Steve Greene, who ran cross country in high school, vowed that he never again would run unless he was “being chased by a bear.”
He broke that vow to participate in the 13th annual Desert Nun Run at Kiwanis Park on March 5.
“Since this is for the Poor Clares out in Tonopah, that’s a good cause, so I thought, ‘Alright, fine. I’ll strap on the shoes and do another run,’” Greene said.
Greene took second place in the men’s 40-49-year-old division. His wife, Becky, took third in the women’s 40-49 age group. One of their daughters, Avery, was second in girls’ 11-12, and one of their sons, Donovan, won the boys’ 13-14.
“A bunch of us moms who have lots of kids and not a lot of time were training for the 5K and doing our best,” said Becky, who ran with other members of the Sacred Heart Home Educators, a Catholic home-schooling association.
“I’m glad it’s done. I think I’m going to go throw up,” she said, jokingly.
The annual Desert Nun Run raises money to support the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration at Our Lady of Solitude Monastery in Tonopah, affectionately known as the “Desert Nuns.” The Poor Clares are a Roman Catholic religious order of nuns who live a cloistered life focused on prayer and dedicated to Eucharistic adoration — a practice based on the Catholic teaching that once consecrated, the elements of bread and wine used for Holy Communion become the body and blood of Christ.
The order is named for St. Clare of Assisi, a contemporary of St. Francis, who founded a community of women desiring to live in the Franciscan tradition. Founded in France in 1854, the Poor Clares have independent monasteries throughout the U.S. The Tonopah monastery was founded in 2005. Money raised from previous runs supported its building efforts. This year’s funds go toward landscaping.
“We’re six strong, and we have two women in formation,” said Sister John-Mark Maria, the order’s extern nun who acts as a spokeswoman. “Because the monastery is now complete, we are expecting the floodgate doors to open for vocations.”
There was even a popup confessional at the park.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, last year’s became a virtual run. The nuns mailed out T-shirts to registrants, who then submitted photos of themselves participating. One family in California sent photos with the ocean in the background. Another submitted photos on horseback.
After the hiatus, more than 1,000 were on hand at Kiwanis on March 5.
“It’s been something that we’ve been striving for, to have some normalcy back in life, both within our community and with the greater community,” Sister John-Mark Maria said. “It’s such a great event to bring people to know about the Lord and that there’s sisters in Arizona that are praying for them.”
Runners Jen Bradley and Christine Patterson, with their families, share an attraction to the run’s communal gathering.
“We’ve been doing it for years,” Bradley said. “It’s such a nice Catholic event, and you’re around so many other faithful Catholics. It’s just a good community event.”
During the run, Bradley and Patterson both donned T-shirts representing LifeRunners, an international running group.
“By wearing the shirts to the run, we’re able to evangelize,” said Patterson. “Lots of people comment on them, and it brings up conversation about the pro-life community and supporting them more.”
Although several of the Desert Nuns made a rare excursion from their monastery, they didn’t run. Their absence in the field was offset by members of the Servants of the Plan of God, another community of Catholic sisters that serve at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Parish in Tempe.
“They have a beautiful vocation,” Sister Monica Nobl said of the Desert Nuns.
She added that participating was a way of “showing our faith through sports.”
Sister May Olanolan adapted her veil with a white baseball cap to keep out the sun during her run.
“I love running with my habit — the habit is part of our identity, and we want to show our faith,” she said. “I want to show we are consecrated women, and we’re going show the beauty of the Church for anyone to see it. I don’t want to take it away, even for a run.”
The Very Rev. Don Kline, pastor of St. Bernadette Catholic Parish in North Scottsdale and vicar forane overseeing Catholic parishes in the Diocese of Phoenix’s Northeast Deanery, has emceed the run almost every year from its inception.
“I truly believe that the world needs to experience the incredible mission that is the Poor Clares and support them because the world has lost its focus,” Kline said. “The Poor Clares have a way of keeping us on track on what is truly important and good and beautiful.”