Born in 1930, Sr. Clare Vandecoevering felt an early call to God’s service — in the first grade. She considered herself a regular kid who enjoyed playing, talking with friends and even finding herself standing in the corner for socializing a little too much in school. She was raised in a large religious family of 14 children. She cherishes those memories, particularly those of William and Delia Vandecoevering, her parents. 

This July, during the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon’s Jubilee celebration, Sr. Clare will celebrate 75 years of service to God. Yes, 75 years! 

Upon entering the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon in 1946, she used her gifts and experiences from a large family to connect with and teach children catechism. “It was the thrill of my life going parish to parish,” Sr. Clare said. She typically traveled to parishes throughout Oregon, Idaho, and Washington. 

In addition, Sr. Clare shared these experiences with two of her younger blood sisters. Sr. Anne and Sr. Agnes Marie both joined the convent in 1953. “As Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon, religion and religious education came first for the three of us. We had the opportunity to visit many parishes and teach summer religion classes. Sr. Anne was the organizer, Sr. Agnes Marie was the artist, and I did the teaching. We have done over 100 summer class programs,” Sr. Clare recalled.

As she recalled her teaching days, it was essential to let the students be active participants in selecting their study groups and not separate them by grade. “We put the students in a group, just like you’re choosing a team, they would choose their own team,” Sr. Clare said. The Sisters kept the lessons interesting, sharing God’s word through movies, activities, and related projects. While most of her education ministry focused on elementary-aged children, she also taught older students and adults at a number of schools and parishes.

Upon reflecting on her years of service, Sr. Clare shares her thoughts for any woman who may be considering a life of service to God. “I would like to tell the whole world that they don’t know how wonderful this is. We are truly blessed. I want to shout it from the rooftops that this is the only way to live.” Upon reflection, Sister Clare added with a soft smile, “of course, there wouldn’t be any people out there if they were all nuns.”