Our History

From Italy to the United States

Mother Mary Maddelena Bentivoglio of the Sacred Heart of Jesus 1834-1905
Mother Mary Maddelena Bentivoglio
of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Countess Anna Bentivoglio was a climber! From the age of five when she climbed onto a ledge in great St. Peter’s in Rome (to the horror of Count and Lady Bentivoglio!), to later life. This was the aim of her life – to climb – she would do so physically and spiritually.

Her yearning for religious life began when she followed her sister, Constance, into the Poor Clares. She longed for more austerity and asked for special penances. Then Pope Pius IX commissioned the two Bentivoglio sisters – Mother Magdalen and her sister Constance – to go to America. They first moved to Marseilles, France, were incorporated into the Poor Clares of the Primitive Rule, then on to the “New World”, arriving on Columbus Day, October 12, 1875. The first established monastery of the Order of Saint Clare was in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1878.

Following her example, today’s Poor Clares endeavor to follow this spiritual climber as they live out their daily life in simplicity and joy.

The Monastery of St. Clare

in Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, then Langhorne)

Old Monastery in Philadelphia
2028 Girard Avenue

The Poor Clares have been present in the Keystone State since 1916. But what a process in getting established!

The experience of rejection was a familiar one for Mother Magdalen Bentivoglio, and a presentiment of it came to her again when she and Mother Constance opened the first house at 3627 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, on August 10, 1876. Archbishop James Wood and benefactors fixed up the small house and put in furniture. All went well for about 2 months, but then came the news that they must vacate the house. On November 29, 1876, Mother Magdalen returned the keys and went to the Cathedral to pray for Philadelphia, and for those who did not believe that this country was ready for a cloistered contemplative community such as the Poor Clares.

In 1915, after 8 monasteries had been founded in the United States, word came to the Poor Clares that “someone was interested in building a monastery for them in the city of Philadelphia”. The Abbess of the Boston Monastery, Mother Mary Charitas Burns, received word of this request and on March 25, 1916, Archbishop Edmund Prendergast officially received the Sisters into Philadelphia. They moved into a tiny house at 1904 Girard Avenue. This ninth foundation, made from Boston, was dedicated on October 4, 1917. In 1918, the sisters moved up the road to 2028 Girard Avenue, turning a Brownstone mansion into a monastery! A chapel was built, and additional homes were purchased as the community expanded. This “temporary monastery” in Philadelphia served the sisters for 60 years, and as the building aged and the quiet streets became a mere memory, all realized it was time to move. In fact, in 1956, the search for a piece of property began.

Langhorne Monastery
Langhorne Monastery

The choice was narrowed down to our current site located on 17 acres of land in Langhorne, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, adjacent to St. Mary’s Medical Center. The cornerstone was laid in 1976 and the monastery was officially dedicated on September 8, 1977 by Cardinal John Krol. We continue our prayerful remembrance of the many generous benefactors who provided for our needs and whose support allowed us to build our monastery which is now home to 10 sisters.

Front of Monastery
Front of Monastery