Sr. Mary Clare Stack
May 26, 2014
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
Born in Calgary and raised in Edmonton, Sister Mary Clare Stack grew up in a large Catholic family. Both in elementary school and in junior high, she was asked whether she had ever thought about religious life. She dismissed the idea completely.
However, in Grade 12, despite dating a "good Catholic guy" at the time, she said, "There was a magnet in my heart that was pulling me towards religious life. I could not shut that out."
She was president of Sodality, the Children of Mary, a group aimed at fostering in its members an ardent devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She told the spiritual director that God was calling her to be a nun. The spiritual director knew that Stack always had a strong devotion to Mary, so she suggested that she pray every day as Mary did, and ask that God's will for her life be fulfilled.
Her initial plan was to pursue a career in nursing, but she could no longer silence the longing for religious life.
"Eventually I got the courage to tell my parents because my youngest siblings were just over three, two and one when I said 'I wanted to enter.' My mom was really counting on me to help care for them," said Stack.
Right out of high school, Stack joined the Ursulines of Jesus at St. Anthony's Parish.
"The call to consecrated life is like a symphony, and there needs to be a harmony between the melody that God plays in my heart and the melody that's being played in the heart of the congregation to which I'm being called," she said.
"When I saw the lives of the Ursulines of Jesus – especially the director of the Sodality, the Children of Mary – something said 'yes,' and there was a harmony there in my heart and what I saw her living. Very specifically, she had a wonderful joy about her."
It was a difficult time because even though they were an apostolic congregation, the Ursulines were also called to be monastic, separated from the world.
"Only once a month my family came to visit me, and even when I saw them at Mass on Sunday, I wasn't to speak with them. It was hard.
"There was a sense that you needed to be separated from the world in order to remain faithful, that somehow the world would contaminate us, which is contrary to the message of the Second Vatican Council," said Stack.
She took an undergraduate degree in sociology and psychology. Preparing for her final vows, she spent nine months in France, staying at the motherhouse with women from Ireland, Scotland and Spain.
"I made my final vows March 25, 1972. That's very significant because March 25 is the Incarnation or Annunciation, which is our principal feast," she said.
She furthered her education, earning a degree in social work. She volunteered in Chile, helping people from Bolivia and Peru find employment. She worked many years in the Prince George Diocese, where she opened a centre called Shepherd's Corner, an inner city outreach for the poor, offering daytime shelter for the homeless.
She worked many years in pastoral ministry, using her community development skills, and has continued implementing those skills for more than eight years as parish relations coordinator with Catholic Social Services.
Her job requires creating a stronger bridge between Catholic Social Services and the parishes of the Edmonton Archdiocese by fostering a better understanding of the agency and its programs.
Areas of focus include support for temporary foreign workers, family violence training for priests and other members of pastoral teams, educating and engaging parishioners in addressing homelessness, and community building initiatives among older adults.
"As a consecrated woman, I am called to be a prophetic voice in the Church and in the world today. Specifically as an Ursuline of Jesus, I live it out through contemplating, celebrating, living and announcing the Incarnation," said Stack.
Taking her Ursulines of Jesus cross from her collar, she explained its meaning. With God's infinite love for us, he sent his Son Jesus to enter into the darkness of human existence, the darkness of sin and death. The colour silver is on top of the black, its shine symbolizing that life is stronger than death.
For the Ursulines of Jesus, it means that they want to renew the link God has made with his people, transformed into the light of Christ, to reconcile a broken world, and draw all humanity back to God.
Stack's day-to-day life involves Morning and Evening Prayer in church, personal prayer, often with Scripture and before the Blessed Sacrament, Eucharist in St. John the Evangelist Parish, ministry with Catholic Social Services, visiting family members and friends who are ill or shut-in, and praying the rosary before bedtime.
For leisure, she enjoys going for walks and reading novels.
While not many people in this part of the world are entering religious life, she is confident that a new opportunity is arising for people to embrace that call.
"Especially as we move up to 2015, the Year for Consecrated Life, I believe our archdiocese has a really profound opportunity to put consecrated life in the forefront, and to invite families to look at the gift and wonder of consecrated life," she said.
"My hope would be that in preparation for the Year of Consecrated Life that Archbishop Richard Smith would invite consecrated men and women in the archdiocese to discern together who are on the peripheries in the archdiocese, and then share that information with the archbishop," said Stack.
She noted that some groups on the margins are those hurt by the sexual abuse scandals, the aboriginal population, victims of human trafficking and the homeless.
Sept. 19 marks 50 years since she entered the community. Seen as her "jubilee year," she spent the month of January in prayer and silence in Toronto, at a place called the Reflection Loft.
"It was a way to give thanks to God for the last 50 years, and to have a heart that is suppler, more sensitive to where God is calling me."