Sister M. Clare Alfred, CSC
(Blanche Ann Bill)
November 1, 1935–November 13, 2021
We share news of the death of Sister M. Clare Alfred (Bill), CSC, who died at 8:15 a.m. on November 13, 2021, in Saint Mary’s Convent, Notre Dame, Indiana. Sister Clare Alfred entered the Congregation from South Bend, Indiana, on September 6, 1954. Her initial profession of vows took place on August 15, 1957.
Please join us in prayer for Sister as we renew our faith in the resurrected Jesus and strengthen our hope that all the departed will be raised to eternal life.
Fall is a season of harvest, thanksgiving and remembrance. The Sisters of the Holy Cross remember Sister M. Clare Alfred (Bill) who died on the morning of November 13, 2021. During her 64 years of vowed life, Sister enriched her community and those to whom she ministered.
Autumn marks Sister Clare Alfred’s birth 86 years ago and her death in November, during which Catholic Christians celebrate their eternal bonds with all the faithful departed. In the northern hemisphere and in northern Indiana, this is the season when trees gradually unfurl their bright colors. Blanche Ann Bill was born on the Feast of All Saints, November 1, 1935, in South Bend, Indiana. Her parents were devout Catholics at St. Patrick Church. Her father, Alfred C. Bill, was an office clerk who died during Blanche’s transition from eighth grade to high school. Her mother, Clara M. (Scheibelhut) Bill, eventually remarried and was known as Mrs. Walter L. Clements. Blanche had two siblings with whom she was close, Rev. Thomas L. Bill, CSC, and Marilyn, who married and became Mrs. Robert C. Strebinger.
Blanche attended St. Patrick School and St. Joseph High School in South Bend, both staffed by Holy Cross sisters, who awakened in her a vocation to religious life early on in elementary school. Sister M. Anita Jane (Twombly), CSC, principal of the high school, awarded Blanche a scholarship so the potential postulant could attend St. Joseph until she graduated in June 1954. That September, Blanche entered the convent and began her formation at the motherhouse at Saint Mary’s. Sister M. des Victoires (Bognar), CSC, had described Blanche as a “true child of Mary with a depth of spirituality” needed to mature as a woman and Holy Cross religious. Upon reception of the holy habit, August 5, 1955, Blanche became known as Sister Mary Clare Alfred, in honor of her parents. Her friends knew her simply as “Clare.”
For 20 years (1957-1977), Sister Clare Alfred served in parochial schools teaching the primary grades in Indiana, Iowa and Illinois. She was serving in the Diocese of Peoria in the 1970s when Catholic parishes were beginning to merge with as many as three other parishes due to shifting demographics. Those changes were the catalyst to move her from classroom teaching to parish ministry. Her bachelor’s degree in music education from Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana, in 1967, affirmed her love of music, but she later felt music was not as helpful as teaching other subject areas. It was then that Sister Clare Alfred pursued a master’s degree in religious education, graduating from Mundelein College, Chicago, Illinois, in 1977. This preparation led to her 17 years as a religious education coordinator. She served in that position at St. Mary’s Parish, Streator, Illinois, and at St. Stephen and St. Casimir Parish in South Bend, Indiana. Clare wrote of her favorite ministry, “I loved enriching the lives of the teachers as well as helping the students have a greater love of God.” She also served at this time on the CSC Hispanic Committee.
The poet Albert Camus wrote, “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” Sister Clare Alfred asked to spend autumn through spring, 1999 to 2000, on a sabbatical to renew herself holistically, knowing that she was long overdue to do the hard work of personal reassessment. She said the sabbatical was the best thing she ever did for her health and well-being. Hers was a quiet, ongoing conversion and transformation. Clare came to a new appreciation of herself as a woman with a voice. She agonized if she had to speak in front of a group, but she did not want anyone to speak for her either. She was easily cast as the worker behind the scenes. She often volunteered summer service at the motherhouse and was always on her feet for various events. She was the greeter at the front desk, welcoming sisters to institutes or general chapters.
The sabbatical flowered in her a new self-confidence. In spring 2000, she was appointed an assistant superior for three years in Rosary Convent at the motherhouse and then served through 2009 on the Angela Area team, ministering to the oldest members of the Congregation. Later in life, when she was far less active, she kept her seat in the choir at the Church of Our Lady of Loretto. And when she could no longer sing, she took her place in the assembly. At the rite of peace during Mass, she took your hand, smiled and whispered, “May you know God’s love and peace.” Clare had a sweet, soft voice. She called herself “a gentle feminist.” Being so was her way to speak up and resist cultural, societal and religious injustices.
Sister Clare Alfred bore quietly many profound losses and outlived her immediate family. While still able to minister locally, in 1985, she began caring for her mother for four years at her mother’s home in South Bend. Her mother died soon after being moved to a nursing home. Loss of her father, when she was still a child, was searing for her. She had a special affection for her sister Marilyn and continued her relationship with Marilyn’s children and other extended family. Father Bill had presided significant liturgical celebrations in Sister Clare Alfred’s life. And she lost so many good friends in Holy Cross. May this communion of saints now meet in the heavenly Jerusalem, whose foundations are of precious jewels of every color and the city lined with trees of life, the leaves of which are the cure for every nation (Revelation 21:18-22:2).
We invite you to donate to the Ministry With the Poor Fund in Sister’s name.—Written by Sister Catherine Osimo, CSC