The Strange Tale of Sister Clare – Part 2

On November 1st, I received the following email from Sister Clare:

Just so you don’t worry if I’m not as present for a day or two. I was robbed today coming out of the bank-lost the rent and heat money, $700, no way to reclaim it. So I’m very low and working on snapping out of it. Ha Ha

I was shocked and confused – shocked that she would be robbed. Confused because it seemed a strange way to tell me – almost as an after-thought. If I had been robbed, I would have blurted it out up front, not put it as a secondary thought in the email, and finish with “ha ha.”

So I responded with this email:

Hi sister –
that is shocking.
tell me exactly what happened –
Have you reported it to the police?
Were you hurt?

This is what she replied:

Reported to the cops and the bank, but nobody cares-its that sigh of relief “Well if it happened to her it won’t likely happen to me.” I’ve never argued with a gun, so I wasn’t hurt-just expecting a hideous month of people wanting their money that I no longer have. I haven’t felt this low for a very long time. No Christmas this year, if I can even get straightened out  by the end of the year. I had just withdrawn the rent and heat money to drop off on my way home, as I’ve done for 15 years. I park the car a few blocks away so I get some small walking in-and there he was, shabby, desperate. I handed him my bag, as he demanded, he took only the cash, and gave it back. I went straight back to the bank-it was pouring rain, so no witnesses. The manager even said “How do I know you aren’t just saying this?”-but then, everyone knows he’s an asshole. Went to the police station, filed a report, came home, cried for a very long time.

Here was my immediate response:

dear sister –
thank God you weren’t shot.
you must have been shaken up.
is that a particularly dangerous area? Or did he follow you from the bank?
I have a journalist friend works for the Toronto Globe & Mail – let me know the police station, and the officer you gave your report to – with phone number – and I might see if I can get him to do a story on this, and get your money back through public donation. Or at least start an online collection – like that go-fund-me. It’s worth a try…

This is what Sister Clare came back with –

I am so touched that you would think of trying to raise the money for me. I wish the world were that good! I can’t give any details, I was told, on the chance that one day he might be caught and prosecuted. I believe their hope is that this guy will try it again and they will catch him. If there was publicity it would forewarn him. I don’t know what its like where you live, but here, once you file a police report the information is sole property of the Crown. I went through a similar merry go round with the attempted murder charges years ago.

Its not a dangerous area, just an empty one. they say here that once the summer tourists are gone you could shoot a cannonball down the main street and never hurt a soul-its true. There are only 700 in the village, most retirement age , and over half of them are on their way south for the winter. They have condos etc in Florida and Texas-known as “snowbirds” here, as they always leave before the snow and return when it has melted. There are any number of places he could have waited to see someone leave the bank, and follow them. And there are several tiny villages he could try it in. I’m afraid what the police told me is true, “There’s no help for you, ma’am” Ma’am!!!!! Couldn’t even sharpen up enough to call me Sister!

My response:

HI Sister –
what I’m thinking is this – if I can get the reporter to speak to the police, and keep it non-specific, then we could get some publicity and use that to raise money for you online. 

Remember that homeless person who found that stash of money and returned it? Someone started a donation website and the guy got hundreds of thousands of dollars. We could do the same for you – nun with debilitating injuries, looking after a son who is a quadriplegic – no money for rent or heating – virtually destitute – then held up at gunpoint and her life threatened. It’s a great harrowing story. But I would need that reporter to act on this, and he would need to speak to the police.

It could literally be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to you sister, if we can get it into the mass media. So please reconsider – and I can get onto the journo and he can speak to the cops, and then to you to get a full interview, photos, etc…

Her response:


Please don’t think its me being difficult. I checked with my lawyer this morning just to be sure, and I really can’t give you any information involvoing (sic) the police or their report. There is nothing I wouldn’t give to make this different. Already I’m getting threatening emails about money- I put some bids on some inexpensive ebay items for Christmas gifts that I can’t pay for  now, so that goes against my credit rating. I can live with being shut out of ebay, but I used to have  perfect credit.

This morning a bill payment came through my account at the bank and because I can’t cover it, the bank has now charged me a $45 NSF fee that I will be getting several more times as, obviously none of the bill payments on auto withdrawal are going to be covered. And the bank knows I was robbed, but can’t turn down the opportunity to make more money.

In the 80’s a monk from my Order who lived in New York was murdered for his welfare cheque. Today, when I can’t stop crying, it seems to me he got the better deal.

My response:

Hi Sister

do you have a copy of the police report you filed?
If you have that, and you’re happy for me to post it, I can start up a GoFundMe website to collect donations.
That won’t contravene any laws.
I’d be interested to read the report anyway… it sounds truly shocking, what happened to you…


Here’s what she came back with:

No-I wasn’t given a copy. The best I can do is retell or blog my story

This was strange, I thought. You file a police report for armed robbery – and you aren’t given a police report? That seemed very odd to me. At this point I phoned a good friend who lives in Montreal. She’s a very experienced television journalist and documentary maker. She told me that if you lose your wallet on a bus in Canada, you are given a police report.

So I questioned Sister Clare more closely –

Hi Sister –

Whenever you fill out a police report, you’re always given a copy as a matter of course. 

Can you please give me the name of the police station where you filed the report, and the name of the officer? 

 Why can’t you get your lawyer to get you a copy? 

I hope you understand that I’m trying to do everything possible to get you some money, but I can’t do anything until I get a copy of that police report. 


Here was Sister Clare’s response:

Bill, believe me I am aware that my fate basically lies in your hands, and I am grateful. I intend to get a copy of the report, but will have to recheck with my lawyer-because and I am not happy about this – I think giving it to a third party with intention to publish is an offense. I am sure the only reason I didn’t get a copy was my rush to get out of there, and an oversight on their part. There is also a friendly (I think) police chief in town whom I will speak to about the consequences of “losing” my copy.

And if nothing can be done, I would like your nod to blog about what happened and the non-co-operation of the agencies involved-because I think if I got robbed on the Camino, people would come forth to help-and I don’t understand why it can’t be the same way in the larger world.

This now started to concern me. Was Sister Clare wanting to post on my blog that she was robbed at gunpoint, so that “people could come forth to help…”?

What sort of help? Donations? Like we did with the Kit the Nun campaign.

By now there were enough inconstancies in her story to make me very wary – and so I pushed harder to get the police report. I did not want her to use my blog to post anything that I couldn’t prove to be true and factual.

Also, I was curious because suddenly her email name had changed, to Alison Ferrier – not Sr Simon Clare, as it always had been. So here’s how I responded:

Hi Sister – 

a quick question: your email has the name Alison Ferrier on it, yet it’s the same underlying email address.

Is that your name or someone else’s? 


Her reply:

Why do you ask?

My reply:

Your name on your email address is Alison Ferrier. It used to be Sr.Simon – I want to know who Alison Ferrier is – and why you would be emailing under that name…

Why won’t you tell me?


Her response:

I am actually a secret agent spying on the Americans from my position in  a US religious Order. Just kidding, Obama!
Yahoo has just “updated” their email program. For some reason its spat out the name I originally signed up with before I was a nun. Alison Ferrier was my baptismal name. She no longer exists. I have intentionally buried her with a lot of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder memories, and prefer that she stay buried. Its too painful otherwise. I have gone into settings and am trying to change it back, You’re the third person to ask me about it, and I’m already having nightmares.
I did a check online, and yes Yahoo had updated it’s emails in the time she claimed, and there had been various disruptions. I was still curious though as to why her name changed.
I then emailed back:
Hi Sister – 

Thank you for clearing up that issue with Alison Ferrier. I was concerned about identity theft. I wanted to make sure that I was dealing with the real Sister Clare. 

That aside – you have asked for me to give you space on the blog to post about what happened… and as you say, ” if I got robbed on the Camino, people would come forth to help-and I don’t understand why it can’t be the same way in the larger world.” 
In other words, you want the PGS community to donate money to you. Let’s not be coy about this – that’s what you want. 
I will do that Sister, but I need proof that what you say happened – that you were robbed at gunpoint – actually happened, and that $700 was taken. 
People trust me on the blog – and with my support they will rally around you, as they did with the Kit the Nun campaign. But with that trust comes responsibility. And it’s my responsibility to make sure that all this is correct. 
You say you went to the police and you filed a report – but that you left quickly and you forgot to take your copy of the report. It’s very simple for you to go back and get your copy. I have checked with a dear friend in Montreal who is an experienced tv journalist, and she confirmed that police are required by law to give you a copy of your report. 
Once I have sighted that police report – and I won’t publish it, I just need to sight it –  then I am happy to give you space on the blog and do all I can for you to recover the money that was stolen from you. But I won’t do anything until I see that report. 
Her response:


I think we have a misunderstanding here. First, yes I know that its law that I get a copy of the police report. Unhappily its not the first time I have had to file one! Whoops-don’t know how the italics got here. Sorry.

The PGS family has gone way above and beyond in helping me make it to the Camino. You can check with Susan-I’ve been trying to come up with appropriate thank you’s for each of them, you included. Remember I asked for your address in Mudgee?I couldn’t and wouldn’t ask or accept another thing from any of them-it  violates my respect for you all, and my own sense of values. I can see how you interpreted it that way, but I just can’t do it.I love those people, Bill. Don’t you see that ? Is that why you think I told you about what happened to me?

I felt things were a bit awkward after I came home from Retreat. Remember I wrote to you and asked about it. Because I need to recover from this whole nightmare, I wrote yesterday to explain I might not be as available for a couple of days-and I did that because I felt the tone of your last emails was more like we used to be able to talk, and I didn’t want you to think there was a problem between us. You are certainly right in that I am shocky.But I have always come right out and said what I was feeling or thinking. I don’t do coy.My word to the Sacred Blood of Christ.

I thought of the blog only for the reasons I shared with you. Since I realise one of the others might also see it that way, which would deeply distress me, I don’t want to do it on any terms.I get the feeling you think I am lying to you. What have I ever done to make you think I am not truthful, Bill?You are right to sense there is something about this I am not telling you. I hate that I can’t say what you need to hear. Please trust its for a legitimate reason.

I can only love you more for being such a compassionate soul-thank you for that. We need more Bills.Because of how I feel about you, its best if we can let this be just something one friend told another. That’s all I intended it to be-but I got carried away by the thought of there being a way I could recover the money.Shame on me.Friendship is always more important. I hope that’s ok with you

I responded with this:

Hi Sister – 

thank you for saying all that… that’s so very sweet of you. 

Please understand that all I want to do is help you. For you to be held up at gunpoint, and to have your rent taken, and your heating money, and your credit rating to suffer – all that is just horrible. 

 Jen and I have decided that we will send you $700. But I need to sight that police report. 

Once I’ve sighted that report – and of course it’s for my eyes only – then we will wire through $700. 


Jennifer and I had spoken, and we had agreed to sending her the $700 – because if what she claimed was true, then it was a most shocking and dreadful thing to happen. But first I needed to be convinced that her story was true.

Here’s how she responded –


Thank you for your kind offer- I am very touched. But I couldn’t possibly accept. You are already paying my way to the Camino, which is overwhelming in so many ways! One day when I have written the great Canadian novel, I will be paying you back. And as much as I want to, I can’t share the report with you. There is confidential information about a third party in it, and violating that would compromise my vows as a nun.That’s the only other thing I haven’t told you. No, wait-its not. I have asked the police not to prosecute. That guy has enough troubles right now.

You and Jennifer must be almost ready to leave for Portugal, isn’t that right? That’s what you should be thinking about, and spending money there and on a wonderful Christmas present for Jennifer, is where your money needs to go! Please.

By now, I was really starting to get suspicious. She would knock back a genuine offer of $700? It was apparent to me that she either didn’t want to produce the police report that she claimed she’d filed – or it didn’t exist.

I now wanted to try and get independent verification of what happened, so this is what I then asked:

Hi Sister – 

what bank was it?
And which town?


Her response:

Do you mean which bank I had come out of?  Why? Ithought we agreed we were done with this!

My response:

Hi Sister –
yes, which bank did you come out of?

Her response:

My bank, of course!

It was now very apparent that she didn’t want to give me any information whereby I could check her story. And so I began to do my own investigation. Remember, I was trained as a journalist – ten years at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation before I moved across into filmmaking.

I have won two Australian Emmy’s for my journalistic work, including Reporter of the Year. I know how to get information, and I know how to check its veracity. I was determined to find out the truth…

I will post Part 3 tomorrow.

For those of you who are critical of me posting in instalments, all I can say is that I am currently down in the lobby of a hotel in Pontevedra, (no internet in my room) and I have a wife who is waiting patiently upstairs for me to take her out to dinner.

She is not happy that this is taking up so much of my time.

Also, there’s a lot here for you to absorb.




42 thoughts on “The Strange Tale of Sister Clare – Part 2

  1. Sigh! I don’t intend to change my name. I look forward, after the dust settles, to some interesting discussion about how to manage one’s life on the internet.
    – the other Clare


    • Hi Clare –

      yes, there’s certainly that to take from this.

      And other lessons too –

      The internet can be a very tricky place.



  2. Hate to blow another hole in Sister’s story, but Westport does not have a police station in town. Nearest detachment is 30km away. Having my doubts about there being a friendly police chief in town. Although I could be wrong.


  3. Hi Bill and Jennifer –
    I just want to say I’m thinking of you both and I hope so much that you’re both OK.
    Bill -Thank you for taking the huge amount of time that it has so clearly taken for you to post all of this – I very much appreciate it – it’s a measure of the person you are that you DO take this time when you have so many other commitments.
    PGS Family – thank you for ALL your comments – every single comment is so valuable here.


    • Thank you Jenny.

      You are a sweetheart.

      This is a complicated story requiring many levels of understanding to get the full import and subtlety of the subtext – hers and mine too.

      Reputations are at stake here – hers and mine, too.

      Because of that I have to be careful, and that takes time.

      That said, I am not changing one word of this email exchange. I am not red acting anything, nor making any modifications through editing.

      This is exactly word for word what unfolded.

      Thank you again for your kindness.



  4. PGS Family,

    This is a hot topic and touches each of us one way or the other.

    I have read each and every post today and reread many of them, and it seems that some of you might have already drawn some conclusion even before the story is finished and in spite of Bill’s admonitions not to.

    I know that we all love and appreciate Bill and all that he does, but let’s not rush to gather fire wood and matches just yet. And remember, there is a scripture that says something like, “He who is among you that is without sin, let him throw the first stone.” I know I would have to drop my stone.

    Peace and love, Steve


  5. Wow! I guess as Steve said, I would have to drop my stone too.
    I am hoping for a good end to this story but it doesn’t look like it is heading that way. Although —- Bill is a great story teller. Love reading his blog and his first book is five star!!. Could this be another book coming? I know awhile back we were all wanting Sisters story. All good books have a “twist” in the plot. I’m hoping for something good! We can’t all have been duped!


    • Hi Lynda –
      I’m with you – I’d have to drop my stone too and I deserve to drop it on my foot. I jumped in pretty quickly with some comments early on in Part 1 as I acted on my initial reaction, which was I was upset for Bill and Jennifer.


  6. PS: And I will be the first to acknowledge that this is indeed a very strange tale, or perhaps documentary might be more appropriate. 😦

    It is unfortunate that Bill must spend his time with this, but he always rises to the occasion.



  7. I want to comment, but simply cannot. This truly is a very sad situation.

    Bill and Jennifer, please know I am sending my love and warm thoughts to you now and always.



  8. Dear Bill, I was up very early to quickly read this next installment, and home again I just want to wait, again, with any comments, except to say like so many of the others, that whatever the outcome, it’s so sad that you and Jennifer have to deal with this situation and spend so much time and energyon it when you’re where you are because you are a such generous and compassionate couple. I sincerely hope that whatever is happening in your part of the world, both physically in Portugal and on the blog, that you can still take the time and expend the energy on experiences and places that sustain you both. Either way so many kind thoughts are pulsing their way to you both and if you say so, I’m sure to Sister. Britta


    • Britta,

      Thank you! You are such a beautiful person.

      It’s 5am here now in Pontevedra.

      I have been up since 3:30am preparing part 3, and I still have at least an hour to go.

      I will post it tonight though, after full reflection, and after Jennifer has edited/vetted it.

      I am exhausted, but I have to be painstaking about this.

      Yes, please send your love too to Sister Clare. She needs it.



  9. Dear Bill, the one consolation for me as a friend looking in from so far away is that at least the 2 of you have each other to lean on and don’t forget that if you run yourself down too far, it’s a bloody long way up out of the mire!!


  10. Bill, I’m interested to see where this leads.
    As everyone has already said you and Jennifer need to take care of yourselves.
    Take care



    • Thank you Donna –

      Gorgeous of you to say that.

      There is more to this sad story, and it is sad. I would ask that everyone on the blog give some thought, and love if they so choose, to Sister Clare – who needs our support through all this.

      I hold her no malice, nor do I feel any betrayal.

      But more to come later today, my time…



  11. Bill, whilst I realise that you are in Portugal arranging a wonderful pilgrimage for April, is it not ironic that the Camino is teaching what appear to be very strong lessons whilst you are where you are. If you were here in Mudgee managing the thousand other elements of your life, would you have the same opportunity to take this time of reflection and response. Would you be visiting cathedrals to buy rosary beads? When everything has settled down, I would be very interested to know where your PGS is in all of this.
    Please take care of each other. Big hugs for you and Jennifer.
    Sending prayers and blessings.


    • Thank you Anne –

      yes that’s a very interesting observation.

      It’s time now for Jennifer and me to drive through to Santiago. This morning we are meeting Ivar, from the Forum – and also having dinner with Marie, which I’m so looking forward to!

      Yes, I will do a full debrief on the blog after all this is laid out, because it’s been incredibly instructive for me.

      It might be for some other people too.

      thank you!



      • Hi Bill –
        When you meet Ivar, AND ONLY IF YOU THINK IT’S APPROPRIATE, would you ask if he has ever thought of arranging a Conference for the Forum Members? Over the past week on the Forum there’s been such a fun and interesting thread “Hypothetical Meeting”, started our own Aussie Vicrev – it’s been a fabulous read. I participated, as I like to do with these sorts of thread, and I had a thought … seriously, why not have a conference? It could be for the 10th Anniversary of the Forum – which I think is either in 2015 or 2016 – though I could be wrong here. It would be a huge event – three days – workshops, talks etc etc – I can tell you now I would put my name down for this. It would be a completely wonderful opportunity to meet Forum members from all over the world … we might even get Falc there!
        Apologies for bringing this up at an inopportune time for you in many ways, but as you were meeting him it might be something that he could be interested in.
        Thanks – and no worries at all if you don’t want to bring it up – it was just a thought.
        Cheers – Jenny


          • Cheers Bill – I’m just back from Spanish class but I just wanted to say I hope your meeting with Ivar will be beneficial for everything that you have planned.
            Thanks for mentioning the conference to him – it could be really huge – so many different associations worldwide such as the CSJ and the AFOTC, that could have representatives, suppliers, just to name a couple.
            Have a fabulous meeting with Ivar –
            Cheers – Jenny


      • Hi Jenny,

        I met with Ivar – what a gorgeous fellow – and put to him that idea you suggested, and he is now going to give it some serious thought. He immediately started trying to figure out how it would work.

        So keep on his back on the forum!




        • Hi Bill –
          Thank you so very much for putting up the Conference idea to Ivar. I really believe it could work. I’m glad to hear that your meeting went well – he’s an extraordinary person. I’ll act on your suggestion and do a post on the Forum to get the ball rolling!
          While I’ve been reflecting on Part 3 this morning (I can’t get it out of my mind) and reading Steve’s wonderful, wonderful comments, suddenly the title of one of my all-time favourite songs popped into my head. It’s Paul Kelly’s wonderful song “From Little Things Big Things Grow” … I can’t remember if you’ve done a post with this title … in the murky recesses of my mind I think possibly you could have … however, the beautiful chorus from that song – just two lines which is the song title repeated – immediately brought to my mind a picture of you and Steve and the incredible friendship that has grown between you two especially, thanks to this blog.
          Even though there’s sadness and confusion at the moment, we can all still say “From Little Things Big Things Grow” – we on this blog all have something that we didn’t have at the beginning of the year – it’s Friendship.


          • What a nice post. Thank you. This whole affair gives us all pause to reflect.

            I think anyone can like a post. No membership required. But never thought about it.



          • My absolute pleasure Steve. One of the most wonderful things about this blog for me has been the way you and Bill interact, often ‘chewing the fat’ (Aussie expression, or at least we take the credit for it!), and seeing the wisdom that comes out of that.
            Cheers – Jenny


          • Jenny,

            So true, we have through this wonderful blog, kindled some wonderful friendships. I know for me that is true.



          • Absolutely Arlene. You are such a huge part of PGS The Way and you’ve shared so much with us all and, like Steve, given so much time, energy and sincerity to the blog. It’s a privilege for me to be a part of this special community with you.


  12. Innocent until proven guilty.
    So, sister Clare’s story is true until proven otherwise.
    Nevertheless, I’ve spent some time as a journalist myself and i LOVE the dogged skepticism that sends the bloodhound on the hunt for the facts.
    I know this isn’t a distraction from your time on the Camino, just a reminder that life goes on even as we follow our PGS.
    Buen Camino!


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