My life has been lived with a certain degree of ordinariness graced with the extraordinary embrace of God. – Sister Mary Clare Gappa
Sister Mary Clare Gappa, 84, a Sister of Charity of Leavenworth (SCL) for 66 years, passed away peacefully on Jan. 22, 2023, at Ross Hall in Leavenworth, Kan.
Mary Clare Gappa was born on Dec. 8, 1938, in Moorhead, Minn., one of two children to William and Hildegarde (Lorsung) Gappa. When Hildegarde was only six years old, her mother died from the flu, leaving the family to be raised by their father and Mary Clare’s great-grandmother. This family dynamic prepared Mary Clare for a life of hard work, respect, loyalty, compassion, and strength.
When Mary Clare was two, her family moved to Mont., where William worked for many years for the Midland Coal and Lumber Company until an injury forced him to relinquish his management position. The family moved to Billings, and at a tremendous personal sacrifice, William and Hildegarde enrolled Mary Clare and her brother, Bob, in Catholic school.
While Mary Clare had religious vocations among her relatives, it wasn’t until she entered Billings Central High School that she met the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth. She came to admire them and began discerning joining the Community. Mary Clare knew she had to listen to God’s call and that religious life was where she belonged. She entered the SCL Community on Aug. 19, 1956, and as Sister Clare Marie made her final vows on Aug. 22, 1964. She later returned to her baptismal name.
Sister Mary Clare knew she was destined to be a teacher from an early age. From the first grade on, she would gather the neighborhood kids at the end of each school day and “teach” them. After she entered, Sister Mary Clare taught for 24 years in schools in Kan., Ill., Mo., and her beloved Mont. She was a skilled educator with unmatched creativity and compassion for all. She had a talent for redirection and innovated teaching techniques, leaving no child behind.
Later, and after much discernment, Sister Mary Clare completed her master’s in theology and spirituality. She began her ministry as a pastoral associate at Coronation of Our Lady Parish in Grandview, Mo. One of her many responsibilities was teaching RCIA classes. For the next three decades, she would walk with adults on their conversion journey, sharing her passion and knowledge of the Catholic Church.
During her 50th Jubilee, Sister Mary Clare reflected that the theme throughout her life has been “faithfulness – to God, to family, to relationships, to Community, to ministry, to self.” Sister Mary Clare was caring, compassionate, and brave. She loved music, her family and friends, and her SCL Community. Sister Mary Clare humbly embraced her service to others and the Catholic faith. She was the epitome of faithful, making her an unforgettable companion on life’s journey.
Preceding Sister Mary Clare’s death were her parents and her deceased Sisters in the SCL Community. She is survived by her brother, Bob Gappa (Pam), Tuscan, Ariz., her extended family, and her SCL Community.
A vigil will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Jan. 31 in Ross Chapel, SCL Mother House, Leavenworth. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated in Ross Chapel at 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 1. Interment will follow in Mount Olivet Cemetery, Mother House grounds. Memorial contributions can be made to the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, 4200 S 4th Street, Leavenworth, Kan. 66048. Arrangements made by R.L. Leintz Funeral Home.