sister clairerita atha

(Sister Alan Margaret)
November 16, 1932 - March 28, 2017

A caring, gentle, generous and loving woman

Clairerita Atha was born to Allen and Margaret (Kinnen) Atha of St. Joseph, Missouri, on November 16, 1932. “There are many happy memories of my childhood, growing up with my brothers and sisters. I had one older brother, Bob, three older sisters, Juanita, Mary and Peg, and a younger brother, Paul. We did a lot of things together as a family.”

Clairerita graduated from St. Patrick parochial school (taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph), followed by high school at the Sacred Heart Sisters’ Convent of the Sacred Heart. Though considering religious life, she wanted to be a nurse, so she went to St. Teresa’s College in Kansas City for a year of nursing studies. “While at St. Teresa’s, I met a lot of Sisters of St. Joseph who influenced my life and encouraged me to become a sister … I met Sister Gilberta Joseph [Sullivan] and Sister St. Luke [O’Neill], also Sister Rose Daniel [Harrington], Sister Vincent de Paul [Koehler] along with many others. My aunt, my mother’s sister, Sister Olympia [Kennen] was also a Sister of St. Joseph and was a cook for many years at Fontbonne College.”

Clairerita entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on September 15, 1951, and received the habit and the name, Sister Alan Margaret on March 19, 1952. In 1954, a few days after first profession, she found herself on the way to Kansas City to finish out the school year teaching second grade at St. Elizabeth’s. “That’s when I decided that teachers are born not made, and I wasn’t one of them.” Then, she became a student at the College of St. Teresa, Kansas City, while also doing her student nurse training at St. Joseph Hospital, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in nursing from St. Teresa (1957).

Sister Clairerita was a nursing supervisor at St. Joseph Hospital Kansas City (1959); night supervisor at St. Joseph Hospital, Kirkwood, Missouri (1963); assistant head nurse, St. Joseph Community Hospital, Hancock, Michigan (1967); and nursing supervisor at St. Mary Hospital in Amsterdam, New York (1968). She next served as a nurse at St. Joseph Hospital, Kansas City (1970); St. Joseph Hospital, Kirkwood, Missouri (1973); St. Joseph Medical Center, Kansas City (1975); and Heartland Hospital East, St. Joseph, Missouri, 1981-1992. During her time at Heartland, Sister Clairerita was also living in her family home taking care of her mother.

Next, she went to serve as a registered nurse at Nazareth Living Center. In 1994, she ministered there as a cook on the 3 to 11 p.m. shift. It was during this time that family duty called her to be with her brother for several months while he recovered from a condition that left him paralyzed. Later, she went to stay with her sister, Mary, in Iowa for the last several months of Mary’s life.

Beginning in 2002, until she retired in 2007, Sister Clairerita ministered to the elderly in their homes with CSJ Care. She moved to Nazareth Living Center in 2011 to continue a ministry of prayer and presence.

Sister Rose Mary Brueggen remembers Sister Clairerita as a very simple and quiet person who enjoyed a good laugh.

“If she could help a person with just about anything, she would do so, especially if it was a favor that had to do with sewing, mending, making adjustments on an article of clothing or whatever. She was a good listener, too.”

Patrick McDowell, CSJA, whose mother had been a resident of Nazareth Living Center, recalls Sister Clairerita as a “very caring, thoughtful and loving lady.” Those same sentiments were echoed by several others who also included “generous,” “gentle” and “pleasant” in their thoughts.

In her own words, Sister Clairerita would respond, “My mother told me that if God gives you a gift, you need to give it away.”

Helen Oates, CSJ

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