Sister Mary Clare, of Korea, Was Laid to
Pious Action of Roman Catholic Sisters
"Her Bitter Cavalry"
~From The Church Times (UK), 15th April, 1954
News, after four long years, has reached England of the burial of Sister Mary Clare, the devoted and courageous English Sister who headed the little community of Korean women before the war. It will be remembered that she was captured, with the Bishop, in Korea and taken on the terrible "Death March" to an internment camp. She died in 1950.
The following report tells Church people at home, for the first time, the deeply moving account of her laying to rest. The story appeared in Missions, the bulletin of the Roman Catholic Holy Ghost Fathers. It was written by a sister, and translated by Fr. Ernest de Coteau, of the Order of the Holy Cross, Kailahun, Sierra Leone. Roman Catholic Sisters performed the last rites for Sister Mary Clare, so far as possible, and with simple love and devotion. The extract which we print is from the entry in a diary:
"This morning we found our dear Sister Mary Clare, an Anglican Religious, sixty-years old, dead on her bed of straw. A person of deep Christian charity, she helped us in times of distress. We loved her very much. She shared with us the unbearable life in camp, and now she had finished her bitter Calvary. May she rest in the peace of the Lord!
With her companions who helped her so much on the forced march, we prepared her body for burial. Preceded by our guard; her friends; Sister Bernadette (a Carmelite) and myself, we carried her, the five us, on an improvised bier to the top of a neighbouring hill, quite close to the camp. We ourselves dug her grave, only so deep as our failing strength allowed, and we laid her down there, showing a sisterly reverence. Then, after the last prayer, we covered this poor body with a little earth and stones. With bits of wood we made a cross, and placed this sign of Redemption on her tomb."
(The author of this account, evidently one of the French-speaking Catholic Sisters who survived the horrors of the Death March and subsequent internment in North Korea, has not yet been identified. Please note that Sister Mary Clare was 67 years old, rather than 60 as stated in the diary entry, at the time of her death. Also, although she was an 'English Sister' in the sense that she was a member of an English order, Mary Clare was in fact Irish by birth, born Clare Emma Witty in Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow. In 1912, at age 29, she joined the Community of St. Peter at Woking, Surrey, and was professed in 1915. She first went to Korea in 1923, returning to England when World War II forced the withdrawal of missionary staff. She returned to Korea in January 1947, and died in North Korea on November 6, 1950. A candlestick on the high altar of Seoul's Anglican Cathedral commemorates Sr. Mary Clare's life of service and sacrifice. Our thanks to Sr. Joy, CSP, Archivist at St. Peter's Convent, Woking, for her invaluable assistance. -Brian McGinn).