Sister Claretta Burbine
“Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13, adapted)
“St. Paul laid out a plan for the Corinthians that, I believe, Sister Claretta naturally followed throughout her life,” began Sister Ruth Johnson in her commentary for Sister Claretta Burbine, who died Dec. 4.
Born July 31, 1910, to Benjamine and Adesse (Surette) Burbine in Yarmouth Co., Nova Scotia, Celine Burbine was one of eight children. She was educated at a public school in Nova Scotia before completing her grade school education at Cheverus, Malden, Mass. She attended Cheverus High School, Malden, graduating from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Academy. She entered the Congregation July 18, 1928, and professed first and perpetual vows Feb. 24, 1931, and Aug. 15, 1936. Sister Claretta earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.
“Being brought up in a loving family, living basically alongside nature and with the simplest things of life, this would capture Sister Claretta’s imagination — to believe in an all-embracing love that extended beyond her parents and siblings. Somewhere, somehow, a destiny would providentially lead her to another loving family, that of community, who through the years would see St. Paul’s better way of life unfold in her,” said Sister Ruth.
“Being one of eight children in a close-knit French Canadian family meant everyone carried his or her weight. Cooking, sewing, knitting and maintaining a clean house while keeping a pleasant disposition, despite setbacks, was the Burbine way of life,” continued Sister Ruth.
Sister Claretta’s first ministry in 1931 was serving in the Infirmary. Her first teaching position was at St. Benedict, Terre Haute, Ind. In Indiana, her elementary school classrooms included St. Joseph, Terre Haute; St. Joan of Arc and Holy Cross, Indianapolis; and St. John the Baptist, Fort Wayne. In Chicago, she ministered at St. Mel, St. Sylvester and St. Genevieve. She also taught at St. Theresa, Wilson, N.C.; St. Mary, Rochester, N.H.; and Holy Redeemer, Berwyn, and Holy Redeemer, College Park, Md. The majority of Sister Claretta’s years in ministry were spent in Massachusetts at Sacred Hearts, Malden; St. Patrick, Stoneham; and St. Polycarp, Somerville. Sister Claretta retired in 1987 and returned to the Woods one year later.
“Sister Claretta had many passions in her life. She loved Canada and would sing the anthem at the drop of a hat. She loved teaching and set no limits on the time and energy spent for the good of her pupils. Having been brought up on Morris Island in Nova Scotia, she loved Lady Isle (Portsmouth, N.H.) and would spend every summer there. She would relive her childhood by rowing the boat every day, walking in the woods, picking blueberries for muffins and undertaking the community laundry — even hanging it out in the fresh air if the day was clear,” shared Sister Ruth.
“When she finally came to the Woods in retirement, she continued to knit items for the Providence Alumnae Association and bake whenever baked goods were needed. When her eyesight failed, Sister Claretta had to relinquish these delights. But, true to form, she did it gracefully and with no regrets.
“As it was in the beginning, so in the end. Sister Claretta grew in her relationship to the God who sought her on Morris Island and deepened her friendship with those around her. She was always serene and at peace with her lot in life. And this is how Sister Claretta is remembered. This is how she lived her life — calmly, peacefully and graciously toward all. Sister Claretta was love,” said Sister Ruth.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Claretta was celebrated Dec. 9, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She was preceded in death by all her siblings.
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