The Strange Tale of Sister Clare – Part 1

This is a bizarre story about a nun, a gun, and a hatful of lies.

It involves deceit, masterful manipulation, and Holy vows before the Throne of God.

Let me tell you The Strange Tale of Sister Clare…

The internet can be a dark and murky place. We form friendships, we share secrets, we give over our trust to people we think we know from hours spent with them on the internet.

But do we really know them?

Who, for instance, is Sister Simon Clare?

I thought I knew, but now I’m not so sure…

She came onto this blog suddenly very early on, and quickly established a strong presence. It was apparent to me that she would continue to have a presence.

So Jennifer and I called her on the phone, to check her out.

We had a long conversation, and she seemed the real deal. Later I had a second conversation with her, and even though there were a couple of things that niggled with me – things that didn’t quite add up – I put them aside, because her writing on the blog was so persuasive.

I wondered why she was staying at home for instance, and not in a monastery or a church. She said she had a quadriplegic son, and she had been given special dispensation to stay at home and look after him.

Okay.

Then there was the issue with her gravatar – her picture attached to her posts. I asked for one, but she said she didn’t have a photo of herself. I asked that she take a photo with the camera on her phone, or from the webcam on her computer.

She didn’t want to do that.

After several requests and quite a few weeks, she finally produced a photo. Two photos. She said they were the only shots she had of herself. No others.

Well, I certainly was surprised at the photo. She was beautiful, and had a clear bright energy radiating out from her picture. She was everything you would want a nun to look like in a photo.

I remember when the photo finally went up on the blog, everyone expressed similar surprise, and delight.

But why had it taken so long? And why only two shots?

I put it down to her being a nun, and not having easy access to pictures of herself.

And then Sister Clare started telling me, off her own volition, how poor she was. And how she had no money – that nuns received no payment from the church. She told me that the welfare system in Canada didn’t provide enough money to adequately look after her handicapped son, and that she mainly survived on a small monthly stipend provided by her doctor.

At the time, I wondered: Is she wanting me too to provide her with a monthly stipend? If not, then why mention it?

Remember, I’d never asked her about any of this. She’d taken it upon herself to tell me off her own bat.

She told me other things too about her personal background, which I won’t go into here – but I will just say that her stories were truly harrowing.

She also told me about how ill she was. She detailed how she had to have 50 injections a week for an ailment that she never specified. This from the doctor who provided her with the stipend. You would have to have a heart of ice not to feel enormously sorry for Sister Simon Clare.

I began to give her more prominence on the blog – and I gave her several guest posts. She became very popular. You all loved her.

When I started the forum I gave her Moderator Permissions – and in fact I created her own forum for her, for Prayer Requests.

In her comments on the blog, and in private emails to me, she told of things she’d done in the past, both as a nun and before she joined the church, which surprised many of us. She had lived a full and colourful life.

Some of you I know expressed surprise at some of the things Sister Clare claimed to have done, or experienced. But none of us questioned her credibility. She was a nun, after all.

And nuns don’t lie.

In the first telephone conversation we had, Sister Clare had told Jennifer and me that she’d always wanted to walk the Camino. That it was her one big dream. But she had no money. She was saving what little she could and she hoped that one day she would get to become a Camino pilgrim.

When I later got a call from my travel agent, asking if I’d be interested in organising a Camino tour. I immediately thought of Sister Clare. I thought this would be a perfect way to make her dream a reality – I would do a tour, and cover the costs for her to come along.

I knew that her health issues might be problematic, so I organized to have a van on back-up support the entire way. This was principally for Sister Clare’s benefit.

And so I committed to the tour, and asked Sister Clare if she wanted to come, and be a tour leader along with Jennifer and myself. I told her we would cover all her costs.

Of course she jumped at it, and offered to hold daily Centering Prayer sessions for the pilgrims on the tour.

But there was a problem. She had no hiking gear, no clothing, nothing. And she had no money. So one of the contributors to the blog, Susan Sande, offered to coordinate a campaign whereby we ask for donations of gear and cash for Sister Clare.

And so I started up the “Kit the Nun” campaign.

Some of you swung into it with enormous generosity. Susan was sent a wide range of goods, including boots, a jacket, backpack – the works. Also a brand new camera worth about $850, an iPod Nano, an iPod Touch – and some of you even wanted banking details to wire money.

I put a value on the goods donated at a couple of thousand dollars, at least.

Still, the private emails from Sister Clare kept coming, telling me how hard her life was, how impoverished she was, and what a struggle each day was. She would give me gruesome details of the difficulties she was having with her quadriplegic son.

Behind the scenes, I was having to do some damage control with Sister Clare. She believed certain people on the blog weren’t treating her with due respect, and she complained bitterly to me about their treatment of her.

She asked me to admonish them.

At the time, I thought she was over-reacting, and I dealt with these episodes in a manner I thought appropriate. But I wondered about Sister Clare’s state of mind. It seemed she was very reactive and overly sensitive. I was also surprised at the level of anger she was directing towards some of you on the blog. I put it down to her health problems.

And then her Retreat came around.

She emailed me saying that she had no money and she needed $500 immediately – $250 for the cost of the retreat, and $250 to pay her heating. She told me that if she didn’t pay the $250 for the retreat, she would be expelled from the Order.

She said that she’d lent $500 to a friend who hadn’t paid her back.

Whilst she never explicitly asked me for money, the email was implicitly clear. Why email me telling me this if she didn’t want me to spring for the $500?

I felt very uncomfortable having someone I’d met on the internet talking about money this way. I told her I wasn’t in a position to cover the $500, and she emailed back saying: Oh Bill, I would never ask you for money. You’ve already been so kind to me.

Presumably she found the $500 from somewhere because she attended the Retreat. At least, I assume she attended the Retreat. She told me she did. And at that stage, I was taking Sister Clare at her word.

And then shortly after returning, about two weeks ago, she emailed me to say she had just withdrawn $700 from her bank, and she’d been robbed. At gunpoint.

Hmmm, I thought.

Just before the Retreat she was destitute with no money, now she’s withdrawing $700 from her account? She told me later that the friend who owed her the $500 still owed her that money. So where had the $700 come from?

This is Part One of The Strange Tale of Sister Clare.

As some of you might know, I am currently traveling, and have only intermittent access to the internet. I will post further Parts progressively, when I have the chance.

I won’t respond to comments or questions until I’ve laid out the entire strange tale of Sister Clare…

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45 thoughts on “The Strange Tale of Sister Clare – Part 1

  1. Hi BILL ,Just a comment : I ask sister clare thru private mail a picture of his ailing son, because I know a fantastic healer that saved my brother life working thru his picture. So I went to see him and ask him to treat sister´son . She never did send picture. and told me bizarre reasons why she could not.that looks strange to me because a mom will do anything for her son.
    And an other thing that did not feel right to me when I saw her picture : she had lipstick , in france or in spain i never see a non with lipstick.

    I am really sorry , and deceived. and sad.and angry.
    but it will pass and we are going to have a good tour.

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    • Marie –

      Please don’t be quick to pass judgment.

      There is more to this story.

      Please wait until the full story is told, then if you wish to pass judgement, you will do so with all the facts.

      See you tomorrow!

      Bill

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  2. Oh Bill – I’m completely knocked over by this news.
    To have ALL your generosity, and those who contributed to the Kit The Nun Fund, and to the many of us here in the PGS Family – particularly Steve – who has had such a wonderful rapport with Sister Clare – abused in this way – it’s shocking.
    I’m thinking of you and Jen and I’m sending you both the best vibes possible.
    One word for Sister Clare – “karma”.
    With love to you both –
    Jenny x x
    PS – I don’t know if you want to do it, but if it were me I would let Ivar know asap as I have seen the odd post from Sister Clare on the Forum recently after quite a break… your call, and none of my business, but I thought I would mention it.

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  3. Dumbfounded, and waiting for the rest of the story before commenting further. Sending you and Jen a heartfelt cyberhug. Your current trip is what matters now. Try to stay present in whatever beauty and love life offers you today. The rest will sort itself out later. Enjoy your trip and your girly car! Julie

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    • Thank you Julie –

      Doing this scout is actually hard work!

      Checking out all the hotels, the rooms, facilities, how close to the Camino etc.

      I just feel very sorry for Sister Clare.

      Bill

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  4. Bill,
    I truly love and care about both of you. And i want toreinforce your requests to all to withhold judgment. There is time enough for that, should anyone feel the need. After the complete story unfolds. Judgment serves no purpose. Compassion does.

    Steve

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    • Hi Steve –

      I agree

      This is not about judgement, this is about clearing the air

      And, as you say, about compassion and forgiveness.

      I think there are big lessons for me in all of this – and perhaps for some of you too.

      Bill

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      • Anything that causes us to step back and maybe take another look at ourselves has purpose. I believe each of us has something to learn from this scenario, but let’s let it unfold and not rush to judgment. I caution that no one here has a right to judge another.

        Nothing Sister Clare might have done will change the great memories of her support on this blog and on my own blog and our whimsical interactions with Bill. Those are good memories and will remain so.

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  5. Bill,

    Remember when I said something like “You, Steve, Jill, Sister Clare and others sounded too good to be true?” I was kidding but….

    How sad for this wonderful blog!

    Debbie

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  6. Bill,

    This is such a sad, sorry turn of events for all of us who participate in this blog and forum, but mostly for you Bill.

    Yes, I think big lessons for many of us to learn. And like Steve, I hope all will wait for the story to unfold before forming their decisions.

    Arlene

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    • HI Deborah –

      I have decided to do it in instalments for practical reasons.

      I am traveling, and this is a complicated story.

      If I speed through it, then I will lose accuracy – and getting the facts correct is more important than expediency.

      Bill

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      • Thanks Bill. I can appreciate the complexity in trying to accurately and unemotionally relate the sequence of events. I well understand that right now you would much rather be putting your energy into happier things. Thanks for your honesty. Sending much love your way.
        Debbie

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  7. I am with all of you….why tell the tale in installments, but I know our Bill is a story teller, so we need to let him tell the story his way. I have my own thoughts, which is why I have not posted here in awhile…just wanted to lurk and take things in so I could make a good decision about this trip. Hmmmm

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    • Julie –

      Already this has occupied too much of my time.

      Believe it or not, that post this morning took me two hours to compose.

      I have to be very careful about all this.

      As for the tour, you said you were coming, now it seems you are making up your mind.

      I need a decision from you fast, because I held a space for you at the cheaper rate, based on you giving your commitment.

      I will give that to someone else if you’re not coming.

      Bill

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  8. Hello everyone,
    Did not want to be silent for so long but as Steve has shared that we have decided with love in our hearts to divorce amicably. So, I’ve been focusing on myself and getting my life and business back on track and therefore read the posts most every day but have remained silent but definately interested. But, today I just wanted to voice my support and love to Bill and Jennifer relating to this confusing and upsetting tale of the Sister. I myself have questioned a few things that didn’t add up but decided to release them rather than investigate further but my ” truth bumps” (PGS) were definately on alert.

    So, please know that I enjoy you all and have just been self focused and not a figment of anyone’s imagination. I remain a full supporter of our PGS family and hope you understand why I’ve been silent.

    Sending love and friendship,

    XOXO

    Jill

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    • Jill is right. We may be better friends now than as a married couple. It is so amicable that there are not even lawyers involved. In todays world that is pretty amicable. We dont need them. Mainly a matter of geography. California vs Texas. Now i am trying to talk her into the Portugal trip.

      Steve

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  9. Deborah and Julie, and others who are wondering “why in installments’? Sometimes the sadness is so deep and overwhelming that one has to take a break to breath. Bill needs to do this in his own way and I know he is not doing this for effects or a storyline. Sending him and Jennifer much Light and Love. Ingrid

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    • Ingrid,

      thank you.

      This has made me quite depressed, and sick in the stomach.

      I don’t wish to prolong this for dramatic effect – I just want to tell the story in it’s totality, and not overload everyone with too many details too quickly.

      It is a complicated and very subtle story. And I don’t want to splurge it out, just to keep everyone happy. Mistakes will then be made.

      It can’t be rushed.

      Bill

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  10. Wow, can’t say I am shocked.
    I felt red flags(PGS perhaps?) when the story of her quad. son needing an operation started to appear, and the thousands of dollars needed. In Canada, we have a publicly funded health care systems, all surgeries are free except for elective surgeries such as cosmetic surgeries(face lifts, liposuction, etc). The Canadian Gvmt also has special programs for disabled people(her son would have received a disability pension), both their medication and treatments would have been covered by the provincial government.
    The town of Westport is quite small, only an hour’s drive from here , it would be quite simple to make a few phone calls to verify who she really is, and if her story checks out.
    I loved reading her comments, they were both touching and inspirational, and quite funny at times too. I truly hope she is who she says she is, and not a scam artist. If Sister SC is legit, then I apologize profusely for ever having doubted her story, however, I just can’t shake this feeling that genuine, generous , true pilgrims have been had.

    Sonia

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      • Steve,

        Excellent advice! Advice all should heed until the entire story unfolds.

        I also would like to urge those reading this post to hold off on judgment, hear the story to its completion first. Let it unfold in the way Bill needs it to unfold. We will all learn the entire story soon enough I’m sure.

        Arlene

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  11. uhhmmm Bill, Headscratching going on here! and you have us hanging on the edge of this cliffhanger! I am awaiting the conclusion.
    Jill and Steve, you are both amazing individuals and it is inspiring that you are so honest and open with your journey together, and getting to see the this difficult decision approached with such respect for each other is a rare and amazing thing. Thanks, it gives hope to all that we can in our human existence we can navigate with wholeheartedness even in the most difficult times of life.
    Xo Kathryn

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    • Thank you Kathryn. Better to be friends apart than enemies together. We were never enemies. We just grew apart. At least for now. Too many people remain enemies together.

      Steve

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    • Hi Kathyrn,
      What a nice thing to say. I thank you and appreciate your sentiment. I feel very lucky to be going thru this with Steve and not someone who is angry, hurt, shut down and hateful. I’ve seen it too many times and I feel so sad to see a relationship that began with hopes and dreams get so far removed that the only feeling left are those of disgust and resentment. I truly believe that we will be dear friends for life and really do believe the statement never say never, meaning anything is possible in the future!

      Again, thank you for your kind words.

      Xoxo

      Jill

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  12. Bill and all the PGS family.
    Like so many, I am experiencing a range of feelings about this situation which is being revealed.
    Please know that you are all in my thoughts and prayers, as you were on my Camino.
    Our role is not to judge but to live a life of compassion, goodness and genuine love for humanity.
    Bill, stay strong and safe.
    Blessings
    Anne 😕

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    • Dear Anne –

      Thank you very much for all this. But Sister Clare is really the one who needs our love and prayers right now.

      Strangely, Jen and I went into a church in Pontevedra today – the Divina Petegrinas – and I bought a Camino Rosary for Sister Clare. She has been in my thoughts constantly these past several days – and not in any kind of negative way. That may sound odd, given what I’m unfolding – but it’s true –

      Bill

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      • Bil, thankyou. Of course, Sister Simon is included in those prayers, but I will add a few extras for her.
        I am very moved by your compassion and capacity to reach out to those who hurt or offend you. This has been evident in many instances. Therefore, your actions do not surprise or sound odd to me.
        Blessings
        Anne

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        • Thank you Anne –

          There are some huge lessons in this whole episode with Sister Clare for me – and perhaps for some others too. But I need to go through this story progressively, and with care, before I can discuss those lessons.

          There has to be something good come from all this!

          Bill

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