U.S. Marines Volunteer at Historic Spanish Convent

U.S. Marines Volunteer at Historic Spanish Convent

U.S. service members with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa pose for a photo with members of the Santa Clara convent in Morón, Spain, April 23, 2015. The sisters dedicated themselves to a path of prayer, simplicity, community and a spirit of joy, while living much of their lives within the compound walls. Photo by Sgt Paul Peterson.

MORÓN, Spain (April 28, 2015) – Nestled away in the city, it's easy to pass by the courtyard entrance that leads into the Santa Clara convent. A small, serene haven for the Poor Clare Sisters of Morón, Spain, the compound has been a staple of the community for nearly five centuries.

Marines and Sailors with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa visited the nuns to help them restore the convent's aesthetic beauty April 23. It's a task that requires near constant maintenance for the sisters, and volunteers from the unit have visited numerous times over the past years.

"It gives the Marines a perspective that maybe they've never had before," said LtCmdr Richard Roe, the unit's chaplain. "They go out on service projects like this and they see the dynamic. They see the impact they're making, and it changes their worldview. They have a sense that they have something to offer, and people appreciate having me around."

The service members tackle a different project each time they visit: scraping away old paint and plastering walls, applying mortar to worn areas and clearing brush from the gardens, or simply applying a fresh coat of thick white paint.

The site is more than a home for the nuns, who dedicate their lives to a path of prayer, simplicity, community and a spirit of joy. The convent is also a hub for their charitable works. 

"One of the ways the Poor Clare Sisters make money and provide for the community is by making baked goods – cakes and cookies," said Roe. They sell those, and the money they make goes back into the community. It's a loving relationship with the people of Morón."

"The nuns are a very loving and accepting group," he continued. "[Our] relationship has really kind of blossomed out of their caring, concern and appreciation for the Marines."

Roe plans to return again to the convent, and set the stage for the unit's next rotation to do the same. 

"Just yesterday I bumped into a Marine who happened to go with us this last week," said Roe. "It was something different, and not what he expected it to be. He just enjoyed it so much, and he wanted me to know the next time we go out he wanted to be there. He wanted to be part of it again."

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