Sister Carmel Teresa Clarke
Carmel Teresa Clarke was born in Yatina in 1941. She was the second daughter of Frank and Ellen and sister to Ellen Sarah who died at birth.
Carmel entered the Sisters of St Joseph, 3rd Feb 1958. She was not quite 17 years of age. She was beautiful, slightly unruly, quite unaware of the established rules and regulations and ready to have a go at anything. Once having ‘’put her hand to the plough she did not look back.”
Sydney with Novitiate, Profession and Teacher’s Training absorbed the first three years of her Josephite Journey. In Jan 1960 her beloved mother, dying with cancer, requested that Carmel be allowed to come back to Adelaide to spend some time with her. For two weeks they were together in what was to be their farewell mother/daughter contact. Six weeks after Carmel returned to Sydney, Ellen succumbed to cancer and died in March 1960.
Carmel was professed in Jan 1961 and lived the vowed life of a Siter of St Joseph for 62 years.
In 1962, the long and fruitful years of her ministry began. She had an extraordinary musical talent. She could play anything by ear once she had heard the melody. With this gift, she livened up and gave meaning to many a social, liturgical and community occasion. She had also studied music to a high level of performance and theoretical knowledge.. In some places she was the designated music teacher for children wishing to take music exams. Often, she gave these lessons before and after school or in her lunch breaks.
To increase her effectiveness in the classroom, Carmel undertook studies in theology, children’s literature and art. She also spent a year at the National Pastoral Institute in Melbourne studying for a Grad. Dip in Religious Education.
If you took a pin and had a blind stab at the South Australian map you’d find Carmel’s imprint. These are the recorded places for involvement in Josephite schools: Royal Park, Barmera, Spalding, Murray Bridge, Renmark, Kadina, Rosewater, Hectorville, Norwood, Port Augusta, Penola,
Then Carmel took on Motor Mission and Parish Ministries in Clare, Snowtown, Bute, Pt Broughton, Red Hill, Brinkworth, Burra, Hallett, Mt Bryan, Georgetown, Gladstone, Laura, Booborowie, Yorketown, Warooka, Marion Bay, Edithburgh, Stansbury, Minlaton, Pt Victoria, Pt Vincent, Ardrossan, Pine Point, Arthurton, and then to the parish of Kangaroo Island as Pastoral Director. Always highly adaptable, Carmel lived in convents, presbyteries, with families, and even in a shack in order to get where she needed to be the next day. She made many friends and loved them dearly.
In 2008 she received the dreaded diagnosis of chronic renal failure and she suffered heartache because this meant leaving Kangaroo Island.
Very soon Carmel needed to be in Nursing Home Care. And so began her final ministry. The staff at Calvary Flora tell us that she contributed in many ways – keeping them abreast of residents’ birthdays, knitting scarves, rug squares and beanies for the homeless, calling bingo, playing the organ at all liturgies, making cards for all occasions, organising football tipping contests and sweeps for the Melbourne Cup. All of this happened with Carmel scooting around in her electric wheelchair and involving and working with others. She was a People Person.
Carmel, like Jeremiah seemed to have a flame burning in her heart’’ Jer 29. With that flame she illumined the faith-life in many hearts, she created warmth and companionship, produced an occasional bonfire, and she lit signal fires to call attention to those who were in danger or needed help. Carmel never withheld help.
Several days before she died, Carmel was in and out of consciousness. Each time her eyes opened she attempted to communicate. A Sister asked her gently “Are you ready to go, Carmel?” After a moment Carmel replied almost apologetically, “Well I love this life!” What an authentic answer! Carmel loved life, was always in the thick of it – was not at that moment ready to let go of this life and was determined to stay with those she loved until her last God-given breath. Kathleen Dowling Singh has written, ‘the life and death of a human being is exquisitely calibrated to automatically produce union with the Spirit’. Wonderful transformations occur known only in the secret depths of the dying person’s heart and spirit. We can only wonder at what God revealed to her during her last days on earth.
Rest in peace and eternal happiness, Carmel.