Belfast Telegraph

Ecuador quake victim Derry nun Sr Clare now a focus for prayers around the world

By Donna Deeney

More than six months after Sister Clare Crockett was killed when an earthquake hit a school in Ecuador, the impact of her tragic death continues to reverberate from across the globe back to her home in the heart of Londonderry.

A film which draws its title, "All or Nothing", from Sr Clare's attitude to everything she did, is being made by the Home of the Mother Order that she belonged to.

Today, in a moving interview, her sister Megan tells the Belfast Telegraph how the family continues to be inundated with messages from around the world.

Sr Clare grew up in the Brandywell area where she spent 18 years doing what every other girl her age loves - hanging out with her friends and two sisters, gearing up for a weekend of partying and, in her case, planning a future as a successful and famous actor.

But life turned out very differently for Clare Crockett - she abandoned all her aspirations of fame and fortune when she was 17 after she was called by God to become a nun.

Sadly, her life as Sr Clare was cut short in April this year when the terrible earthquake hit Ecuador and reduced the school building she was in to rubble, killing her as she tried to protect the children she was teaching.

As news of her death filtered through to her family back in Derry, it brought a devastation her parents Margaret and Gerald and sisters Shauna and Megan could barely cope with.

But they drew comfort from the huge number of people from the city who called to their home to offer condolences.

In the weeks it took for Sr Clare's remains to be brought back to Derry for her funeral, the family heard countless stories of people who knew her and remembered her fun-loving ways growing up in the city.

Since then, that flow of well-wishers to the Crockett family home has never ceased, and includes those who knew Sr Clare in her role as a nun, and whose lives were impacted for the better by meeting her.

Megan Crockett told the Belfast Telegraph how every day they get an insight into how many lives Clare continues to touch.

"I am having to get used to being called 'that wee nun's sister' which I find funny because it makes our Clare sound as if she was a wee old lady," she said.

"Every day we are contacted by people telling us their stories of Clare - we get emails from people in Ecuador and America where she touched so many.

"People have been telling us how they are praying to Clare, asking her to intercede for people in their family who are very ill in hospital and how they have recovered, and they tell us Clare did this for them.

"Just two weeks ago, a couple from Massachusetts called to our house who had come here especially to visit Clare's grave.

"We also found out recently about a wee pensioner from Belfast who gets the bus down to Derry every day so he can go and pray at Clare's grave.

"One day I was in the back of a taxi and the driver pulled down his sun visor and there was the novena with our Clare's picture on it. I told him that was my sister and he said: 'I say a Novena to that wee nun every day'.

"This has been going on for six months now and we know it isn't what usually happens when someone dies, but it continues to be a great comfort to us and helps us cope with missing Clare."

By her own admission, Sr Clare was an unlikely nun.

In her testimony before she took her final vows, she said: "I liked to party a lot. My weekends since I was 16 or 17 consisted of getting drunk with my friends. I wasted all my money on alcohol and cigarettes. "He (God) wanted me to live like the sisters in poverty, chastity, and obedience.

"I automatically told Him that that was impossible for me.

"I said: 'I can't be a nun! I can't leave drinking, cigarettes, partying, my career, and my family'."

Back in Derry, Sr Clare's family found it difficult at the start to imagine her as a nun.

Megan continued: "Growing up, the three of us - Clare, Shauna and me - were very close. As well as sisters we were best friends, but Clare was definitely the boss of us. Whatever she said went - if she had been told to do the dishes but decided she didn't want to, she said: 'I am the oldest, you two can do the dishes' and we did.

"Clare was incredible, she was full of energy, full of craic and full of fun.

"She was very definite about what her life was going to be like.

"She was going to be famous, star in the movies and everyone would recognise her all over the world, and it looked like she was on her way because she had been in a few documentaries.

"She had an offer from Nickelodeon to become a presenter just before she went on what she thought was a 10-day party trip to Ibiza in Spain, but was, in fact, a pilgrimage.

"Clare wasn't overly religious, in fact many's a time we skipped Mass, but we were cute enough to check what priest was saying Mass and what was in the parish bulletin first, so we were ready for any question mummy had when we got back home.

"The trip to Spain was very last minute, someone had pulled out so Clare had no time to find out too much about it, but she thought she was going on a 10-day holiday of partying.

"For the first two days, she rang home telling us how miserable she was because all they were doing was praying, but on the third day she said she would stick it out instead of coming home early.

" When she did come home, she was a very different Clare, but a couple of days later she went back to her old self - going out and having a good time," Megan explained.

She added: "Not long after that though, she told us she was miserable and how she could only really be happy if she be came a nun.

"Clare was at her absolute happiest as a nun and the ironic thing is, she has become famous.

"Maybe not in the way she imagined growing up in the Brandywell, but so many people all over the world know Sr Clare Crockett - my big sister."

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