March 2012

St. Clare 800 Years Later: The Fascinating Namesake of Santa Clara University, Santa Clara County, and Santa Clara the City

SANTA CLARA, Calif., March 26, 2012— For centuries, Clare has been depicted as a demure follower of St. Francis. Recent research, however, is revealing an extraordinary woman, who was both a visionary and a leader.

For instance, 800 years before the recent tensions between the Vatican and nuns in the United States, the woman who would one day be known as St. Clare had struggles of her own with the Pope. Clare wanted to define an authentic way for females to pursue a life that included radical poverty and close collaboration with Francis of Assisi and his Brotherhood.

Today, more than 20,000 women throughout the world follow the Form of Life Clare established. 

Daughter of a noble family in Assisi, she became devoted to the journey of St. Francis and the way he “loved the Poor Christ.” In 1212, at the age of 18, she gave away her dowry and ran away from home to join him.

At San Damiano, the small church near the Franciscan brothers where Clare settled, she opened a way for women to live contemplative lives in radical poverty, in mutual respect and love, and in an interdependent community of equals. After Francis’ death, she held firm before Church authorities on the San Damiano sisters’ right to continue to live that way. In the last years of her life Clare composed her own forma vitae, the first female-authored prescription for Christian religious life to receive papal sanction. 

This Palm Sunday (April 1) will mark the 800th anniversary of when Clare di Offreduccio de Favoroni made her escape through a window in her parents’ home to join Francis and the brothers in radical poverty, and celebrates the beginning of the community of Poor Clares.

To mark the anniversary and shed new perspectives on the fascinating namesake of the school, city, and county of Santa Clara, Santa Clara University is holding a series of events.  

Events will include:

* Exhibits which feature artifacts from St. Clare’s life including a replica of the tavola, the medieval wood panel painting depicting the saint and a narrative cycle of her life; a digitalized copy of her Form of Life, which laid out the tenets of the order that she founded. Displays also document collaborative efforts at SCU over the last four years to address the question: “How can Clare of Assisi be a light to us here at Santa Clara University?” 

The exhibit will run in the St. Clare Room and on the Second Floor Learning Commons of the Harrington Library from March 30–June 29, 2012.

* Two plenary lectures as centerpieces of the annual meeting of the Medieval Association of the Pacific:

* Fri., March 30, 1:15 to 2:30 p.m., Professor William Short, OFM (Franciscan School of Theology, Berkeley) will present "Medieval Francis in Modern America: From Assisi to Manhattan."

* Sat., March 31, 2:15 to 3:15 p.m., Professor Catherine Mooney (Weston Jesuit School of Theology, Boston) will present “Clare of Assisi’s Multiple Lives: In History, Hagiography, and Current Scholarship.”

Seating is limited and RSVP to or 408-554-4930 is required.

* Osher Lifelong Learning Institute class, St. Clare and the Poor Clares, taught by Jean Molesky-Poz, Ph.D., SCU Religious Studies Department, Sat., April 26, from 10 a.m. to  3 p.m. 

* A day to Reclaim and Celebrate St. Clare of Assisi, Thursday, May 10. Activities include an afternoon lecture followed by a panel, a reception and an evening concert.

     > Professor William Short, OFM, internationally recognized Franciscan scholar, will speak on recent research that provides new understandings of Saint Clare of Assisi. His talk will be entitled, "Mirror, Mirror on the Cross: Clare of Assissi and her Modern Revival.” A panel of faculty and alumnae respond. St. Clare Room of the Harrington Learning Commons, 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

     > Reception, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

     > St. Clare Vespers Concert. To celebrate Clare's centennial, music director and composer, Leslie La Barre, a SCU alumna, presents the world premiere of her work, St. Clare Vespers Concert, inspired by Saint Clare’s Letters to Agnes of Prague (1234–1253). The orchestral chamber work, conducted by Elisse La Barre ’09, will be performed by Bay Area musicians as well as SCU faculty and students with soloists Nancy Wait-Kromm and Lilliane Crommer (both SCU faculty). The concert at the Mission Church begins at 7:30 p.m.

Media Contact:
Deborah Lohse | | 408-554-5121 (o) | 408-768-6898 (c)