In 1970, six sisters from the Abbey Our Lady of Nazareth at Brecht started a new foundation. In 1981, the Priory of Our Lady of Klaarland became an autonomous monastery.
For the first 5 years, the six founding sisters lived in a former conference center in the district of Kiewit in Hasselt. It was a period of experimenting and finding things out. In 1975 they found a manor farm in Bocholt-Lozen, as definitive location for their community. The foundresses shared a longing for simplicity of life in a small community and a friendly atmosphere, in accordance with the spirit of Vatican II.
Growth and expansion
Soon after it’s foundation, the community knew a long period of stability, and it took some hard work to survive. However, this tough time is inseparable from the present, which is full of flowering and growth: counting eight members around 1995, the community grew into eighteen members now. This rapid growth necessitated the expansion of the buildings. In 1978 and 1979, a church and a part of the cloister had already been added to the original manor farm. In 2004, some extra rooms for sisters were built and the monastic square was completed. From 2008 to 2011, a great expansion of the complex was achieved: a new guest house, a new residence for families and small groups (De Klare Bron), a new library and a new access road. The workshops were also enlarged and partially renovated and seven new rooms for sisters were added.
On 21 May 1996, seven Cistercian monks were murdered in Tibhirine in Algeria. A major event that unexpectedly affected the small community of Klaarland. When the shock about the assassination touched the world, many people within the Cistercian Order felt they must do ‘something’. The first impulse was to populate the monastery in Algeria again, and this idea gained immediately a lot of enthusiasm. Brothers and sisters from different countries applied for being sent to Tibhirine at the Abbot General, Dom Bernardo Olivera. He asked one of the sisters of Klaarland, who at that time was councilor of the Abbot General in Rome, to act as coordinator. Thereby Klaarland became the place to stay for some of the volunteers who had applied for Tibhirine. And so the little community of Klaarland welcomed in the years after 1996 in a short time a number of sisters, among others from Italy and Argentina. Although it turned out that in the end it wasn’t possible to achieve a new foundation in North Africa or the Middle East, for the history of Klaarland this makes no difference. Klaarland had been ‘put on the map’, literally and figuratively, and attracted new sisters.
Finally, after years of waiting, there is hope for the new foundation in the Middle East: In Syria, in the mountains near the border with Lebanon, a small group of sisters from Italy is building a new monastery. In 2011, one of the current sisters of Klaarland went to Syria for six months to provide some help.