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
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
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
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
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.