Sr. Annemaria Naiman, USA:
Her concern for us to live that little sacrifice with joy was stronger than her.
I met the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother in October of 2006, when they had just founded a community of Sisters in Jacksonville, Florida, and Sr. Clare was in that first community. I had arrived in Jacksonville in August of that same year to start studying at the University of North Florida. The Sisters, upon arriving in Jacksonville, wanted to get to know some young people in the area and invited the few girls that they knew over to their house for coffee. They called it “Sisterbucks,” you know, like Starbucks, but with the Sisters. They contacted the leaders of the UNF’s campus ministry to invite the girls, and that is how I found out about it. I wasn’t able to make it to the first “Sisterbucks” because I had another commitment, but I remember that when the other girls came back, they could not stop talking about a young Irish nun who made them laugh to the point of tears. I went to the following “Sisterbucks” and did not miss one ever since. Of the four Sisters that formed the community, Sr. Clare was the only one whose first language was English. The others still had to work on their English a bit, so Sr. Clare did most of the talking and she quickly became our reference with the Sisters. I lived in Jacksonville for four years, and in the last year and a half, I was a candidate of the Servant Sisters. Sr. Clare was assigned to the community in Jacksonville for those four years. Most of my memories of her are from that time period, which is when I spent most of my time with her.
In another article, I mentioned the attitude Sr. Clare had when she participated in meetings, apostolic activities and practically all her conversations, which was “What can I offer to those around me?” Now what comes to my mind are several occasions in which she maintained this criteria even when she was not feeling too well physically. In this article, I am going to tell just one of these stories and save the rest for later.
During those first years of the community of Servant Sisters in Jacksonville, we usually would organize a two-day walking pilgrimage with youth from Jacksonville to the Shrine of Our Lady of la Leche in St. Augustine, Fl, about 20 miles away. I have some very fond memories of that first pilgrimage. I was 20 years old, and a member of the Home of the Mother Youth. At the end of the first stage of the pilgrimage, we stayed the night in the house of a friend of the Sisters who lived about half way between Jacksonville and St. Augustine. That night, all of us- Sisters, candidates and girls- were tired, had sore muscles and several had blisters on their feet. We finished the day’s journey covered in sweat, our clothes stuck to us and rubbing against our skin, our faces sunburnt… pretty much what one experiences in any walking pilgrimage. It was nothing out of the ordinary, but for those of us who were not used to these activities, well it was kind of difficult.
That night, Sr. Clare with the sense of humor that always characterized her, spent the whole evening walking from one side of the living room to the other like a cowboy… because she was unable to move in any other way after the long hike. She imitated the voices of the cowboys in the old western films, saying that she was John Wayne and making everyone laugh. Then she imitated how each one of us started to walk after a few miles. I’m sure she would have preferred to remain seated, which is what the rest of us girls did, but her concern for us to live that little sacrifice with joy was stronger than her.