Belfast Telegraph

Ecuador earthquake: 'She was a superstar - everyone loved her' - tributes flow for Northern Ireland nun Sister Clare Theresa Crockett

By Jonny Bell

Heartfelt tributes have been made to the Northern Ireland nun killed after a massive earthquake hit Ecuador over the weekend.

Sister Clare Theresa Crockett was based at a school in Playa Prieta with the Home of the Mother order.

She died when a stairwell collapsed in a school. The missionary of 15 years was teaching young children to play the guitar when the disaster occurred.

She had been trying to lead them to safety when the four storey building they were in collapsed on top of them on Sunday.

Her body was found under rubble on Monday by search and rescue teams.

The 7.8-magnitude quake hit on Saturday evening and was centred 16 miles from Muisne in a sparsely populated area of fishing ports popular with tourists reducing homes and roads to rubble.

Sister Clare (33) was one of six of the order killed in the quake.

Her family described her as a "superstar" and friends said she had the ability to light up any room, putting people into fits of laughter.

Sister Clare was described as “a diamond of the family” by a relative to the Derry Journal, who said she died as she lived; "helping people".

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

On Monday, the death toll had reached 272 in the South American country, with search and rescue operations continuing and a state of emergency declared. Thousands more have been injured.

In a statement, Sister Clare's family added: "On Sunday 17th April, we lost our daughter, sister and aunt Sister Clare Theresa Crockett as a result of the earthquake in Ecuador.

"She was situated in a school in Playa Prieta with the Home of the Mother Order. At this difficult time we would ask for privacy."

Friend and fellow Home of the Mother Order member Sister Cristin Camero added: "She wrote many songs and saw that as a way to bring others to God, to help them have an encounter with the Lord.

"I will remember her jokes - she was very funny.

"She would have the whole room laughing."

Sister Clare was from Londonderry, home to deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

Mr McGuinness said: "I want to send my sympathy to the family and friends of Sr Clare Theresa Crockett who tragically died in an earthquake in Ecuador on Saturday.

"Sr Clare devoted her life to children and young people and died selflessly helping those in need in Ecuador.

"Her death has shocked and saddened the entire community in Derry and further afield.

"My thoughts are with all of Sr. Clare's family, friends and colleagues at this tragic time."

Read more: Charity's fears for Ecuador children after devastating earthquake

Fr Roland Calhoun was the young woman's spiritual director. He described her as "a beautiful person".

"The terrible news has devastated everyone in the last couple of hours," he told BBC Radio Foyle.

"This is a young girl who gave her life to God and died for the gospel.

"She was a joyful girl, I've known her since she was a teenager. 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."

Before the age of 18 when she pledged to a life of servitude, Sister Clare has aspirations to be an actress. She joined an agency, presented television shows and even had a small part in a movie.

A self-confessed party animal she signed up for what she thought was a free trip to Spain only for her to later realise it was for a pilgrimage during Holy Week. It was during this trip that she realised the Grace of God and realised she had to change her ways.

Sister Clare said she was happy to serve God in South America.

In a testimony, she said: "I thank God for the patience that He has had with me, and still has!!!! I do not ask Him why He has chosen me, I just accept it. I depend totally on Him and Our Blessed Mother and I ask them to give me the grace to be whatever they want me to be."

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