There are 12 contemplative nuns who live a life of prayer and work within the walls of St. Veronica Giuliani Monastery on Jefferson Street in Wilmington.
These Capuchin Poor Clare sisters live apart from the world but their lives are focused on the heart of the world, too.
“We have prayer, presence and peace,” said Sister Mary Immaculate Orozco recently. “We don’t have limits because we are contemplative sisters. We stay hidden but we are very present.”
The sisters’ presence in Wilmington and the world is fortified by their devotion to the Real Presence, the Eucharist.
“The chapel is the best place in the whole monastery because he lives here. He is here,” Sister Immaculate said. “All faiths are invited to come and worship him, especially on holy days and Sundays.”
Bishop Malooly celebrated a Mass Sunday, Dec. 11, in honor of the sisters’ first 25 years in Wilmington.
The monastery started in a small house at 816 Jefferson St. in 1986 after Capuchin Brother Ronald Giannone, executive director of the Ministry of Caring, and then-Wilmington Bishop Robert Mulvee arranged for Poor Clares in the Guadalajara diocese in Mexico to provide sisters for Wilmington.
Sister Maria Elena Romero recalled she was a novice when Brother Ronald visited the Uruapan monastery seeking contemplative sisters to come to the United States to pray for the Ministry of Caring.
“I came with the first group,” Sister Maria Elena said. Ten sisters came. After the row house monastery was officially enclosed on the feast of the Sacred Heart in June 1987, two more sisters arrived from Mexico.
‘Show me a miracle’
Sister Catalina de Maria Bañuelos, also one of the founding Capuchin Poor Clares in Wilmington, recalled the June 26 Mass at the Cathedral of St. Peter and the enclosure ceremony that took place in the monastery’s garden because the house was too small for the bishop, the sisters and their guests to gather.
Sister Catalina also remembered why the monastery was named for St. Veronica.
“Brother Ronald was looking for a house and he couldn’t find any place. He was living then in the same monastery with Father Donatus Tagliente, who was going to be the [monastery’s] first chaplain. Father Tagliente told Brother Ronald to pray to St. Veronica Giuliani,” a 17th-century Capuchin Poor Clare mystic, who was born in Italy.
Brother Ronald still recalls his prayer to St. Veronica.
“I was going to name the monastery after St. Clare. I said to St. Veronica, if it’s really going to be named after you, you’ve got to show me a miracle and the miracle is get me the property. And, boom, I got the property.”
St. Veronica interceded for a very small place, however. The monastery has since expanded onto adjoining property, but its first house only had three bedrooms for the sisters.
“So we had in one room five sisters,” Sister Catalina said, “in one room three, in another room two.
“In the room that was our chapel, we just had a curtain in the place where the Blessed Sacrament was. It was also the work room, the visiting room and the recreation room.”
Twenty-five years later, there’s plenty of room.
“We got the original house and built on to it,” Brother Ronald said. “The monastery chapel, the garden and the wall were added when we had the money.”
The 12 Poor Clares — 10 sisters, a postulant and a novice — begin each day at 5:30 with morning prayers; there’s Mass at 8 a.m. and liturgy of the hours at noon and 3. The chapel is open to the public at 6 a.m. until 9 p.m.
“Everybody is welcome in the presence of the Lord Jesus,” Sister Immaculate said.
When the sisters aren’t in prayer their work includes cooking meals Monday through Friday for the Ministry of Caring’s Mary Mother of Hope Houses II and III.
“They make great food,” Brother Ronald said.
The sisters also wash and do laundry, such as linens used at Ministry of Caring events, but it’s their unceasing prayer life that is the heart of their vocation and the reason the people seek their intercession in prayers.
The Capuchin Poor Clares “are not only a blessing to the Ministry of Caring,” Brother Ronald said, “but to the church in Wilmington and the world.”
“Many people send us letters, phone, every day three or four people call asking for prayers for some sick people, unemployment, for hurt families,” Sister Catalina said. “Also, on the email we receive a lot of requests for prayers and people come to visit. During the weekend there are people who just come to pray.”
“The people have supported us,” Sister Immaculate said. “We live on alms. The people trust and believe in a life of prayer. It’s because of the people, our priests and brothers that we’re here today. They support us.”
Noting the Wilmington skyline that looms over the monastery’s garden, Sister Immaculate said, “all these buildings are so large and the banks are so huge, and this little monastery is, for me, the power of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. His presence and prayer brings peace and hope for the whole diocese and not only for Wilmington, Del., but for the whole world. That’s my intercession all the time.”
Contact the Capuchin Poor Clares capuchinpoorclares.org/ Wilmington. The sisters are also on Facebook at Capuchin Poor Clares Wilmington.