1879, Mother St. Agnes (Marian Grattan) became abbess and stayed in that position for thirty-three years until her death on May 29th 1912.  She was aged seventy-two and had suffered a long illness.  The two other foundresses died during her term in office – Mother Catherine on March 6th 1887 and Mother Elizabeth on December 5th 1888.

Convent Visiting Times:

Open:  Monday to Saturday    (10.00 a.m.  to  4.00 p.m.)
Closed on Sunday and Bank Holidays

Further information on the Poor Clare Sisters can be found on their website: http://poorclaresofperpetualadoration.com/#our-story-1