Sister Anne Condon lived much of her long, joyful, prayerful life apart from the world. But the cloistered nun saw more of the world, and helped more of its people, than most ever will.
Sister Anne died early on the morning of Jan. 11, just after the community of Franciscan Poor Clares she helped start celebrated its 62nd anniversary. She was 102, filled with gratitude to the end.
“If people only knew how wonderful it is to be a Poor Clare,” she used to say, “the world would be filled with Poor Clare monasteries.”
The Poor Clares are a contemplative order devoted to prayer, simplicity and hard work. Sister Anne — an adventurous and curious spirit — found herself called to that life after a crisis of faith in high school.
It was a calling that would take her from Minnesota, where she and five other sisters founded a Poor Clare monastery in Bloomington in 1954, and send her halfway around the world.
In 1960, Archbishop Harold Henry asked the Bloomington Poor Clares to help establish a monastery in South Korea. When the new monastery opened in the early 1970s, Sister Anne was one of the first volunteers.
“God asks, and that’s where you go,” said Sister Helen Weier, another of the community’s founders who traveled to South Korea.
For several years, the sisters worked to get the monastery on Jeju Island up and running. They produced wine for the entire archdiocese. They ran a small dairy — until they realized that calving season is not compatible with a monastery prayer schedule and switched over to farming aloe. The Minnesota nuns returned home after a few years, leaving behind a thriving South Korean community, her sisters said.
Back home, Sister Anne was an avid gardener who experimented with composting in the 1950s, long before it became popular. She worked for decades to make the barren lands around the convent fertile, planting thousands of pine trees around the convent garden and the surrounding neighborhood.
She prized education, and launched a study program for contemplative sisters at the then-College of St. Teresa in Winona, Minn.
“She would say, ‘The mind and the heart go together,’ ” said Sister Caroline Berres, another of the community’s founders.
Sister Anne, a talented weaver, created tapestries for the convent chapel and stoles for the priests. She continued working at her loom, an hour a day, long after arthritis had begun to cripple her neck.
Born Bernice Condon on June 10, 1913, in Minneapolis, Sister Anne was the middle child of nine born to Anne and Jeremiah Condon. She is survived by 11 sisters of St. Clare and by several generations of Condons.
At her funeral, her coffin was draped in a pall she wove years ago — she joked at the time she wove it that she hoped she wouldn’t be the first person to lie under it. As it happened, she was. But only because her death is the first in the six decades since the monastery’s founding.
Her community grieves the loss of its sister, her smile and the comforting advice she was always ready to offer visitors.
“They would come to visit, and Sister Anne would fill them with wisdom and foresight,” sister Caroline said.
In her eulogy for her longtime friend, Sister Helen wrote: “Sweet Anne … would say to each of us here today, ‘I love you so much, and I care so much for you and your families. I thank you for walking with me, for the many years we have shared, for the care you have all given me. I will continue to be with you. I ask you to be mindful of me.’ ”