Sister Claudia has spent the past 60 years “engaging deeply” in life as a Sister of Notre Dame in many and varied ways: teaching, pastoral ministry, counseling, community leadership and more.
Joan McTaggart first met the Sisters of Notre Dame in the sixth grade when her widowed mother entrusted her to the Sisters’ boarding school at Notre Dame, Belmont. Over time, Joan found herself inspired by the Sisters, who became mentors and friends. When she graduated from high school in 1957, she entered the Notre Dame novitiate at Saratoga and became Sr. Claudia.
While a young and inexperienced teacher, Claudia realized that she needed the mentoring of others to help her respond to St. Julie’s challenge to “teach them what they need to know for life.” She found encouragement and patient guidance, not only during her early years of teaching pre-teens in Chico, Millbrae, Campbell, Carmel, and Seahurst, WA, but in diverse and challenging ministries from then on. She came to understand that lifelong learning involves not only formal education or training, but insights from students themselves, colleagues, and other life experiences.
In subsequent years, Sr. Claudia transitioned from the classroom into pastoral ministry in the Northwest, and then pursued a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology at Santa Clara University. While there, she served as a counselor to campus residents. When licensed as a marriage and family counselor, she worked at several non-profit agencies.
In 1991, Sr. Claudia was elected to be part of the California Province leadership team. For her, accompanying many Sisters through periods of transition was a privilege. She also valued the opportunity to meet and come to know other Sisters from across the Notre Dame world.
In the late 1990s, it became clear that the model of providing housing and healthcare for our elder Sisters was no longer sustainable. She and the other Provincial Team members engaged in an extensive process of consulting, interviewing, and considering options. Ultimately, the Sisters reached a consensus that Notre Dame Villa, the care facility in Saratoga, would close. Before the new Province Center was built in Belmont, the elderly and infirm Sisters would move to the Mercy Retirement and Care Center in Oakland or to the Holy Names facility in Los Gatos. And it was Sr. Claudia who was instrumental in identifying our beloved Ann Comer to become Health Care Coordinator for the SNDs.
Sr. Claudia remembers this challenging process as an extraordinary experience, one that taught her much about the wisdom of our elders. Particularly gratifying to her was the cooperation and trust shown by the Sisters at the Villa whose lives were directly and immediately affected by this change. Claudia calls this period in her life, “the journey to Mercy.”
Claudia’s response to a 2008 call to serve at Cristo Rey High School in Sacramento proved life-changing for her. The experience of learning from those who lived in a culture of risk and poverty touched her deeply. After returning to San Jose, she turned her focus to issues related to human trafficking and immigration, and served for six years on the Notre Dame San Jose Board of Directors..
Longtime friend Father Paul Fitterer, S.J. describes Claudia as, “an astonishingly gifted woman… She has an ability to affirm and be present to people in their needs, to see hope where sometimes it is very dark. If you wish any project to succeed, the organizational ability of Claudia will make it happen.”
Sr. Claudia comes to this Jubilee season “with profound gratitude for all of my life, and for the countless companions on my journey.” She has lived her commitment open to the suggestion of St. Julie: “Let us do what the good God shows us moment by moment.” Her own “ministry of the moment” is one of support and prayer for others. She sums up her life experience by borrowing the words of Daniel Berrigan, S.J.: “These many beautiful days cannot be lived again, but they are compounded in my own flesh and spirit, and I take them full measure toward whatever lies ahead.”
By Sr. Pat Hutchison