Farewell Sr Clare Burgess
How rich are the depths of God. How deep God’s wisdom and knowledge
Whose ways we do not know
These words captured the theme of the Funeral Mass for Sister Clare Burgess (formerly Sr Mary Joseph), when the Sisters of St Joseph farewelled her on 23 August. The readings and the hymns were well chosen to recognise her as a wise woman with a thirst for knowledge and truth. Hers was a life of seventy years of generous service as a Sister of St Joseph, proclaiming the Good News in the diocese of Maitland-Newcastle through her ministry of education.
Clare began her days of secondary teaching at Lochinvar followed by Wauchope, Merewether and Wingham and later years of study at New England University in Armidale where she attained BA Dip Ed, with distinctions in advanced Latin studies. In 1967 she was appointed Principal of Rosary High School Taree which is now known as St Clare’s High School. From 1973 to 1980 she was Principal of St Anne’s Senior High School, Adamstown, leading a staff of Dominican, Mercy and Josephite Sisters and lay people.
Clare enjoyed two periods of renewal: the first at Assumption Institute, in Melbourne from 1981 to 1982 and later at Hawkstone Hall in Shropshire, England where she delighted in the Scripture courses given by excellent lecturers.
Her last appointment was at All Saints College, St Mary’s Campus in Maitland where she worked as a library assistant until she retired in 2004. In 2011 became a resident at Southern Cross Apartments in Caves Beach. It was there that she died peacefully and quite suddenly on 15 August at 9.30am, the feast of the Assumption.
Father Paul O’Neill presided at the Mass together with nine other priests. Clare’s large family and friends gathered from near and far to remember her in prayer. Present were Kay, Clare’s sister-in -law, nephews and nieces, parishioners from Merriwa, former colleagues and pupils and Sisters of St Joseph as well as Dominican Sisters and Sisters of Mercy.
Clare was the last member of the family of Ambrose and Margaret Burgess from Merriwa and always remained a country woman at heart. Sr Carmel Moore in delivering the Words of Remembrance said, “Clare had a calm and gracious manner, always interested in people and respectful of them. It is said that if a child was sent to her for a reprimand he or she came back with a higher sense of their own worth.”
After the burial in the Sisters' Cemetery Lochinvar all were invited to refreshments in the College Hall where acquaintances were renewed and where a slide show of Clare’s life encouraged the sharing of more memories from her long and varied life.
May she rest in peace