The Strange Tale of Sister Clare – Part 5

Over the next couple of days Sister Clare and I swapped cordial emails.

The content was about my deleting her from the Forum, because I had given her a dedicated pgs-gmail address, and she was concerned that she might be missing out on private emails.

We sorted all that out amicably – but I was still pretty cut and bruised by what had happened. So I asked her whether she wanted to write a guest post, which I would publish on the blog.

My thinking was this: that if she took up the offer, then it might be a way whereby she could absolve herself from what she’d done. I wasn’t after a confession – and I didn’t want to tell her what to write – but i thought that she might see it as an opportunity for some level of oblique atonement.

That’s what I was hoping for, at any rate.

What she gave me was a post about communities, and local heroes. Here it is –


I was so impressed with Rachel’s blog, that she has inspired me to think further about some of the points she made so well. She talked about her concern that we are losing the sense of community that pervaded the neigbourhoods we grew up in.

They were wonderful, safe places to play in because they were city or suburban blocks, mini communities-places where all of the families looked after all the children and kept a careful eye on them. If you fell and scraped your knee, and your mother wasn’t home, your friend’s mother would fill in, clean your knee, put on a bandaid and give you the same kiss your own mother would have.

Motherlove is universal, and universally vital.It speaks the same language : “Mind your table manners”;” Go to the bathroom before we leave, please”,”Are your library books due?”, “Is your homework done?” Make sure you’re home as soon as the street lights go on.”

None of the mothers seemed to mind when it was their turn to watch the neighbourhood, and the kids didn’t mind whose mother was in charge on any given day, as long as one of them was.If your own mother smacked you for doing something wrong, the other kids would gather round and sympathise-and then we’d all get on our bikes and ride up to the swimming pool, or over to the park.

On Dominion Day, the original name for Canada Day, when July 1st came around, we would all gather on the sidewalks after supper, waiting for the fathers to bring out the boxes. We shared more celebrations then, so we’d pool the whole block’s fireworks, wait slapping the mosquitoes, as the fathers set up and the sky darkened enough to give a beautiful black background for the fireworks, It was wonderful.It was neighbourhood, and growing up with a sense of caring community.

Rachel goes around her own neighbourhood organising activites,and all kinds of things to teach the children the right thing to do when a neighbour needs you. In many ways, she’s teaching them how to love in a larger sense. If someone is ill, chicken soup is made and goes over to the household temporarily managing without Mum.Chores are shared; neighbourhood concerns are discussed; and care is spread around to give the neighbourhood, adults and children, that larger sense of community-and she is a hero for doing it.

Its women (and men) like her ,who are willing to fight for their neighbourhoods, and the quality of life, who will be the ones who can save us and this special part of our social history, if anyone can.And they will, because they are doing the one most important thing-teaching their children to do it too.

I worry about our communities, especially since Social Media has overtaken the skill and pleasures of talking one human being to another, face to face.”Friends” are people listed in Facebook, not flesh and blood people whom we know and see in the shops and at church on Sunday.Teenagers, (and adults too)talk to shadows, one avatar to another. You don’t have to be who you really are, so honesty goes out the window.Language skills, appropriate touching,dining out without eating like wild animals, and face to face, skin to skin contact like holding hands, are disappearing.

We have a generaton that doesn’t know how to express love unless its through some beat music adorned with obscenities. Young men don’t know about walking their date home-young women don’t know what a complement that is-or how you can stretch the date a little longer sitting on her parent’s porch swing.The teachers in our schools are expected to practically raise our children for us because we are dashing off to meetings and activities in any ‘spare’ moment we can be away from work.Without the Rachels, all we have to do is blink, and that precious and vital part of our civilisation is gone.All the things that drew out our gifts, our humour and affection, are lost.And with no new generation ready to teach us how, those things are lost forever.

So I say-thank God for the Rachels, the neighbourhood and community heroes who are working so hard to save the best of ourselves for future generations.

Right or wrong, I refused to publish it.

I was angry that she wanted to use this opportunity to write a post which would only endear her to thee PGS community. She was acting as if nothing had happened.

Now, I might well be in the wrong here, and my anger might well have misdirected me. And after all, I had said I’d forgiven her, and told her it was all over. So why was I acting like this? What was I really wanting – for her to fall on her sword publicly? Would that appease my anger and hurt?

I am as culpable as Sister Clare in all of this.

Anyway, I refused to run it – so Sister Clare wrote a second guest post, hoping that I would like this one better. I didn’t. Here is her second attempt:


Believe it or not I’ve spent over an hour editing and cutting this in half.There isn’t anything left that can go and still say what I hoped to.Throw it out if you want to. If you decide to use it and wondered about a picture, I thought maybe a rose speaks to the ‘stop and smell the roses” theme.

Some of you know that I recently went on Retreat. I really need that time to decompress and renew my spiritual direction, so I look forward to it, knowing I will come home refreshed and ready to work again.

People have a funny way of looking at clergy -they often aren’t quite sure how to relax and talk with us, because historically clergy have been put on a pedestal.So wrong!! We aren’t any better or any different than anyone else.We are as tired, as frustrated, as misdirected, as wonderful and as obnoxious. We are certainly as fallable.We sin.

Because we are all dedicated to helping and giving love to others, we need a time away to be human together, talk about the mistakes we’ve made, the long hours and lonliness-and the unbelievable gift of being able to give our lives and hearts to God in service.I count on my Order to help me vent and regroup, confess what I’ve failed to do right and get support and ideas to help me do better.

It felt different this time. There was the same sense of coming home, the familar smells of the house and my room.My closest and dearest friend was there and the first thing he, the one who knows me best, said to me was “If you don’t start taking care of yourself you aren’t going to make it to the spring.”Not the greeting I was hoping for.

But he’s right. The last eighteen months have been a time of great change for me.I became, for the first time, a 24/7 caregiver. I’m still going out every day to help people who have different needs.I love my life, because I need to feel needed ,and go to bed feeling I’ve made a difference to someone.

But the flip side to that is:I have to be the strong one by myself, all the time; making all the decisions and plans . In many ways a caregiver has to live two lives, simultaneously and competently.

I hadn’t been taking care of myself physically or spiritually. I really believe one of the reasons the Camino is calling me is to make me take that time before I implode, or become so useless at my job that I can’t do anything good for anyone else.I had set up my life with everything except support, time off, and love coming in as well as going out.

Some of us are lucky enough to go on Camino to rediscover wonder, self , mystery and spirit -most aren’t.Without a “camino opportunity”, and even with one, its so important to step back regularly and see what is and isn’t working in our lives.It wasn’t that I thought I didn’t need anyone-I hadn’t thought, period.

The universe was not created to answer my needs and expectations and magically know what those are . I can find the spiritual connection , but the practical eludes me. I wasn’t prepared to meet the inevitable crisis that waits round the corner for everyone, sometimes God gives us enough skills and chances to get this part right ourselves.And I’m working on it.

I wish I’d been able to do it at Retreat, where getting it wrong is safe, and you have help to try again,but for some reason, or some twist in God’s plan for me,it didn’t happen.

There is a huge lesson in that.I know somehow I’m going to have to find room for myself in my life.A couple of crises have shown me that in an emergency I don’t have anyone to help ME-and I have to fix that, too . I can’t help anyone else until I start helping myself again. I just got so busy that all of that self care was put on a shelf, and forgotten.

I love you people, this PGS blog family.So, please, please-take time to care for yourselves.

I still didn’t want to publish this. I thought it was twaddle. I thought it was Sister Clare sucking up to you all, so that you’d love her. This wasn’t what I was after. I was after something which spoke indirectly of what she’d been through, and what she’d learnt – if she’d learnt anything.

But whenever I have offered someone a guest post on the blog, I have never dictated what it should be about, and I’ve never changed a word of what’s been offered. And I didn’t wish to now, with Sister Clare. However in fairness to her, because she was trying hard to please me with these attempted posts, I thought it was time I was a little more pointed in what I wanted. So I sent her this email:

I have given you an opportunity to write a guest post, in the light of what happened. 
Is this the way you choose to use that opportunity? 
Think deeply about this – about what you have been through, and what you have put me through. 
And consider whether you wish to write something else… 


Here’s how she responded –

Bill- Whatever you think is best- I’m not especially invested in this particular blog, but I wanted to give you something fairly soon and that’s what was on my mind at the time of writing.You should have seen the crap I cut out of it!

The only point I wanted to make was -make sure you’re taking care of yourself, because in my case , anyway, I really let it slip-its too easy to let that happen. But when I was driving home this afternoon, I had a couple of other ideas that are much lighter, and I’d rather send one of them.

I wanted to post to Rachel because I really like her stand on the importance of community. She did a great job, I thought. But when I wrote the reply and pressed send(or whatever it says) I got taken to login to WordPress, which is all connected with the google/ gmail, and they wouldn’t take my password or let me change it for a new one.

Then I thought- crap, Bill’s going to see that and think I was trying to sneak onto the forum or something. So, can I send you what I wanted to post to Rachel-you did say you still wanted me to post to the blog, right?Or can you tell me how I can get back in to WordPress?I tried everything I could think of.

Your email says “in the light of what happened” and I’m just checking-didn’t you say you wanted that to stay between us, and it was forgiven and over? I’m not   tyring to challenge you, here, just want to be on the same page. I do love you, Bill and I want things to be right between us.

This mess made me think of my own brother, and we haven’t spoken for more than 30 years, and I don’t want that to happen to any other relationships.I don’t think its what good, renewed people should do to each other!

 When things feel comfortable again, there’s something I wanted to ask you-but it can wait.

I didn’t reply – I was preparing to travel to London. So Sister Clare sent me this email –


Am I reading this wrong ? “Sister-I’d like to offer you the opportunity to write a guest blog.You can write about anything you want” or is it :”I have given you the opportunity to write a guest blog, in the light of what happened.”

 I’m not always the brightest, and since I think I misunderstood that you said  I could post to the blog because people would miss me-when I am locked out from doing that-I am dumber than even I thought.

So, which kind of blog would you honestly like me to write?


My response when I got to London –

hi sister – 

I just arrived in london yesterday and went straight into an important business lunch, then came back to the hotel and collapsed. 

Today I have another important meeting. Tomorrow I fly to porto. 

so I will wrap my head around all this when I get a chance. 


She came back with –


Be careful you don’t overtire yourself ! I just read an article about travel fatigue leading to an almost immune system deficiency-where you pick up any and every bug around-which can be quite varied as you travel from country to country! It leaves you  either ill or “half-sick” all the time. Sounds unpleasant to say the least.


I then purposefully remained silent for a few days. I wanted Sister Clare to think about things. Think about what kind of guest post she should write.

A couple of days later, she sent me this – her “confession.”

I want to tell you all about something awful that happened, the stupid and wrong way I handled it, and how doing that hurt Bill, someone I love and respect. I realise I’ll likely also lose the love and respect of many of you, but I will do anything to make things right with Bill, and that comes first.

About a week ago I was robbed. I was coming out of the bank with my rent and heat money, was approached by someone I knew, who walked me to my car and then stole my money.I sat in the car thinking and praying for a long time.

I decided I didn’t want this guy to be prosecuted for many reasons, most of them wrong, but I still think there’s a chance that when things get better for this individual, he will eventually return the money.

I was scared and shaken up and needed to talk to someone, just to get my head on straight and settle down. And I thought of Bill right away because I trust him and he’s always been there for me.I also knew Bill is a standup guy who respects process and responsible decisions, so I did a very stupid, wrong and evil thing.

Because I wanted his support and sympathy, which was selfish and manipulative and I still can’t believe I did this-when I told Bill what happened, I also lied and told him I made a police report.

Well Bill is an extraordinarily generous guy, and right away he offered to do some fundraising to get me the money I had lost-and when he said that, an awful part of me that I am deeply ashamed of, wanted that money for a moment or two longer than even I had thought myself capable of.Disgust.

And I told him no-and I told him I had lied about making the police report, that I hadn’t made one.And the thing is, because I am stupid and selfish it was only then that I realised how much lying to Bill would have hurt him. Because I needed someone to make me feel better, I lied to one of the best people I have ever known.

And I realise no one will likely believe this, but I didn’t turn to Bill because I wanted money.I can swear that unconditionally before the Sacred Blood of Christ.I wanted his attention and sympathy-which is worse, because that’s a piece of his heart that should only be given, not manipulated.

Bill decided that I should no longer be part of the forum and some other things.He has every right to deny me the trip to the Camino. What hurts so much is that I have lost my good friend Bill, and I will do whatever he needs me to do to fix that.I am hoping and praying as fiercely as I can that he will be able to forgive me, and I am hoping with all my heart that he will let me be his friend again, although I don’t deserve that.

I am so very sorry. I am sure some of you now think of me with disgust,and that makes me incredibly sad.I have spent a week in acts of Penance because I need and want to and because my Confessor told me to.I would have done it anyway-but its not helping. I’ve cried a river and can’t stop crying,but that doesn’t make me feel better either.

All I can do in reality is go forward with my head hanging down , learn from this shameful mistake and keep praying that one day I’ll get an email from Bill, and because he has an amazing heart, it might say that he forgives me. I don’t have the right to hope he’ll want to be my friend again, but I will pray every day that the impossible happens and he does.I don’t expect him to, but maybe God will take pity on me and help.I apologise to all of you, and ask very very humbly for your forgiveness, to. Its all I can do-and believe me, I know its not nearly enough.

I am so sorry Bill. I am so sorry.

Sister Simon Clare

This is where The Strange Tale of Sister Clare starts to get really murky – because I didn’t believe a word of her so-called “confession.” And I say it starts to get murky, because I might be just as much at fault as her, in not believing her, and not forgiving her in the true sense of what “forgiveness” means.

Fact is, I thought it was all crap.

I did not believe she was robbed, and most importantly, she neglected to mention a very important thing – that a gun had been produced. That this was a robbery that involved a weapon.

She also failed to mention that I had forgiven her. Maybe she didn’t believe that I had – and I can understand how she might have felt that way, given how I was behaving towards her – but I did not wish to run the piece. I thought it was a lie by omission.

Like I say, I’m no good guy in all of this. I might just be a total bastard who won’t take the word of a nun that she’s been robbed at gunpoint. But I didn’t buy it – and I wasn’t going to run it.

Here’s how I responded –

Hi Sister- 

Jennifer and I are traveling through Portugal at the moment. We are on a fairly tight schedule, and I don’t always have internet access. Last night for instance there was no internet, and now this morning we have to leave early. 
I will consider running what you’ve written below – but if this guest post is a “confession,” and if I agree to post it, I will only do so on the understanding that if I need to, I can also post the email exchange that you and I had which exposed your lies. I would only do that though with your permission. 
So the ball is in your court – I will look at this “confession” in the next day or so, and if I agree to post it, then it’s on the understanding that I can also post the full email exchange, from the time you first informed me that you were robbed, to your admitting at the end that you had lied.  If you agree to that, then I will consider running this “confession.” 
Let me know, 


Here’s what she came back with –

Hi Bill

I appreciate you taking the time to ask what I want to do.

 Earlier you sent an email saying you had decided not to publish the letters because you felt that would be punishment, and punishment would prevent forgiveness. You had said you forgave me.

I believe, although I want to check with you, that you also said you thought the matter should remain beween us. I don’t personally think anything would be served, or the situation between us improve,by dumping this on the PGS family, or by deepening the misery of the situation.

 I wrote the confession because of your last letter. After inviting me to write an email on the subject of my choice, you were not happy with what I sent and replied that in light of what had happened and what I had put you through, I should think deeply on what I wanted to say.

I’m not quite sure what it is you do want me to say-I wish I was, because then I would know what I could do to get us back on track, or at least somewhat closer to that end.

This confession is , really a letter from me to you trying to let you know how deeply sorry I am, and that I am trying very hard to learn from this awful mistake, to do everything I possibly can, on top of giving you my word that I would never lie to you again.I don’t believe that anything can  improve by dragging this out, but only by taking what happened as a significant marker of where I begin, to do the serious personal and spirtual work of making  myself into a better person.

I am doing this with the help and under the direction of my Spritual Advisor in the Order. But I am a Christian, and in the Bible when it talks about forgiveness, it says forgiveness is given, our sin is forgotten and you begin again. God knows how incredibly fallable we are, and has some insight, I believe, on the best way to proceed after a sin , that will make it so the sin is not repeated. That’s what I’m doing.But if that’s not how you see forgiveness, it won’t mean to you what it does to me.

You have asked me to think about what I want to say. I want to say I am sorry. I was stupid and wrong and evil and selfish and sinful-and the worst is that I hurt you.I want to say Bill, what do you need me to do? I want to say what I did in the blog on blessings-that’s important.I want to get on my knees in front of you and beg for your forgiveness  and a chance to restart our friendship.

I want to say, Bill, I have never felt as small and broken and grief crippled as I do now.Whatever you want me to say, or do, will be done.But I can’t mind read and I need you to tell me what that is.If you want to shoot me through the head, I will stand still.If it would stop you from hating me, I will lick every cane toad in Australia.

I am sorry. I love you. I made an awful mistake and did a terrible thing. If it wouldn’t be taken as an insult, I would repeat the four things you say that you’ve shared on the blog when something doesn’t go well.Frankly I’d be fine with getting hit by a bus. I can’t stand myself and I need your help to make it right because I don’t know what will do that for you.

I hope I have chance to show you all these things, and that I am working on becoming a person you would want to call a friend.Will publishing the confession do that? I don’t know.Will publishing the emails do it? I don’t know.I know I want it to be time to walk away from the ugliness, but the confession is full of it so maybe that’s counter productive.

What will make you feel better? That’s what I need to know.On the 24th you emailed Susan telling her not to send any more things. That was before all this occurred-so what does that mean? Again, I don’t know.

Its your blog, Bill, the place wher you tell the world about becoming a pilgrim and encourage people to do their best at listening to the spirits that guide them.Maybe they know.Its in God’s Hands.I have to defer to what His Will would be, and to do that I have to spend more time in prayer.

More to come…


29 thoughts on “The Strange Tale of Sister Clare – Part 5

  1. Bill, like everyone I am waiting on the final post, but in the meantime feeling the pain you and Jennifer, and Sister Clare apparently, are dealing with. Having only recently finished my (our, my wife and I) Camino, and knowing how long it takes to put one’s thoughts down, in proper perspective, especially while travelling, I appreciate how hard this must be. I wish you all the best. Peter


    • Thank you Peter –

      yes it takes a while to get this all aligned as it should be.

      It’s important for me, and most probably for sister Clare too, that it be accurate.



    • Bill – I echo Peter’s thoughts.
      Thank you once again for devoting the huge amount of your time that you have given to post the full story.
      Best wishes to you and Jennifer –


      • Thanks Jenny –

        What’s interesting in the comments now, now that the full story has almost been told, that some on the blog are starting to discuss the fuller and deeper implications of all this – and the resonances.

        I was hoping that would be the case, because there are things we can all learn from this – myself very much included.



  2. 1) Personally, I do not own a car. And I live in a doss house.

    2) Nuns are not clergy.

    3) Bill, you were 100% right not to publish that rubbish — it is both self-serving and unchristian.


      • Managed a 12 KM job this afternoon though, that I’m very happy with.

        It seems that the solution against blisters and pain from a knee brace is to wear a women’s stocking underneath. A women’s stocking that is BLACK, strong, and sturdy.

        Weird, but then is anything in this flipping pilgrimage business not so ?

        Did I mention that my laptop is BLACK ?


      • ewwww, and I may also have spotted a pilgrim this afternoon — though it’s always hard to tell this far from Arles, Vézelay and Le Puy.

        Certainly a long distance cyclist trundling along the Via Aurelia and in the right direction …


        • Julian –

          I have been surprised how few pilgrims I’ve seen both on the Portuguese Way, and in Santiago.

          Seems like mid to late November is fairly scarce of pilgrims. But I think it rains a lot.



  3. This may sound uncharitable, but if I were going on your Camino tour, Bill, (and I wish I were) I wouldn’t want Sister Claire as my spiritual advisor. As she repeatedly said in earlier emails, she needs to take care of herself.


  4. Bill,

    Once again these events became more convoluted than I imagined they could or would. I am anxiously awaiting the final post, hoping it will bring some form of resolution to this sad, sad, sorry chain of events.

    Love and prayers for you and Jennifer.



  5. Sister SC (I can’t bring myself to spell her supposed name) has told Bill that she will do whatever he wants her to do – somersaults, penance on her knees, bullets, whatever – to gain forgiveness, as if that were a state with an ON/OFF switch. In my mind, people CAN atone for their bad actions, and I admire those who do. Atonement takes time, self-awareness, other-awareness, and real humility. [The infamous Rob Ford, mayor of Toronto, seems to be missing that as well!]

    I am open to the possibility that Sister SC can be a productive and welcome contributor to this group. However, I won’t welcome dishonest silliness like the post about neighbourhoods of the past. Bill rightly called it twaddle! I can tolerate a lie or 2, and poetic licence, but not blatant manipulation by a clever articulate person. Let’s see if she can rise to the challenge.

    Crusty Clare


    • Yes well, I think the thrust of Bill’s meta-point here is that honesty provided seeks honesty in return.

      Any rupture of that social contract is unlikely to be appreciated, especially not by a gang of Pilgrims !!!


      • Jabba, nevertheless, we must try to be charitable.
        But, If Jesus advises us to turn the other cheek, he does not advise us to be chumps.
        “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive . . . ” or something like that.


  6. I have been pretty much unavailable and just caught up. My own observation is that judgment trumps compassion. I find that very distasteful. I don’t think that is Bill’s purpose and I think it serves no purpose. I hope to God this does not sound judgmental. I think i have said all i can on the subject. To each his own.



    • Steve, I’m not totally certain but I think you are saying that you observe in our comments a lack of compassion. Perhaps my comments are among those that you see that way. I was trying to explain my own reaction and also say that there IS opportunity to get past this, and I would welcome that. However, one doesn’t just turn the critical switch OFF, and the compassion switch ON. There is work and consideration to be done on all sides. When there is willingness to accept that, there is an opportunity. I think we are all open to that. I am sorry if I seemed blunt or harsh in my previous comment. I have not passed any judgement on Sister Clare’s worth or her welcome here, and I definitely feel compassion for her.


  7. Random thoughts:

    1) I read this quote from Victoria Osteen awhile back: “Forgiveness doesn’t excuse what the other person did; it means you are letting God settle the score.”

    2) Certainly, Jesus called us to love. That is the message of the New Testament. He who is without sin can cast the first stone…..Love your neighbor as yourself, etc…..

    3) I am finally reading Bill’s book. I find it very un-coincidental that I purchased it just before all of these SSC blog posts began. (I had an incredibly busy summer and fall). In reading, I am reminded of Bill’s personal and spiritual growth as a pilgrim person.

    4) Finally, I have an earworm of a song we sing in church, “One Spirit, Once Church” which begins….
    “We are a pilgrim people, we are the Church of God.
    A family of believers, disciples of the Lord.
    United in one spirit, ignited by the fire.
    Still burning through the ages, still present in our lives.”

    That’s all. Do what you wish with these ramblings. But, I had to write them down because I couldn’t sleep. So now….I can try to sleep……….hugs to you all………….


Comments are closed.