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Sister Mary Clare Sweeney, BVM (Clarita)

Sister Mary Clare Sweeney, BVM (Clarita), 84, died July 8, 2014, at Marian Hall in Dubuque, Iowa. Visitation will be from 9–11 a.m. on Friday, July 11, 2014, in the Marian Hall Chapel followed by a prayer service at 11 a.m. Funeral liturgy will be at 1:30 p.m. Burial is in the Mount Olivet cemetery, Key West, Iowa.

She was born May 16, 1930, to James and Mae Kingsley Sweeney. She entered the BVM congregation from Assumption Parish, rural Bernard, Iowa, on Sept. 8, 1947. She professed first vows on March 19, 1950, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1955.

Sister Mary Clare was an elementary school educator in Rock Island, Berwyn and Chicago, Ill.; and Iowa City, Tama and Clinton, Iowa. She served on the faculty of Mundelein College, Chicago; Arizona State University, Tempe, and Arizona State University East, Mesa; and the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.

She was preceded in death by her parents and brother Robert. She is survived by brothers: John F. Sweeney (Diane), Bonita Springs, Fla.; Dr. James A. Sweeney (Lois), Bloomington, Minn.; Dr. William H. Sweeney (Jackie), Mt. Horeb, Wis.; a sister Anne. M. Sweeney, Bernard, Iowa; nieces, nephews and the Sisters of Charity, BVM, with whom she shared life for 66 years.

Sister Mary Clare Sweeney, BVM (Clarita)
Funeral Welcome
Marian Hall, July 11, 2014

Good afternoon and welcome to the celebration of life of our Sister Mary Clare Sweeney.

Mary Clare Sweeney was born on May 16, 1930, as the third child of James Sweeney and Mae A. Kingsley from Bernard, Iowa. She joined her brother John Francis and was followed by siblings James Arthur, William Henry and Anne. Her oldest sibling, Robert, died in 1927. She attended public elementary school but graduated from St. Joseph Academy in Dubuque, Iowa.

Mary Clare entered the congregation on Sept. 8, 1947, following in the footsteps of her great-grand aunt, Sister Martha Quinn, and cousins, Sisters Faustina Laughlin and St. Martha Lynch. She was also a cousin of Sisters LaVerne and Mary Lois Dolphin and Lou Anglin. Mary Clare received the name Clarita upon her reception on March 19, 1948. She professed first vows on March 19, 1950, and lived 66 years as a BVM.

Mary Clare was an elementary teacher for 17 years. She was missioned in Illinois at Sacred Heart, Rock Island; St. Thomas of Canterbury and Blessed Sacrament, Chicago; and St. Odilo, Berwyn; and in Iowa at St. Patrick, Iowa City; St. Patrick, Tama; and Our Lady of the Angels, Clinton. She earned a master’s degree in English from Iowa State University and a Ph.D. from Arizona State University. She taught English for one year at both Mundelein College in Chicago and the University of Minnesota. During her 32 years at Arizona State University, Mary Clare was an English instructor, director of the writing center, a teacher at the College of Technology and a faculty computer consultant. In 1993, she received the Faculty Appreciation Award for outstanding leadership and dedication to the university community.

Mary Clare was very involved in the BVM and associate community, especially in the Phoenix area, and she appreciated every opportunity to engage in BVM Senate activities. She served on the Salt magazine editorial board, wrote numerous articles for the magazine and was always on the lookout for the next story. In 2003 she received a third place honor from the Catholic Press Association in the religious order magazine category for her Salt essay “Living Close to God’s Greatness.” She also volunteered as a traveling computer consultant for her BVM sisters. In honor of Mary Frances Clarke’s 200th birthday, she created a webpage which provided a virtual tour of the life and times of Mary Frances Clarke from Dublin to Philadelphia to Dubuque. In addition, Mary Clare was active in the diocese of Phoenix. She served on the board for the Catholic Sun, the diocesan newspaper, and participated in the events and activities of the Council of Religious.

After retiring from a long career at ASU, Mary Clare became a vibrant part of “The Farm at South Mountain” just outside of Phoenix. The Farm featured speakers, classes for adults in self-awareness, healing movement and spirituality, as well as an outstanding restaurant using locally grown produce. Mary Clare initiated the Writing Project which included workshops on writing, photography, art and other topics.

Mary Clare was proud of her Irish heritage and had a tremendous love for and commitment to the Sweeney family. During the past few years she spent much of her time helping her sister Anne. She had an exceptional knowledge of agriculture and a good business sense for operating a farm. She was an accomplished photographer and enjoyed capturing her travels which included trips to Ireland, Greece and the Holy Land.

Mary Clare seized every opportunity to take a course on the Bible. Her spirituality was imbued with the spirit of Jean Vanier who founded the L’Arche Community for people with developmental disabilities and those who assist them.

Mary Clare lived a marvelously full life. She was deeply loved by family and friends who were profoundly saddened as her health deteriorated. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” We are comforted by our confidence that Mary Clare has found her rest as we celebrate her earthly life and her entrance into eternal life.

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