Belfast Telegraph

Sister of earthquake nun Clare speaks of emotions as TV documentary set to air

By Donna Deeney

The poignant moment when the family of a Londonderry nun who died trying to protect children during an earthquake in South America met the man who brought her body home is to feature in a RTE documentary.

Sister Clare Crockett (33) died after the school she was teaching in was wrecked by a devastating earthquake in Ecuador on April 16 last year.

Her body was returned to the Brandywell by the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust, which was set up by Eithne (61) and Colin Bell (64), a Co Down couple who lost their 26-year-old son Kevin in 2013 when he was killed by a hit-and-run driver in New York.

The couple founded the trust after the people of Newry helped to raise around £150,000 to bring Kevin's body home and used the excess to help others in the same situation.

By her own admission, Sister Clare was an unlikely nun. In her testimony before she took her final vows she said she liked to party a lot.

"My weekends, since I was 16 or 17, consisted in getting drunk with my friends. I wasted all my money on alcohol and cigarettes," she had revealed.

Sister Clare's sister Megan told the Belfast Telegraph a new RTE documentary about the work of Irish embassies will bring emotional memories of "Sister Clare and our sister Clare".

"Our Clare's presence is felt by us everyday but this documentary about the Irish Embassy will be emotional to watch", she said.

"It recorded the meeting between our family and Colin and Eithne Bell who set up the Kevin Bell Foundation in memory of his own son who died in America and that was very tearful, so it will be difficult looking at that again.

"Without the help of Colin and Eithne Bell along with Martin McGuinness we would have been lost when Clare died and the documentary will hopefully capture how good they were to us.

"We are all a bit nervous about watching it and I haven't even decided if I will watch it on the night or record it and watch in when I get a quiet time.

"It will bring things back, but Clare's presence is felt by us all the time.

"Clare always wanted to be famous - she dreamt it would be as a Hollywood actress but then she got her calling and became a nun.

"Clare is famous now, just not in the way she imagined she would be but so many people know her name and her face now and we hear stories about her all the time.

"A woman from Newry, Carol Toner, who read about Clare last year in the Belfast Telegraph is actually walking the Camino de Santiago in her memory right now to help raise funds to rebuild the school in Ecuador where Clare taught and died.

"We keep in contact with her and she was telling us how she was wearing a T -shirt with a picture of Clare and so many people came up to talk about Clare.

"An award given by Fr Paddy O'Kane to an inspirational primary pupil which our Clare was the first to win has been renamed as the Clare Crockett Award and widened out to a few primary schools as well as St Cecilia's College.

"We were invited up to present the award to the pupil who won it last year and it was so lovely for us to be there and do that.

"The order Clare belonged to - Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother - has set up a house in Ireland now too, which is something Clare was really keen to see happen. The sisters really miss her so much too, she was their sister for almost as long as she was our sister.

"Every month they send us wee clips from the film they are putting together about her life and we love getting those.

"They have been to Derry recently to collect photographs of Clare before she joined the order for the film.

"They don't have a release date yet so that is something else we have to look forward to.

"We think it is brilliant that people continue to remember Clare and the life she had as a nun. But she was Clare our sister as well as Sister Clare too and we remember her as our funny sister who loved to laugh and have a good time.

"They were two different people and it is Clare the sister that I remember most.

"She was still Clare my sister even when she was Clare the nun and we were still able to have a carry-on and a joke which she never lost and it's what I miss so much every day."

The Thin Green Line airs on RTE One this Thursday at 7pm

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