My parents were Hubert Clan and Mary Jo Donahue Clan. Both are deceased. They had eleven children, six girls and five boys. Born February 1, 1934, I was in the middle of their eleven children. Three of my siblings have died; two brothers and one sister. Both parents were happy and supported my decision to enter the Community.

I am originally from New Hope, Kentucky. I went to St. Vincent de Paul School for eight years. It was a public school but it was staffed by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. After completing the 8th grade at St. Vincent de Paul School, I went to Bethlehem High School in Bardstown, Kentucky.

Sister Martha with her parents and siblings

It was in high school that I began thinking about becoming a Sister. Monsignor James H. Willett, pastor of St. Joseph Cathedral in Bardstown, approached me one day and asked me if I ever considered religious life. I spoke with him frequently after that and by the end of my senior year, I knew that I was being called to the SCN Community.

I entered the Community at the age of eighteen on September 24, 1952, and made first vows on March 25, 1955. My first mission was at St. Cecilia’s in Louisville where I taught the first grade. I received much help from Sisters Anita Hayden and Elaine McCarron. They also taught first grade. Because of the two of them, I was prepared and confident when I got another assignment two years later to go to Bellevue, Kentucky.

Sister Martha in the 8th grade, dressed to crown the Blessed Mother at New Hope School.

My first year at Bellevue, 1957, I had sixty-five first graders. At the end of that year, one of the seniors at LaSalette Academy, Mary Anne Burkardt graduated. She taught a class of first graders until she entered our novitiate. She told me that one day I had asked her if she ever thought of becoming a Sister. From then on she prayed about it, and soon after, she entered the SCN Community.

After leaving Bellevue, I was missioned in Morganza, Maryland. That was a very difficult mission. It was at this time that the Community was trying to desegregate its schools. Some parents were not too happy with us. We had a black school and a white school; both within walking distance of each other. We began the process of integration gradually by bringing the two schools together for movies and other events. By the end of that year, a law was passed to end segregation in public schools. A new school was built to accommodate all of our students. Mother Catherine was the name chosen for this new school.

My next adventure of teaching began in Columbus, Ohio at St. Ladislas. I was there for six years. We had several poor families in the parish. I used to wash the uniform of a little girl in my class each week; otherwise, she would never bring it back. I dressed her for her first Communion and let her wear her dress home. She wore it for days. I didn’t have the heart to take it from her. She was so proud and beautiful that day.

When I left Columbus, my next move was to St. Martha’s School in Louisville. I taught in a mobile home converted into a classroom. We had one bathroom which we –teacher and children– all shared.

Sisters Carol McKean, Martha Clan, Miriam Louise Hauser, Mary Margaret Reid, Michaella Cronin, and Louise Smith at Camp Maria in 2007

My last two missions were my favorite. They were St. Ann’s in Morganfield and St. Catherine’s in New Haven. I was at each mission for twelve years. I have such good memories of the people and students in St. Ann’s parish and school. Today, I frequently see former students from New Haven.

I was only at St. James in Elizabethtown for one year. I left at the end of that year to live with my mom. My niece had been living with her and wanted to go to college. I was there for two years before my oldest sister asked me if she could stay with her to supplement her income. Mom died about six months later.

The most significant event in my personal life would have to be the year I took a leave of absence from the Community (1973-1974). I was really struggling with myself. At that point, I did not know if I wanted to remain in the Community. Sister Barbara Thomas was the Superior General at that time. One thing she asked me to do was write a letter every month to her or to see her and let her know how I was doing.

Sister Martha Clan and her niece, Linda Smith

One month I mentioned in my letter that for the first time I knew what it was like to be poor. I had not received my first check from teaching and I had only a few coins left. I told her I was not asking for money but just wanted to let her know how I felt. I received a personal check of twenty dollars from her a few days later. That same day I received my check from school and returned her check. Sister Barbara was such a big help to me. During this leave of absence, I taught school at St. Francis of Assisi School. I only had thirteen first graders… a teacher’s paradise! I enjoyed that year. The principal wanted me to stay, but Sister Barbara encouraged me to go to Morganfield, where I would be living with other SCNs. As the year progressed, I found I missed Community life. When I drove by Nazareth I had such an urge to return. By the end of that year, I did return and I have no regrets. I needed that year to realize that I truly wanted to be a part of this wonderful Community.

Written by Sister Martha Clan, January 2017

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