Sr. Mary Donovan, USA: It was after I met her, that I discovered that being holy and being cool was compatible and a wonderful way to live.
The first time I met Sr. Clare was back in 2005. I went to Spain for the summer with the intention of entering as a candidate. Sr. Clare was a novice at the time. She was one of the first Sisters I met and was able to talk to because I didn’t know Spanish yet and there were only a few Sisters who spoke English. I have to admit, though, that it was a challenge in and of itself to understand her at first because of her strong Irish accent. I remember thinking: "Who is this hilarious Sister with such a crazy Irish accent?" "Holy coolness" – that was my first impression of her. It was after I met her, that I discovered that being holy and being cool was compatible and a wonderful way to live. She had a great sense of humor, and over time I discovered her humor was not just one of her many gifts, but rather a virtue: joy. I bear witness to the fact that she practiced it even in very trying circumstances. With effort, she was able to turn many difficult situations into joyous ones.
One particular incident comes to mind. In 2008, we both helped run one of our summer camps in Ocala, Florida (USA). It was one of my first summer camps as a professed Sister and I distinctly remember the example of Sr. Clare’s joy and above all, her apostolic zeal and love for souls. One evening, some of the girls came to us with a serious case of “homesickness.” Some of them had never been away from their home for more than a night or two, and that evening, while we were eating dinner, all of the sudden, we started to hear one girl cry… then two… then three…etc., all accompanied by a unanimous, “I miss my mommy…” and “I want to go home.” I remember thinking, “Oh, dear. What are we going to do now?” I don’t know how she did it, but in a matter of minutes, not only did Sr. Clare get the girls to stop crying; she had them all cracking up and singing songs. It was an instant cure for their “homesickness.”
Another night, we finished eating dinner and all the girls (and Sisters) were completely exhausted from the activities and heat (anyone who has spent summer in Florida knows how unbearable the heat can be). You could tell that there was a general decline in the atmosphere of the camp. The girls started complaining, refused to participate in the camp songs, and we weren’t sure how we were going to turn things around. Honestly, I think that day all the Sisters had the temptation to just call it a night and send the girls to bed. But right when things looked the worst, I remember seeing Sr. Clare get up from the table with a face of determination, grab something to use as a microphone (I think it was a spoon or something), and along with Sr. Grace, she was able to capture everyone’s attention with a live show of “Life with the Home.” She called the girls “on stage” to be interviewed, had them sing songs karaoke style, told jokes, interacted with “radio listeners” who “phoned in” live, and anything else entertaining you could think of – all improvised, of course. The whole situation blew me away because I realized that it could not have been easy for Sr. Clare to take that initiative. She was just as tired as the rest of us, if not more. But I think that in that moment, as on many occasions, she saw that the Lord was asking her to do something and without the slightest hesitation, she responded with total generosity.
At the end of that same summer camp, the ranger in charge of the camp site had to revise everything. We walked around the grounds while he told us everything that was left to do as far as cleaning up and putting things in order. If something wasn’t the way he expected, we had to clean it again. Let’s just say that “Ranger Al” was not exactly a very pleasant person to deal with. I remember at one point, he stopped and told us right out that we had to mop the entire dining hall again because it wasn’t clean enough in his opinion. At that point, we couldn’t believe it. I looked at Sr. Clare and could tell she was upset, but she didn’t say a word. When he left, with an expression of determination on her face, she grabbed the mop and started mopping frantically, with such exaggerated movements that just looking at her made us all crack up. That was Sr. Clare! Even in a difficult situation, she could make you laugh and forget the problem.