My first encounter with Sr. Clare Maria was in 2011, when I was beginning my sophomore year of college. I arrived in Spain as a pilgrim, excited to join the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother for their pilgrimage and participation in World Youth Day in Madrid.
Sr. Clare, Courtney McHale, Elisabeth Philip and Julia McCambridge attending World Youth Day in Madrid
My first recollection of Sr. Clare remains one of complete and radical joy. I witnessed her lively faith, day in and out. One could say that she glowed with faith, and was armed with humility. Her smile was captivating, her good humor contagious. Her way of speaking was dynamic as she would always speak about the relationship between faith and life.
She spoke always with conviction. She knew how to be real and crack jokes, while at the same time, her humor was a channel into the mystery and beauty of faith. While my time with Sr. Clare was brief, I realize that her pure example of faith, hope, and charity will continue to call me on to choose joy, that results in a radical and complete gift of self.
I was able to spend about sixteen days with Sr. Clare. During this time, I witnessed her. perseverance, selfless love, incredible good humor, depth of faith. It was her “yes” every day, despite fatigue, temptation for self-pity, or the simple and mundane tasks of daily life. Her conviction to love in every way, at each moment, was and still is inspiring.
I remember it was her smile that seemed to make all the difference. It was not any smile, such as one of passing gesture; rather, it was one that seemed to say, “yes, I know struggles in life. But the greatest agony is to live a life without knowledge or reception of the ardent love of Jesus. It is worth everything.” There are no limits in love.
There is no doubt that Sr. Clare’s pure joy, which is the fruit of her sacrifice, was her way to union with God. For her, life was preparation for eternity.
When I had first received news of her death, I was overcome with sadness, but it was a grief that was also accompanied by a certain peace and even joy. This is because she died as she lived: totally open to the Lord’s will in her life, choosing to only accept His love so that she could share it with others. For this reason, it seems that there is no coincidence that her passing occurred on Good Shepherd Sunday. In her sacrifice she has imitated our Good Shepherd by totally forgetting about herself so that she can give of herself to God and others.
May Sr. Clare pray for us, that we might be able to follow her joyful example in our own lives and choose to be totally open to God’s will, because a life lived for Him is worth everything.