By Sheila Eldred
This article originally published in “Minnesota Monthly.” Used with permission.
WINSTED, MN Mother Mary Clare Roufs is the founder and Mother Superior of the Handmaids of the Hearts of Jesus, a convent of 15 young sisters in New Ulm. Although several orders of young nuns (Roufs is 36) have popped up around the US, today there are still more nuns over the age of 90 than under the age of 60.
Following is an interview with Clare Roufs, the daughter of Frank and Terry Roufs of Winsted, detailing why she became a nun, and what it’s like to live in a convent:
“I grew up in a good Catholic home in Winsted, and went to the University of St. Thomas where I was intending to study business but ... then I started to meet young adults living the faith. On a road trip in New York I had a friend who had become a brother, and he said, Why don’t you come to Mass? There were all these religious brothers, and all these religious sisters, and they were all under the age of 30. . . . And as I was with them and it was so joyful and beautiful I just experienced an invitation to be all Jesus’. And everything in me just said yes.”
“I ended up joining the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal in the Bronx. I loved the life, I loved the sisters, but something in me wasn’t at home. . . . I came back to Minnesota, and as soon as I got back it was like, Oh, this is home.”
“The Lord put it on my heart to ask a few girls to consider living this new life with me. Well, I thought, who’s going to say yes?! You know? [But] I asked three different girls, and they took it to prayer, and within a week they all came back and said, ‘Yeah. I think this is what God wants me to do.’”
“One thing I see with young people who thought they didn’t want to be a sister is they didn’t want to be an old woman living in an apartment by herself. There’s nothing attractive about that. But if you say God is calling you to something great, which is going to be hard but also rich and beautiful, they will leave their lives for that. There is something hard about that, but that’s actually why it’s worth living.”
“At breakfast and dinner we talk, and lunch is silent. You can go for a run, take a nap, read a book or just have some space. And one day a week is a day of silence and prayer. So from 8:30 until 5:30 on Thursdays, you have an elongated space for prayer, reading, piano, poetry, exercise you can go for a longer run. The Blessed Sacrament is exposed all day for adoration.”
“At 6:30 every morning we go for a Rosary Walk. We walk a mile while praying the rosary. It’s beautiful and I know my sisters are getting at least a mile walk every day. Even in the winter. And then we’re back here for Mass at 7 a.m.”
“You give up everything. You give up your Facebook, you give up your cell phone, using the Internet. . . . But this is not a place to get away from the world. It is normal for girls to come and for girls to go, and that’s OK. We have an average of two to three join a year and maybe one leave a year, and that’s good.”