Sister Francis Clare Ugast, CSC

(October 19, 1924 - April 15, 2013)

Word has been received of the death of Sister M. Francis Clare (Ugast), who died at 2:30 a.m. on Monday, April 15, 2013, in Saint Mary’s Convent, Notre Dame, Indiana.

Sister Francis Clare was a perfect lady in the true sense of the social norms of Washington, D.C., where she was born and raised. She was gracious and polite to everyone and, given the opportunity, would probably serve tea and crumpets in fine china to her guests. This hospitality was not only an outgrowth of her background, but also a reflection of her lived experience when she studied in London.

As a strong advocate for change in the approach to education, Sister Francis Clare wrote, “We are at a crossroads in American education, and it seems to me that the concept of open education as practiced in many of the British Infant and Junior Schools offers unique opportunities for humanizing and individualizing learning, making it relevant, meaningful and personally satisfying.”

Sister Francis Clare was an expert in the field of primary education and was admired for her knowledge, skill and willingness to share with those who looked to her for advice and direction. Because she strongly believed in the benefits of what was termed “open education,” her support of this approach was unwavering. Based on this philosophy, Sister Francis Clare designed and successfully initiated early childhood programs in various parishes in the East. The single-mindedness and intensity with which she approached each project was typical, though she did not expect others to have the same level of involvement. Success followed her because she gave herself totally to each project; she had the Midas touch.

Her reputation for creativity and excellence in early childhood education resulted in the offer to become the director of a model program for the Sisters of the Precious Blood of Dayton, Ohio. In this position Sister Francis Clare wrote the entire curriculum and set up the program for their early childhood center.

Music was also a very important part of her Sister Francis Clare’s life. As director of the summer day camp in Alexandria, Virginia, she incorporated music as an essential part of the program to enrich the lives and experiences of the youngsters. She never turned her back on requests to share her talents. So, along with all her other responsibilities, she served as the choir director while in Baltimore, Maryland, and in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The same intensity with which Sister Francis Clare worked was reflected in all of her interactions. Halfway measures were not a part of her personality, as shown in the tremendous love and friendship she shared with her brother, the deep loyalty she showed to her friends and the passion she had for prayer. All these gave credence to the rich totality of her nature.

St. Francis was her namesake and her model in simply giving without counting the cost. Sister Francis Clare’s successes in life are certainly reflected in this maxim from St. Francis: “Start by doing what is necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible!” This petite, intense religious woman lived this maxim to its fullest, leaving the successes in the hands of God. He now rewards her for a life well-lived.


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