Former abbess of Poor Clare Nuns radiated joy

“Perfect joy.”

When asked about her unflappable, happy disposition, a Poor Clare Nun would willingly share her secret, the hallmark of a deep, prayerful life in Christ.

Sister Mary Clare of the Holy Spirit Brown could be counted on for her sunny smile, listening ear, her warm motherly heart and patience in suffering, said Mother Kathleen Hawkins, acting abbess for the Poor Clare Nuns community in Elkhorn.

Now the nuns are mourning the death of Sister Mary Clare, a former abbess and a nun for 71 years.

“My Lord and my All,” were the last words of the 93-year-old, Mother Kathleen said.

Sister Mary Clare died Nov. 9 after contracting COVID-19, which made all nine nuns in the community sick, Mother Kathleen said.

Mother Theresina of Jesus Santiago, the abbess, also died as a result.

Joint services have been held for the two nuns. 

A private memorial Mass was offered Nov. 27 at the Franciscan Monastery of St. Clare in Elkhorn with burial at Calvary Cemetery in Omaha.

A public celebration of life and open house will be Dec. 11, from 2 to 4 p.m., at Heafey, Hoffmann, Dworak and Cutler West Chapel, 7805 West Center Road in Omaha.

Sister Mary Clare was the oldest member of her cloistered community.

She shared in nearly half of the Poor Clare Nuns’ history in the Omaha area, which dates back to 1878. She lived in three different monastery locations and lifted up thousands of people in prayer as part of the community’s prayer ministry.

As a child, growing up in Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Omaha, her father offered her the choice of a bike or piano lessons.
“Praise the Lord, she chose the piano lessons,” Mother Kathleen said. Sister Mary Clare served as the organist and pianist for the Poor Clare Nuns for years.

She went to Our Lady of Lourdes School and the former Cathedral High School before attending the former Duchesne College for a year and working another year as a file clerk at the former Mutual Benefit Insurance Company.

Sister Mary Clare entered the Poor Clare community in 1948, received her habit in 1949, made her first vows in 1950 and her solemn profession in 1953.

Her joy was striking, those who knew her said.

“She always had a bright smile – very sweet, very beloved” – as well as prayerful, said Father Patrick Harrison, a former chaplain for the Poor Clare Nuns who is now pastor of St. Anthony Parish in Columbus.

“She was the happiest person I’ve ever seen,” said Connie Cosentino, who’s helped the Poor Clare Nuns for years. “She lived for God. That’s what she did. There was just a radiance that came off of her.”

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