All who are part of the Chiara (Clare) Center ministry are committed to the spirit of St. Clare of Assisi who understood and embraced the gospel vision of St. Francis of Assisi and cast a healing light throughout the world. We dedicate ourselves to revealing Christ’s healing presence by offering hospitality to those seeking peace; providing the environment, experiences and resources for contemplative living; promoting the Franciscan values of peace, reconciliation and justice; forming leaders in the ministry of healing; and developing programs and services to promote a healing spirituality.
Chiara Offreducio (July 16, 1194-August 11, 1253) was a noblewoman whose early faith life was marked by a devotion to prayer and reading of the scriptures. Following her departure from a life of privilege on Palm Sunday (March 17, 1212), she left her family by nightfall to join Francis and his companions. Francis eventually asked Clare to assume leadership of a growing number of women who had been drawn into this new movement in order to live the gospel with a new vibrancy that would rebuild the church of 13th century Europe.
In 2019, we commissioned a portrait of Clare (left) with Felicia Olin, a Springfield, IL artist, and unveiled it on August 9, 2019. It was on that date in 1253 that Pope Innocent IV approved Clare’s Rule. The golden halo indicates Clare’s holiness while the lilies depict her purity. The purple background is symbolic of wisdom, dignity and devotion. Clare is holding the Rule she labored upon for more than 40 years and through four papacies. History reveals that Clare was the first woman to have a Rule written by her own hand and accepted by the Church.
In a spirit of joy, we engage our mission holistically, ecumenically and collaboratively with reverence and compassion.
The Chiara Center logo is set in a circular motif representing wholeness. Light and dark reflect the rhythms of life opening one to God's compassion, healing, and peace. The Tau cross, an ancient Biblical symbol embraced by St. Francis of Assisi, invites one to gaze, consider, contemplate and enter the Mystery.
The Italian form of the name Clare is Chiara, a word that translates to “clear” and “light.” These terms describe perfectly the Chiara Center experience, a place where visitors are filled with feelings of enlightenment and well-being.
THE CHIARA CENTER COOKIE
Jacoba of Settesoli, a young widow, developed maternal feelings toward St. Francis after hearing him speak. She became a follower and expressed her appreciation by baking him almond honey pastries. Years later, she showed her friendship by sewing softer garments for him than he usually allowed himself to wear as his body grew frail.
As Francis was dying, she made him burial clothes, his favorite almond cookies, and a silk kerchief to wipe his face.
Respect for Jacoba's devotion was demonstrated when upon her death, she was buried near Francis in the lower church of the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy.
In tribute to her and the other followers of Francis, many bakeries in Italy still sell these almond pastries.
A community of caring people committed to Franciscan hospitality, our staff creates a place of welcome, quiet, healing, and peace for our guests. Our core values of respect, care, competence, and joy are at the heart of our service.
Before joining us in October 2016, Dan Frachey served 10 years as the Director of Christian Formation at the Church of St. Jude in Rochester, IL. He was also the Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of Sangamon County from 2002 to 2005. Prior to that he was Supervisor of
St. John's Breadline and Holy Family Food Pantry.
Dan holds a bachelor's degree in Business Administration, focused on marketing and small business management, from Western Illinois University. In 2010, he earned a Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies and a certificate in Spiritual Direction from Aquinas Institute of Theology.
Dan serves as the coordinator of Springfield-area Spiritual Directors, serves on the board of the Greater Springfield Interfaith Association, and plays trombone in orchestras for community theater productions.
Melissa Renfro has worked with the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis for more than 30 years, first at
St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, IL, next as an administrative secretary for the Hospital Sisters of
St. Francis, and now as the executive secretary for Chiara Center.