Tuesday 17 July 2018

Tributes to Irish 'superstar' nun who gave up acting to work with the poor

Sister Clare Theresa Crockett with a pupil at the Home of the Mother order school in Ecuador. Photo: Home of the Mother order/PA
Sister Clare Theresa Crockett with a pupil at the Home of the Mother order school in Ecuador. Photo: Home of the Mother order/PA
The Home of the Mother order of a school in Playa Prieta, Ecuador. Photo: PA/Home of the Mother order
Limerick nun Sr Therese Ryan survived the deadly 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Ecuador as her colleague, Sr Clare Theresa Crockett from Derry, lost her life trying to save several children. Sr Crockett (33) has been described as ‘a superstar, loved by everybody’ by her devastated family
Sister Clare Theresa Crockett with a student at the school in Ecuador. Photo: PA/Home of the Mother order

Greg Harkin

An Irish "superstar" nun died "in the line of duty" in an earthquake, friends and family members have said.

Sister Clare Theresa Crockett (33), from the Brandywell area of Derry city, was among more than 350 people who died when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck in Ecuador at the weekend.

A second Irish nun, Sr Therese Ryan (36), who was born in Limerick but lived in Monaghan, was the first pulled from the rubble in their building in Playa Prieta with a fractured ankle.

Sr Clare had been with her order for the past 15 years, entering religious life when she was just 18, after giving up plans to be an actress. She had appeared as an extra alongside actor Jimmy Nesbitt in the Paul Greengrass-directed film 'Bloody Sunday'.

She gave guitar lessons to children who attended a school run by the nuns and was known for her love of music.

"She was a superstar. Everybody loved her," said her cousin Emmet Doyle.

"She died as she lived, helping others."

Her spiritual director and personal friend, Derry priest Fr Roland Coulhoun, said her death had devastated all who knew her.

He said she joined the order in Spain, had gone to the US and returned to Ecuador a couple of years ago for a second time.

"The terrible news has devastated everyone who knew her," he said.

"This is a young girl who gave her life to God and died for the Gospel. She literally died in the line of duty. She was a joyful girl, I've known her since she was a teenager. She was a beautiful person.

"I'll remember the joy that she brought to her youth group and the enthusiasm she showed for her vocation to religious life.

"It's counter-cultural to join a religious order for a young girl and she embraced it. We'll remember her with such affection. She was 33 but had the vitality of a teenager to the end.

"We're devastated she has lost her life in such a tragic way."

Sr Clare joined the order almost by accident after going to Spain for what she thought was a holiday when she was 18 and it turned out to be a pilgrimage.

"I liked to party a lot. My weekends, since I was 16/17, consisted of getting drunk with my friends. I wasted all my money on alcohol and cigarettes," she wrote later. "I tried to get out of it, but my name was already on the ticket, so I had to go.

"I now see that it was Our Lady's way of bringing me back home, back to Her and Her Son," she added.

Sr Theresa, the head of the Order, based in Cantabria in northern Spain, said last night: "Sr Clare had spent nearly 15 years of her life in consecration to the Lord.

"She was a generous sister with a special gift for reaching out to children and young people."

She said the nuns had been working on helping flood victims in recent weeks.

Sr Clare became a nun in 2010 after eight years' study. Her friend, Sr Kristin Tenreiro, said: "When she was asked to work in Ecuador, she knew that there were dangers, but, despite that, she saw it as God's will. She gave herself to God and to the poor and the needy. I will remember her with a huge smile on her face, singing, writing songs and I will remember her jokes.

"She was a very funny sister and wherever she was, the entire group was laughing."

Five postulates - or trainee nuns - also died when the building collapsed during Saturday's powerful earthquake. They were named as Sisters Jazmina, Mayra, Maria Augusta, Valeria and Catalina. Two other nuns were rescued.

An order spokeswoman last night said Sr Therese suffered a broken ankle but had been released from hospital and was "recovering well".

Irish Independent

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