Sister Carole Le Claire

Sister Carole Le Claire1936 was a historically powerful year!  King Edward VIII abdicated his crown to marry Wallis Simpson, Jesse Owen won four gold medals in the Olympics in Berlin, Gone with the Wind was published, and clouds of war hung over the world as nations began stockpiling weapons.

Oh, yes, one more momentous event occurred: In the beautiful Upper Peninsula, in the town of Escanaba, Michigan, on December 30, 1936, Mildred and Lawrence Le Claire welcomed a daughter, Carole, the first of five children. With uncles and aunts living down the street and grandma living with them, she was easily spoiled.

When the Le Claire family moved to Detroit, Carole attended Holy Name School and Dominican High School, both taught by the Adrian Dominicans. At the age of 15, Carole decided that she wanted to work for the Lord.  Without saying a word to her parents, she wrote to Mother Corona and asked that she be received into the order and, as a missionary, be sent to our foreign missions. Mother Corona’s response to her: “All of our sisters are missionaries.”

Carole became Sister Marelle and spent ten wonderful years at her first mission, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a wealthy school on Chicago’s northwest side. She then volunteered at St. Martin Parish, a very poor parish in the heart of a poor section of Chicago. She immediately tackled every need they had.   Besides teaching sixth grade, she tutored the parents and their children, visited their homes, taught in the CCD program, was the religious education coordinator for several parishes, and brought religious education to the children living in Cabrini Green apartments. Her very favorite quote is from Mother Cabrini: “We have all eternity to rest. Now let us work.”

Sister Carole’s next adventure centered on working with the public schools. The place of parish schools, and their necessary financial support, was plummeting in the Archdiocese of Chicago. The leadership in the Chicago Province asked sisters to explore the fragile existence of Catholic schools in the poor areas of Chicago. So many schools were in need of money that the provincials felt we should explore the possibilities of sisters teaching in public schools. Sister Carole answered that call.  She worked at John V. Leigh School in Norridge for eight years, teaching fifth grade and working with other teachers in meeting children’s needs.  Only the administrators knew she was a religious sister, but eventually the other teachers caught on that she was different from an ordinary teacher. They loved the idea that she was on the staff. During this time, she remained religious education coordinator for several parishes!

Regarding her teaching, Sister Carole took to heart words attributed to St. Thomas More by playwright Robert Bolt in A Man for All Seasons. A young man named Richard approached More and asked him for a job.  He wanted to be noticed, to have people look up to him. More told him, “Richard, be a teacher. You would make a great teacher.” Richard asked, “Who would know it?” More replied, “You, your students, your friends, God…not a bad audience.”

After more than 50 of teaching, Sister Carole began a second career, financial bookkeeping. She took over banking responsibilities for parishes and/or schools, balancing accounts, recording tuition receipts, double-checking that the goods delivered matched the invoices, paying the bills, followed up on tardy tuition payments, reconciling every account, and writing reports for principals, pastors, and schools boards.

Enough about her exploits! Sister Carole was always respected as a worker, but even more loved as a School Sister. She is kind, trustworthy, loyal, sympathetic, and a person of integrity who never gives in to mediocrity. She enjoys old movies, books, a good time with her friends, square-dancing, and visiting her family.  She is a rabid Detroit Tigers baseball fan. And most importantly, she is a person who has helped hundreds of people in her life.

It was during these years that a very special addition enjoyed life in her household. It was a dog. Bundle brought much joy to her and everyone he met for almost 28 years. When Carole finally cut back on some of her work, she turned to dog-sitting for friends going on vacation or to some important event.  Outside of her vows, Bundle was the love of her life!

Faults? Oh yes, she is impatient at times, and does not give in when she thinks she is right. But she is a devout woman of God, faithful to her calling, compassionate to those who need help, and a perfect friend. Congratulations. Sister Carole, on your 70 years of service as a School Sister of St. Francis. You remain one of the highlights of the year 1936!