Each community in the Poor Clare Federation is autonomous, even though we follow the same rule. The same simple joyful family spirit prevails, yet there is different emphasis on various aspects of our life. The origins of each monastery can influence this. This is especially so for the Drumshanbo Community which has a history of transferring from the Third Order of St Francis to the second order, the Poor Clare’s in 1973. This was a most logical move as we were already living an enclosed life in strict poverty and reciting the full Divine Office and observing Perpetual Adoration.
In Drumshanbo, there is the emphasis on living the Eucharistic life with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the spirit of reparation. This can be found outlined in the prayer composed by Mother St. Joseph which each sister says at the beginning of the time of Adoration (See Prayers)
Little in their wildest dreams did three young English women imagine that when they answered God’s call to leave all and to follow him they would eventually end up becoming a shining light of hope and comfort in a remote part of the North West of Ireland.
They were to be the first religious community in Ireland to establish Perpetual Adoration. This practice has continued unbroken to the present day. Countless people come to pray with the Drumshanbo community and to seek the prayers of the sisters either at the convent door or by writing.
Bessie Law and Mary Ann Hayes were Anglicans. Bessie who became Mother Elizabeth, had become disillusioned with the bright social life that surrounded her youth, and with her close friend Mary Ann Hayes, (Sr. Catherine) they decided to found a small Anglican Community of Sisters in 1850.
However a year later, October 1851, both were received into the Catholic Church. Shortly afterwards they were joined in their vision by Frances Horne (Mother St. Joseph) a 19 year old Catholic, who also had leanings towards religions life
Initially, the three joined the secular Franciscans as Tertiaries. Under the guidance of Cardinal Wiseman, they went to Paris to begin their formal religious formation in the Franciscan Convent of St. Elizabeth, 40 Rue St. Louis-au Moruis.
On completion of their Novitiate they returned to London where they made their first Foundation in Halton Rd. They called themselves The Sisters of the Third Order of Penance of St. Francis. Their chief Apostolate was prayer for the conversion of England.
The early days were difficult. They were forced to move several times and eventually accepted an invitation to make their foundation in Ireland in Gorey. Later, circumstances forced the community to seek a new location.
Finally, nine sisters arrived in Drumshanbo in 1864, a quiet town nestling on the shores of Lough Allen surrounded by majestic mountains. They quickly took root and flourished. The townspeople, poor as they were, gave them a warm welcome and to this day have continued to support the community generously.
Marian and Fanny Grattan, grand daughters of Henry Grattan joined the community in those early days. They had a considerable influence on the development of the community. Marian later became Mother Agnes. Due to poor health, Fanny could not join her but generously supported the community by giving all her inheritance.
Over the years the community grew in numbers until eventually Divine Providence ordained that the time had come to inaugurate Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Mother St. Joseph was the instrument God used for this mission, which commenced on 25th March 1870 and has continued to the present day.
The community lived out their hidden and silent life of prayer, penance and Perpetual Adoration until Vatican 11.
In 1964 the old Chapel used since the foundation had to be demolished. In 1966 the community had the joy of the present chapel being consecrated.
The community changed from the Third of St Francis to the Second Order of St Francis (Poor Clare’s) on the feast of St. Clare 11th August 1973. This change made no substantial difference to the way of life. It brought a new dimension - the spiritual support of the wider family.
In 1991 changes were made to the chapel to encourage the participation of the laity in all the liturgies. The laity from the locality welcomed this enthusiastically, and considered it a great privilege to be able to participate in all the community prayers, the Eucharist, the Hours of the Divine Office and Perpetual Adoration. The laity have a separate rota, independent of the community rota. The chapel is a centre of prayer for this part of the west of Ireland.Stature of St. Clare.
In 1992, a small community of Sisters of Mercy came to live in the Convent Lodge attached to the Monastery. They look after the external needs of the Poor Clare’s, work in the Parish, and are responsible for the self catering Retreat house which is next to the monastery.