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Claire Mary O'Brien

List of deceased Sisters

Date of death 07/12/2014

SR CLAIRE MARY O’BRIEN SMSM        22nd June 1925 – 7 December 2014

Claire SMSM Sisterswas born in Dubbo, NSW, Australia, on 22 June 1925, the eldest child of Edward and Norma O’Brien. She grew up on the family property at Warren, NSW, along with her nine sisters and only brother. Claire entered the novitiate in Heretaunga, New Zealand, where she made profession on 11 February 1949.

After a time of community service in New Zealand, Claire did her teacher’s training and in 1954 she was sent to the Solomon Islands where she worked, with periods away for further studies, until her return permanently to Australia in 1997. For the past six months Claire was a resident in the John Woodward Apartments at Cardinal Gilroy Village, Merrylands, Australia. It was there that Claire went peacefully to God on Sunday, 7th December, just when the other SMSM in Sydney were about to commence the celebration of the Eucharist at Southern Cross Village Plumpton as part of the 25th Jubilee celebrations of Sr Louise Runne. Sr Mary Helene, who had been such a loving companion for Claire over this past year, was at her side. Claire’s funeral was held at St Margaret Mary’s Church, Merrylands, attended by many members of her large family and a large number of local people whose lives she had touched deeply. She was later laid to rest alongside many of our sisters at Macquarie Park Cemetery.

Claire was an artist of repute, especially in the Solomon Islands. She wrote several books and was a gifted poet. We rejoice and we mourn her passing. We rejoice because our Sister, Claire, has left us to enjoy the beatific vision for which she so longed. We mourn because, for most of the smsm here, Claire has always been there. She has been part of our lives from the Novitiate days, when she held Art Classes every Sunday morning, we shared the visits of her Parents, and her student sisters, to these last months when she gradually let go her associations with this time on earth and made ready to go to her eternal happiness. She is missed.

We don’t need to list the many years of loving service that Claire lived as a SMSM. What we do need to note is, that like a pebble dropped in a pond, her influence spread out and out to encompass so many - her family, her smsm sisters, her wonderful friends, her professional associates, her students.

Claire faithfully lived out her SMSM charism of Marist, Missionary and Religious. She was gifted in special ways– her sharp intellect, her artistic ability - gifts she freely shared. Claire’s footprints are all around the Solomon Islands. As a Missionary she was not bringing Christ to the people but was there to assist them in revealing Christ already present among them. Claire’s form of assistance was her artistic gifts combined with her sharp intelligence. How many of us have been captivated by her black and white illustrations in her Social Studies texts for Primary Schools, her celebratory cards, of signs culminating in the decoration of so many Churches and Chapels with her artistic expressions of the Gospel story in cultural Solomon Island scenes. There is always a crab sitting in a corner, a lizard sitting on a tree branch, the zig-zag of sharks’ teeth, the frigate birds flying high. So easy for the people to recognise God in their Culture. Our Lady always seems to have beautiful shells at her feet and the Baby Jesus with a beautiful shell to distract Him. This trademark of hers is evident in the two books she researched and wrote on the History of the SMSM Congregation and the History of the Catholic Church in the Solomon Islands. Yes, Claire knew about enculturating the Gospel.

Her research papers for the books she wrote were all annotated with little pen/pencil sketches in the margins. Something had struck Claire about her subject so she put it in a picture so as not to forget. Again, at the foot of a Chapter there would be some saying of a great writer that had come before her mind – anyone from Socrates to Margaret Thatcher. Claire was a great reader and a natural philosopher.

We can rejoice that Claire is now with our God. May she rest in peace!

Sr Mary Keegan and Sr Janice Ruff, smsm