My name is Teresa Christmas, I'm from Tampa, Florida. I´m 23 years old and I graduated from the University of Florida last year.
My first encounter with Sister Clare and the Home of the Mother was when I was 13 in a Home of the Mother summer camp at Camp Cherry Lake, Florida. That was the first time I had ever seen sisters that were young, full of life, playing sports. We were playing soccer and basketball, and they played pranks on us. It was incredible because you always hear stories about nuns on TV and on movies, and they make fun of them. They are always supposed to be mean and cruel, but these sisters were not. It was crazy, it was really cool.
What were my first memories and impressions of Sister Clare? I remember that she told us her vocation story and that she had been an actress. You see actresses all the time on movies and you think that they are really amazing and they have all their life planned out. The fact that Sr. Clare would give all that up for God was really impressive. When I was little, because it was all about fame and fortune, I wanted to be a great soccer player. The fact that Sister Clare gave that all up to become a nun was pretty impressive. But more than that, it was her laughing, her singing, and her talking (and she knew different accents)… she always had us cracking up. It was fun.
Did Sister Clare help me spiritually? Yes, definitely. When I went to Spain, we were on a pilgrimage around Spain. We had a lot of hours on the bus. Once in a while, Sister Clare would sit next to me and we would talk for a long time about different things. At one point, she asked me why wouldn’t I just enter right then, [as a sister]. I told her I was still discerning and I wanted to make sure this was the right thing; I just kept feeling in my heart that I needed to wait. She told me a story about demons and how they would get together around a poker table during a party. They would say, “We have to figure out new ways to tempt people.” The first demon said, “Let’s go to the humans and tell them to drink and go partying all night.” The others said, “No, no, no, some of them are too smart for this. We have to get the “good” ones, the ones who go to church.” Another demon said, “How about if we tell them to believe in fashion and be attractive.” And all the rest said, “No, no, they won´t fall for that one. The last demon said, “How about if we tell them that they can wait, they have time.” All the demons got quiet and then they said, “Yes, yes, we can tell them that they have time.” And Sr. Clare said to me “You need to think about that, you really need to think about that”.
About a couple months later, I was sitting in my apartment when I received news that one of my friends, who was a really good Christian, had just passed away. Sr. Clare’s story started resonating in my head, and I realized that I was telling myself that I had all of this time to wait, and I don’t. That is why I decided to go on a mission trip to Peru.
I was also with Sr. Clare during the World Youth Day, 2011. I have a hard time remembering specific stories, but mostly what I remember, was the way that she lived, day in, day out. For me, it’s easy to live that way for a certain amount of time. During that trip we were with her all day long, from the beginning to the end. It was an incredible experience just watching her because she was so holy, full of life, full of love, full of laughter. She automatically draws everybody around her. She was the translator for the English speakers. At first she would translate everything from Spanish into English, but then she would start making stuff up. She would tell stories and narrated everything that was happening. The she went from there to have us all do things, because we had headphones on and could only hear her. She would say, “Go form a single file line behind that person in the blue shirt.” We all did it and suddenly there were 20 girls behind the guy with the blue shirt. Or would be walking along and she would say, “Everybody, start jumping up and down and spin in circles.” We were in the middle of a street in Spain and there are girls randomly jumping up and down.
She knew so much about the Faith. When we were in the Basilicas, she would constantly talk about everything that we were seeing. There was always a mob of girls following Sister Clare, who was talking into a microphone.
I found about the earthquake because I had been hearing stories all day long on the TV. I work at a nursing home and the TV is always on. That’s how I get all my news. I got on Facebook that night and saw something about the sisters and the need to pray for the Home of the Mother. And I said, “Pray for the Home of the Mother? Why?” I started reading more and I got on my email. There were updates from the Sisters that said that one of the sisters was still trapped inside with five girls. My heart started racing, I started getting very upset. I didn’t have any other information, so I called one of the family friends, Mrs. Hernandez. She told me it was Sister Clare and I started crying. I called my Mom and we both started crying. I had been discerning for a couple of months about going on a medical mission. The Sisters had asked me to go to Ecuador with them and I was excited. I wanted to see Sister Clare and Sister Therese, because I hadn’t seen them in many years, but I thought I had to go on a medical mission, and not to Ecuador. But after I heard about Sister Clare, I really felt her presence in my heart, telling me, “This is where I need you to go. This is where you are wanted. This is where you are needed. “
I am going to Ecuador on June 3rd to June 14th. We are going to go and help the sisters. What do I expect from this trip? I try and not make any expectations because I don’t want to constrain myself to what God may be asking from me. But I hope that I can do good, that I can help out… But mostly, I hope that I don’t let my pride or my own feelings stand in the way of what He may be calling me to do. Because I maybe think that I am going there to do some sort of thing related to medical, but he may be calling me to something related to teaching. I just hope that I can make Sister Clare proud, she won’t be disappointed or sad.
Am I afraid of going to Ecuador? I am not afraid of that, but I am afraid of not living it to the fullest potential.