Sister Clare Mary
Growing up in Yakima, Wash., in a deeply Catholic family, my childhood years with five sisters are filled with fond memories. I remember a time when I was a preschooler and Grandpa took me on a walk in the woods. Being a rather silent man, he saw a small wildflower and stooped over to smell it. Then he motioned for me to do the same. At that moment, I became aware of a silent Presence. God was there. God was everywhere! This experience was the root of my vocational call.
In the fifth grade, we celebrated All Saints’ Day with a parade of saints. All of the students at St. Paul’s grade school dressed up in a costume of their patron saint. I felt so proud to be draped in a white sheet as St. Clare of Assisi. From that moment on, I knew that I would be a religious sister.
Our whole growing up revolved around parish life: daily Mass, weekly confession, family rosary, the junior Legion of Mary, which I led; and the Sodality. I loved school and learning came easy for me. Once summer came, our family moved to our cabin in the White Pass mountains. We enjoyed swimming, boating, fishing, water-skiing and hiking. When it rained, we read books and played Monopoly and card games.
Sat at the feet of Fr. Daniel Berrigan
When I stepped into the door of Providence Heights in Issaquah, Wash., to become a postulant, I knew I was home! I loved everything about the novitiate. In 1968 I received my bachelor of arts degree in mathematics and got my first teaching position at the archdiocese’s Blanchet High School in North Seattle. I taught math and religion for two years.
Then I was sent to Fordham University to get my master of arts degree in religious education (1970-71). This prepared me for the ministry that was my heart’s desire. I’m sure our leaders sent me to study in New York to broaden my narrow background. Although it was difficult, I am so grateful for the experiences of this time. Remember the Plowshares and the war in Vietnam? I had the privilege of sitting at the feet of Father Daniel Berrigan, SJ, absorbing his pacifist life. I read “Resistance and Contemplation,” by James Douglass, and most of Thomas Merton’s books. These books had a great influence on my life, especially on my prayer.
When I returned to Seattle, parishes were beginning to hire directors of religious education (DREs). I was hired at St. Michael’s Parish in Olympia, Wash. As Sisters, we had a wonderful community spirit and creativity was high. I worked on the archdiocesan committee for the preparation of Guidelines for Reconciliation.
Alaska’ dark and cold took its toll
After three short years, I was elected to the provincial council as director for religious development. A number of our sisters asked me to companion them in their spiritual lives. I taught scripture and also liberation theology, which was new to our sisters. Part of my work was serving on the board of directors for our institutional ministries. There, I felt completely out of my element!
In 1977, I went to Anchorage, Alaska, to serve as parish administrator and director of religious education for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish. After only seven months, I left Anchorage abruptly. The long, dark, winter cold and the four hours of sunlit days took their toll on me, and I spiraled into a deep depression.
When I was able to return to parish ministry, I chose to serve at St. Brendan’s Parish in Bothell, Wash., as director of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). We had large classes of adults who entered the church each year. This was a most exciting time in Church work.
From 1985 to 1995, Sisters Margaret Botch, Judy George, Kathryn Rutan and I were given permission to live together as an intentional community with a contemplative lifestyle. During these years in Spokane, we each continued to live out our active ministries. Mine was spiritual direction and retreats. These were years of learning how to be a contemplative in action. This was immediately played out in my next ministry. Sister Roberta Rorke invited Sister Chloe Keitges and me to join her in a living community in East Yakima. One of our main ministries was to pray for the gangs present there. At that time, there were gang killings almost every week.
Drawn to serve in developing world
In 2003, I was appointed vocation director for Mother Joseph Province. That year, my mother required more special care, so together we moved into St. Joseph Residence, where I continued the vocation ministry until 2009. Mother died January 8, 2010.
In 2010, I was part of the delegation to El Salvador for the 30th anniversary of Archbishop Oscar Romero’s assassination. Afterwards, I stayed for a three-month, cross-cultural experience. I sensed God drawing me to live in the developing world, and soon moved to the Philippines. My experience of multicultural, spiritual accompaniment with persons from most countries in Asia and the Pacific Islands was filled with rich blessings I never could have imagined.
Now, I’m back in the States and am in transition for ministry. I’m not finished yet. My spirit has bigger dreams.
Yes, it’s Jubilee time! Provident God, I thank You for all.