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Heroic Sister Clare inspired Camino Way pilgrimage by Downpatrick teacher Carol Toner

Fundraising trek to help rebuild quake-hit school in memory of nun

By Donna Deeney

A retired Downpatrick teacher will embark on the epic 500-mile Camino Way to raise funds to help rebuild a school crushed in an earthquake in Ecuador that also killed a nun from Northern Ireland.

Carol Toner will undertake the intrepid trek after being inspired and moved by the story of Sister Clare Crockett. Sister Clare (33), from Londonderry, died when the school in Playa Prieta collapsed after the 7.8-magnitude quake struck in April.

More: Poignant video tribute to Derry nun Sister Clare Crockett on last Christmas before Ecuador quake death

At least 480 were killed and more than 4,000 injured in the South American country.

The body of Sr Clare, along with two other members of the Home of the Mother religious order, was recovered from the rubble.

She died protecting the children at the school, where she had been giving guitar lessons.

Like thousands of other people, Carol read about Sr Clare's death in the Belfast Telegraph and watched the coverage in the following days, including tribute pieces from those who knew and loved her.

Sister Clare's story of how she found her calling to become a nun made such an impression on Carol that she felt compelled to contact the Crockett family in Derry to tell them about her idea for raising funds to help rebuild the school.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Carol explained: "I was very moved when I heard that a young nun from here had died in the earthquake in Ecuador.

"I think when someone local is involved in any world tragedy it makes it more real for people on the other side of the world.

"I think that initially I felt an affinity with Sr Clare, because I was a teacher too before I retired. Then I read her life story about how she had heard God calling when she was such a young girl with other ideas and plans for her life.

"The more I read, the more of an impression she made on me.

"But during the summer, when I was in Spain and walking along the Camino Way, her image kept coming into my mind."

The Camino Way - also known as Camino De Santiago - is a walking pilgrimage from France to Spain dating back to medieval times.

It is popular not just with people of faith, but also with hikers and hill walkers who do some or all of its 500 miles.

Carol added: "I did part of the Camino Way earlier this year and met so many people from all walks of life.

"But for some reason the image of Sr Clare's face stayed with me the whole time.

"When I came home I contacted her family in Derry and spoke with her sister Shauna. I explained who I was and how much of an impression Sr Clare had made on me, and that I would like to do something that could be part of her legacy.

"I was very moved when I read Sr Clare's testimony about how she was a young girl growing up in Derry doing the things that young girls do and dreaming of the day when she would be a famous actor and the whole world would know her name.

"The irony that people who never knew her in life know about her now will not be lost on anyone."

She added: "I decided that I will walk the Camino Way again next year.

"I will start fundraising in April to mark the first anniversary of Sr Clare's death.

"I have also contacted Sr Clare's Order, the Home of the Mother, who are based in Spain, with the hope that perhaps someone from the Order might accompany me on at least part of my walk."

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