Sr Clare Fitzgerald

Sister ClareGrowing up in Cork City in the 1940s, my memory is of being surrounded by churches, convents and people full of faith going and coming in streams to and from Mass on Sunday mornings from 7am to 12 noon. Later, I would drop into my father’s shop to pick up their newspapers. It was during the Second World War - when the Lamb and the Dove were our icons. Long before the Celtic Tiger took over, life was simple, happy and blessed.

Priests and Sisters from the missionary orders – Medical Mission, Holy Rosary, Columbans, Kiltegans, SMA and Our Lady of Apostles visited South Presentation Convent and spoke to us teenagers about far away places, especially Africa. They opened my eyes and heart to people less favoured who may not yet have experienced the magic of kneeling before a crib on Christmas morning and knowing that God so loved the world that he came among us as a tiny babe to pour out his life for us.

For me this is the most appealing of all the mysteries of our faith, and prompted by God’s generosity, by the Spirit of Love, I knew I had to bring this Good News to these far away places and the best way to do it was to become a Missionary Sister of Our Lady of Apostles. So I visited Ardfoyle which is a 30 minute walk from my home and simply told Sr Verona who interviewed me that I was coming and that my parents said OK and that I could always walk back if I didn’t like it.

So in 1951 I entered Ardfoyle. With 30 or more young women in the novitiate at different stages of formation, I was on the way to bringing the Good News to Nigeria. Studying for an Arts Degree in UCC equipped me to teach in Nigeria - so I struggled willingly on and in 1957 sailed to Nigeria.

For the next thirty eventful years I taught English Literature in Teacher Training Colleges and secondary schools.  I put down roots in an African culture hospitable, Godly, and discovered it was holy ground – God had visited His people long before I arrived and there was deep mutual sharing of the goodness of God who never leaves His flock untended.

Independence from British Colonial rule in 1960, and was followed five years later by civil war. That helped me to identify closely with a people whose history was so like our own Irish history.