KOKOMO, Ind. — KOKOMO — For most of her life, Sister Mary Bernadette has woken up at the stroke of midnight, stood up from the straw mattress inside her cell, and walked barefoot to the small chapel inside the Monastery of the Poor Clares.
There, she gathers with the 10 other nuns at the monastery, located on the far west side of Kokomo, just outside the city limits.
In the dead of night, the sisters offer up prayers for the sick, suffering and afflicted. They pray for the weak and the powerful. They pray for the famous and the forgotten.
But of all the nuns, Sister Bernadette has been the one praying the longest, the Kokomo Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/1r5tyLO ).
On Sunday, she celebrated her 100th birthday, making her the oldest living and longest serving sister in the Order of Saint Clare - a contemplative order in the Catholic Church founded in the 13th century with monasteries spread across the U.S. and all over the world.
Prayer is what Sister Bernadette does, and she's been doing it in poverty and privacy since she was 18.
She first joined the order in 1932 as a postulate at the monastery in Chicago. She took her first official vows of poverty, obedience and chastity four years later, giving up her birth name, Mary Yarc.
Those vows destined Sister Bernadette to an austere, isolated life.
Poor Clares own nothing. They sleep in small rooms known as cells on straw mats that lay on wooden planks. They don't wear shoes. They don't eat meat. Their only clothing is the simple, brown habit.
Poor Clares wake up at 5 a.m. every day — after their midnight prayer session — to begin a strict regimen of prayer and work. They don't leave the monastery except for medical appointments or other emergencies. When people come to visit, they stay behind a screen to avoid physical contact.