Sister Marie-Claire Soucy certainly fits the definition of a citizen of the world. Born in Lowell, Mass., in 1938, in her 60 years as a Sister of Providence she has lived in Yakima, Spokane and Seattle, Wash.; in Montreal, Quebec; in Comodoro Rivadavia, Còrdoba and Buenos Aires, Argentina; in Orlandia, Brazil; in Etam Kuma and Koudandeng, Cameroon; and in Rendel, Les Cayes, Sucrerie Henry, and her current residence of Limonade, Cap Haitien in Haiti.
Sister Marie-Claire feels she was born to be a missionary in a foreign country, serving others while learning to adapt to their cultures and languages. “It is a call you either have or you do not,” she has said. “The Sisters of Providence should go to places where nobody wants to go.”
Haiti, where she spent most of her years in ministry, is one of those places. It has intense poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, malnourishment and disease. But she loved her ministry there, and especially the people, “who lack in material goods, but are rich in spiritual things.”
How did she find her way from Lowell, Mass., to Haiti? Marie-Claire attended St. Joseph grammar school and St. Joseph High School, where she was taught by the Grey Nuns of the Cross. She entered that religious community but left at the end of the novitiate, and then later met the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a lay institute in her native parish of St. John the Baptist. She entered the institute and was sent on her first missionary trip to Hamilton, Texas.
“At the time, I had no nursing preparation,” she recalled. “I worked in a small hospital going through different sections: lab, x-ray, operating room, etc. One of the oblates with whom I lived was a nurse. She noticed that I had aptitudes to be a nurse.”
After a year in Hamilton, Texas, Sister Marie-Claire was sent to Montreal for nursing school with the Sisters of Providence at Sacred Heart Hospital. After graduation, she received approval to transfer into the Sisters of Providence in 1961.
Sister Marie-Claire professed first vows as a Sister of Providence in 1963, then left for Cuernavaca, Mexico, to learn Spanish. On her way to the mission in Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina, she visited the Sisters of Providence in Chile. Sister Marie-Claire made her final vows in Canada in 1968.
In 1975 she was sent to Cameroon, Africa, where she served as a nurse director in a clinic in the bush, where there was no physician. She also served as a midwife, delivering more than 1,000 babies. She remained there for three years and then departed in 1978 for Haiti. Her lengthy ministry in Haiti included serving as a nurse, a doctor, a secretary to the Bishop, and a veterinarian!
After decades of ministering abroad, Sister Marie-Claire is now settled into retirement at St. Joseph Residence in Seattle.