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Debes to head Emmitsburg Province of DOC

James Rada Jr.

(5/3) Sister Claire Debes was installed at Visitatrix and Provincial Superior of the Emmitsburg Province of the Daughters of Charity on April 21.

“It’s a bit of a surprise,” Debes said. “I’m grateful for the all the previous experiences I’ve had to prepare me for this.”

In a solemn ceremony during morning Mass in the Basilica of the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in the presence of the sisters, Sister Margaret Barrett, Assistant General of the Daughters of Charity, read the letter patent from the Superioress General in Paris, France.

Debes said she is looking for ways that the Daughters of Charity can collaborate with the total Vincentian community and programs that will have a greater impact on the poor.

At the time of her appointment as provincial, Debes was scheduled to assume a new position as Director of Vincentian Integration Experience Program, a collaborative project of the English-speaking provinces whose aim is to form and develop Sisters in the Vincentian charism and spirituality in order to transmit this to other Daughters of Charity, members of the Vincentian family and lay colleagues so as to better serve persons who are poor. Prior to this, she served as Vincentian Family Coordinator for the province. In this role, she served on National Vincentian Family committees and spent a great deal of her time providing formation programs in Vincentian spirituality to the Vincentian Family lay groups, especially the St. Vincent de Paul Society and the Ladies of Charity.

There are presently 176 sisters in the Emmitsburg province engaged in various works throughout the province. In 1850 the Emmitsburg community became affiliated with the Daughters of Charity in France and today comprises five provinces in the United States. The Emmitsburg province, also known as the Southeast province, extends from Maryland to Florida. The Daughters of Charity are an international community.

Debes takes up the reins as 19th successor to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, foundress of the Sisters of Charity in the United States in 1809. As provincial superior, she succeeds Sister Elyse Staab who guided the province for nine years. Staab’s new assignment is as yet undetermined.

Debes served as Vincentian Family Coordinator lived both in Wheaton, Md. from 1999-2004 and Georgetown, SC from 2004-2007. Sister served as provincial assistant from 1989-1998. She began her ministry in education first as an elementary teacher, then served as principal and local superior at times in schools in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia.

Daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. Aloysius George Debes, Debes received her early education at St. Dominic School, and Institute of Notre Dame High School in Baltimore.

“I had our sisters in elementary school and I was impressed with their rapport with their students,” Debes said. “We were also invited to accompany them on visits to the poor and shut ins of the parish and I was touched and attracted to their desire to be of service.”

She attended St. Joseph College, Emmitsburg, and received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education. In 1977 Sister earned her master’s degree in education with a major in guidance and counseling from the University of Dayton in Ohio.

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