Remembering Sr Ursula Clarke RIP

Sr. Ursula Clarke died on Friday 19th June 2015 after a very long life lived very fully. She worked in business before she entered the Ursuline Convent in Blackrock, Cork in 1942 and was received into the Noviciate 26 April 1943. She made First profession 26th April 1945 and finally committed herself for life in Perpetual Profession on 26th April 1948.

Her Ursuline connections started when she enrolled as a kindergarten pupil in St. Angela’s College, Patrick’s Hill Cork. She had lovely memories of her schooldays and the friendships she formed there continued right up into her very old age. Hers was a generation that kept in touch by letter and she a maintained a lively correspondence with friends and colleagues and family throughout her life.

Sr. Ursula attended University College Cork and received BA in English and French and the Higher Diploma in Education following which she embarked on a long and committed career in education. As a teacher of English, French and Religion she set very high standards for her students, always encouraging them to give of their best. Most of her teaching was in St. Angela’s, Patrick’s Hill, and in Blackrock Secondary School. She also taught for two years in Brecon, Wales, in the late 1940’s as she was a member of the founding group of the Ursuline community in Brecon. Sr. Ursula was very committed to what we call today ‘Continuing professional Development’. While teaching full-time she completed a post Graduate Diploma in Catechetics in UCC and was involved in setting up the Catechetical Association in Cork to support teachers in the task of teaching religion after Vatican II. She was also an active member of the English Teachers Association. As an educator Sr. Ursula’s interest in her students went far beyond the academic. She wanted to build up the girl’s confidence and self-belief. She wanted them to extend their interests through travel and reading, wishing them to be refined, and courageous, and prepared to make a difference in the world. She had the spirit and outlook of St. Angela holding strong belief in the influence for good Christian women can exercise in society. After they left school she maintained interest in her past pupils. She thoroughly enjoyed their visits and contacts and took pride in their contribution to the world around them. She enjoyed the respect and affection of a wide range of people – colleagues, past pupils and their parents. Her colleagues admired her professionalism, her commitment, and her openness to listen to their concerns. People trusted her recognising the genuine interest she had in them. Her integrity and loyalty and the generosity of her support, especially in the times of difficulties are frequently remembered.

In the community she served in many leadership roles including novice mistress in the challenging years after Vatican II. She did not find change easy, the flip side of her fidelity and loyalty, struggling to tune into the spirit of renewal while being true to the riches of the tradition in which she had been formed. Being a woman of faith and prayer shaped her tolerance in the face of changes she found difficult enabling her to exercise a strong and steady influence. She had great feeling for members of the community and was always ready to share in their joys, interests and difficulties and to help in any way she could – often by prayer and sensitivity. In her declining years she brought her spirit of commitment to work in the sacristy ensuring all things were done appropriately and in readiness for prayerful celebrations.

Sr. Ursula’s work over many years as archivist and annalist were great preparation for the writing of her book – The Ursuline’s In Cork. Her research was rigorous and meticulous and she got tremendous pleasure from the work. Having a reprint and later a second edition were a true affirmation of the value and thoroughness of her work.

Life was not all work – Sr. Ursula assiduously read the daily paper keeping herself and others informed of all the daily news and was a crossaire aficionado, completing it daily as a matter of course! Sr. Ursula was particularly close to her nieces and nephew and their families. She took great interest in their doings and pride in their successes. Indeed she became a great rugby supporter, following Ray’s career with great delight! Being included in all aspects of their lives was a great joy to her. Her later years were greatly enriched by the warmth of their support and the frequency of their visits. Over the years Sr. Ursula was a significant link with family throughout the world particularly in Europe. One of her joys in retirement was to have the opportunity to visit some of them. Members of the extended family were often welcome visitors to the convent.

We give thanks for her faith-filled life lived with integrity and for her many gifts which she gave in service to the Ursuline Sisters in Ireland.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h-anam uasail.