Sr Clare on her mode of transport.
Sr Clare on her mode of transport. Glyn Rees

Parishioners to farewell nun

MANY have missed that tiny spark that is the light to our future, akin to having missed your calling. But for Sister Clare Ogler, Allora's last Josephite nun, a tiny spark was provided by an Irish nun in her school years, igniting a passion that led her to a lifetime ministry in the community and service to her beliefs.

Tomorrow, after morning Mass at St Patrick's Catholic Church, Allora, parishioners and friends will gather to bid farewell to a lady who has left a significant impression on the Allora community. Sr Clare will leave the area and relocate to Nundah, in Brisbane.

Sr Clare has been at Allora for the past three years, after spending 60 years with the Josephite order. Her departure will see her active ministry complete, but her time at Allora actually saw the hand of time turn back.

Allora gave her many happy memories, being her first assignment after joining and training in the Sisters of St Joseph, teaching infants at Allora from 1952-1954.

"Allora is a special place for me. I felt at home as soon as I arrived," Sr Clare said.

"I love the people, all so friendly and accepting of you for what you are."

While the last Josephite nun may feel a special bond with Allora folk, she has contributed much herself as she cruised the streets to spend time with the elderly, ill, lonely and those who found it difficult to get around.

Sr Clare, so recognisable on her red Cruizer scooter, sporting an Allora sticker on the guard and wearing her trademark blue wide-brimmed hat, was on the roads around Allora by 9.30am four days a week to help people in need where she could, regardless of denomination, providing friendship, understanding and opportunity for a chat.

Sr Clare's ministry took her to people's homes to be with them, a situation where our country-born and raised lady is so comfortable.

"I had been visiting around 30 people but that list numbered 40 soon after I arrived back in Allora.

"My special ministry started when I was in Gin Gin some years back now, but wherever I have been there is always a wonderful welcome, not to mention all those cuppas and goodies," Sr Clare said with a grin.

"I have enjoyed helping and being there for people. I have given much but I have also had much given to me.

"I got such a lot out of spending time and talking to people and felt so honoured to have earned their trust, confidence and friendship."

Sr Clare loves mixing with country people, having been raised on a farm near Esk, in the Brisbane Valley. As a young girl from a family of six children, she admits she didn't inherit the country cookery skills most girls did because "if I had the choice, I was outdoors with Dad".

Our country girl, who in her words is "built for the country", attended Mt Beppo State School for a couple of years. Along with her brothers and sisters she would ride a horse to school, but most of her education was by correspondence.

In 1946, the young Clare spent a year at a Catholic school, the opportunity unlocking a door that would reveal her future. The next year she was asked to teach a class at the school after the passing of one of the nuns.

Then there was that spark that lit the way to her future.

"It was towards the end of 1947 and I was asked by an Irish sister at the school if I would like to be a nun."

The sister's suggestion had already been on Clare's mind and, in 1948, she entered the Josephite order and recently celebrated her diamond jubilee.

As the saying goes, "You can take the girl out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the girl", with Clare spending more than 40 years in rural centres such as Quilpie, Julia Creek, Mt Isa, Clermont, Chinchilla and Gin Gin, as well as Brisbane.

The Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, called the Josephites, were founded in Penola, South Australia, in 1866 by Mary MacKillop and Fr Julian Tenison Woods.

Sr Clare would have loved to stay at Allora and be part of the centenary celebrations for the Sisters of St Joseph in the area, but needs to care for her older sisters.

The goodbyes will be special tomorrow as the community not only bids farewell to a special lady in Sr Clare Vogler, but the curtain falls on a 96-year presence of the Sisters of St Joseph in Allora, the order founded by our nation's first saint.

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