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Two Poor Clare sisters make solemn profession of vows

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Poor Clare Sisters look on during a ceremony. (CT Photo/Colleen Kelley)
Poor Clare Sisters look on during a ceremony. (CT Photo/Colleen Kelley)

By Eileen Connelly, OSU
The Catholic Telegraph

It was with prayer and gratitude that two women made their permanent commitment to life as Poor Clares during separate ceremonies in recent months, supported by their fellow sisters, family members, friends and local Franciscan friars. Both ceremonies took place at St. Clement Parish in St. Bernard. 

While Sisters Luisa Bayate and Vickie Griner’s respective paths to the Poor Clare community in Cincinnati were very different, both women were inspired by the examples of St. Francis and St. Clare and drawn to the order’s mission to pray for the needs of the church, the world and all people.

Poor Clare Sisters Luisa Bayate, left, and Vickie Griner pose for a photo after Sister Vickie’s ceremony. The crown of thorns worn by Sister Vickie is a symbol of her profession. (CT Photo/Colleen Kelley)

The contemplative branch of the Franciscan family, the Order of St. Clare has been present in the United States since 1875. The Cincinnati foundation took place on June 24, 1990, at the invitation of the Franciscan Friars of the St. John the Baptist Province and with approval from Archbishop of Cincinnati Daniel E. Pilarczyk.

For Sister Luisa, who professed her vows Oct. 12, the journey from her native Philippines to Cincinnati was a long one. One of eight children, Sister Luisa was raised in a farming family. She recalls “falling in love” with a picture of St. Francis as a small child and, even then, being inspired by the saint’s desire to do God’s will. Although that same desire never left Sister Luisa, it did seem God was asking her to be patient.

Educated by the Franciscans in high school, her preference would have been to enter a community then, but her mother encouraged her to complete her education first. She earned a degree in fisheries and began a career. In the meantime, she started volunteering in her parish and eventually returned to school to earn her teacher’s certification. It was there that a bulletin board notice regarding the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary caught her attention, and after a period of discernment, she was accepted into the community in 2003, spending a year as an aspirant.

A visiting Poor Clare sister led her to the community where she feels God’s will for her is being fulfilled. As a postulant, she met Sisters Doris Gerke and Mary Pia Malaborbor and eventually requested a transfer to the Cincinnati community. Her visa was granted in September 2010.

It took patience and perseverance to get there, but Sister Luisa can now say of the Monastery of St. Clare, “This is the place I was meant to be.”

Sister Luisa experienced a sense of great joy and affirmation of her own commitment when Sister Vickie professed her solemn vows on April 26.

“Every time there is a profession it is so touching, so emotional and a reminder that someone is giving oneself to the Lord for a lifetime,” she explained.

For Sister Vickie, a convert to Catholicism, the fact that the ceremony took place in the midst of the Easter season made it all the more meaningful.

“It was a blessing and so overwhelming. It was the same spiritual high as when I became Catholic,” she said.

A self described over achiever, Sister Vickie grew up in a family of four, earned a bachelor’s degree in finance, an MBA and Juris Doctor. Drawn to Catholicism, yet wanting to explore what it “means to be Catholic,” Sister Vickie closed her law practice and moved west to New Mexico. She went through RCIA at a local parish and was received into the Catholic Church in 2001.

After moving onto a Navajo Indian reservation, Sister Vickie met and eventually married Louie, whom she describes as “the love of my life.” She also met Oldenburg Franciscan Sister Millie Speed, who was ministering there, along with a number of Franciscan friars, and was inspired by their faith and dedication. Her connection the Poor Clares  came through her sister-in-law who had entered the Poor Clare Colletines in Roswell in the 1970s.

Louie passed away in early 2007 following a heart attack. As she coped with the loss, Sister Vickie’s thoughts turned toward religious life and she realized it was time to finally listen to a call she had experienced before.

Sister Millie helped establish the connection with the Poor Clare community in Cincinnati. Just as with Sister Luisa, Sister Vickie said, “The moment I drove up and entered the chapel, I knew this was the place.”

She entered the community in 2008, and today serves as webmaster and bursar. Sister Luisa responds to prayer requests received through the Poor Clare’s website and ministers as the community’s sacristan.

Sister Vickie said she views the Poor Clares’ ministry in part as being “an oasis of prayer in Cincinnati.

“Our prayers go out into Cincinnati and into the world,” she said. “That’s the beauty of being a Poor Clare, knowing that whatever you do, whether it’s scrubbing the floor or cleaning the carpet, you’re praying for people in the world and, and part of the Franciscan family, building relationships.”

 This article originally appeared in the June 2014 print edition of The Catholic Telegraph.

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