Sister Olive Clarke
1935 – 2017
Born: 29th April 1935
Entered Religious Life: 17th October 1955
Died: 31st July 2017
The following is the reflection given at Sr Olive’s funeral Mass by Sr Phyllis Behan, Provincial Leader in the Irish Province
We come today to remember and to celebrate the life of Sr Olive who died suddenly on Monday last. She was such a presence in the community of Árd Mhuire, the Chapel here and around the Hospice that it is quite unreal to think of her as actually gone from us.
Olive was born in 1935 in in Ardee. She was very close to her mother who died in the same way as Olive, in the month of July also and of a heart attack. She loved her family, often travelled to Carrickmacross to visit her brother Ciaran and Anne and family. She often talked about Gus and Daphne who is now with God also. She was immensely proud of her nieces and nephew’s achievements in life and often spoke of them to the Sisters.
She entered the Religious Sisters of Charity at the age of 21 having trained as a children’s nurse in Temple Street. She is remembered by her friends from those days as always smiling and so was nicknamed ‘Smiley’. She loved the style and was known to own a fur coat at a time when others would struggle to have any coat at all. In that love of style Olive didn’t change.
She has spent her life mostly in the nursing profession but from our records it is clear she was very much a pilgrim person, moving when asked to go wherever she was needed at the time. She nursed in Temple Street; St Vincent’s; Kilcreene; Harold’s Cross; Kilkenny; Hackney in London, Zambia and Nigeria.
Today’s 2nd reading reminds us that those who die in the Lord are ‘happy’ because ‘now they can rest forever after their work’. Her work was mostly about caring for the sick as ward sister, staff nurse, Sister in charge and as an administrator. The Gospel too speaks of being ‘blessed’ or happy. And this is what people remember about her – that she was a lovely person; that she had time to say ‘hello’; that she was always in good form.
I am sure it wasn’t always like that for like everyone else Olive had her ups and downs. Her faith was nurtured in her home in Co Louth and developed over the years as a Religious Sister of Charity. It was her faith in a personal God, who as the first reading says ‘will take her part’. Her God was a God who was not ‘aloof’ but a ‘redeemer’. As the psalm which Bernadette sang so beautifully for us states, she was ‘carried across the years’ and led ‘thru sorrow and thru joy’ by the Lord to whom she vowed her life.
Olive was much loved by those who knew her well. For the past 12 years she has lived in Árd Mhuire, helping generously with the chores of the house. Anne Marie was only last week reassuring Philomena who is new to the house, not to worry because ‘Olive will see to this or that or the other’. She was indeed as Anne Marie said yesterday evening ‘a character’.
She was an organizer. We all saw that here in the chapel where she often read the scripture for us or was organizing others to do the same. She loved this little ministry. The last year or two she suffered a great deal with a bad knee and bad back. Up to then she would often distribute Holy Communion around the wards. The pain was written on her face at times.
She can now really hear the Lords words ‘come you blessed of my Father’ for I was sick and you visited me’. Now Olive truly has her feet up receiving the mercy promised in today’s gospel, to those who ‘do mercy’. Her love and kindness to Sr Margaret who died just before Christmas last was typical of her.
May we now ‘rejoice and be glad for her reward will be great in heaven’ as the Gospel said.
May she rest in peace.