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Nun from Derry killed in Ecuador earthquake

Sister Clare Theresa Crockett (Home of the Mother)

A nun from Derry in Northern Ireland was killed in Saturday’s earthquake in Ecuador, her family has confirmed.

Sister Clare Theresa Crockett, 33, was a missionary based at the Colegio Sagrada Familia school in Playa Prieta and was teaching guitar to a group of children when the earthquake struck.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, Sister Clare’s family believe she had been attempting to lead the children to safety when a stair-well in the four-floor building they were in collapsed.

Her body was found under rubble on Monday, about 36 hours after the earthquake struck the Pacific Coast region of the country. Five Ecuadorean postulants also died in the collapse. The order identified them by their first names: Jazmina, Maria Augusta, Maira, Valeria and Catalina.

In a statement confirming her death, Sister Clare’s family said: “On Sunday April 17, we lost our daughter, sister and aunt Sister Clare Theresa Crockett as a result of the earthquake in Ecuador. At this difficult time we would ask for privacy.”

Sister Clare was a member of the Home of the Mother Order for 15 years. Speaking to the BBC, Fr Roland Cahoon, her spiritual director, described her as “a beautiful person” who “died for the Gospel”.

“This is a young girl who gave her life to God and died for the Gospel. She was a joyful girl. I’ve known her since she was a teenager,” Fr Cahoon said.

“I’ll remember the joy that she brought to her youth group and the enthusiasm she showed for her vocation to religious life. It’s counter-cultural to join a religious order for a young girl and she embraced it. We’ll remember her with such affection.”

In a statement, the Home of the Mother order said Sister Clare had a “special gift”.

“Sister Clare had spent nearly 15 years of her life in consecration to the Lord. She was a generous Sister with a special gift for reaching out to children and young people,” the statement said.

“The postulants had entered the Order just a year ago and were generously preparing themselves to become Servant Sisters. And the Lord found them all prepared.”

Sister Clare reportedly wanted to be an actor and wrote and acted in local theatre productions. She admitted to spending her weekends drinking and attending parties before joining the Sister Servants of the Home of the Mother. She discovered the religious order by accident when she signed on for a free 10-day trip to Spain, thinking it was a chance to party.

After learning it was a pilgrimage with mostly middle-aged women to the order’s 16th-century monastery, she tried to back out, but ended up attending and discovered her religious vocation.

The magnitude-7.8 quake struck on Saturday evening, with the cities Manto, Guayaquil and Portoviejo badly hit. 272 people have been confirmed dead, however that figure is expected to rise. A further 2,000 people have been injured.

A state of emergency has been declared in six of Ecuador’s 24 provinces with 10,000 armed forces and 4,600 national police deployed to the affected areas.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the US bishops’ relief and development agency, was partnering with local relief organisations to determine how best to respond in the communities most affected by the disaster, Catholic News Service reports. Water, food and emergency shelter are the biggest needs, the agency said on its website.

“Some of the poorest provinces are located near the coast and we expect thousands of people to need immediate help,” Tom Hollywood, CRS’s representative for South America said in a statement.

On Sunday in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis offered his prayers to those affected by the earthquake.

The Ecuadorean bishops’ conference offered prayers for the victims in an April 17 statement sent to the Vatican’s Fides news agency.

“Our thoughts go especially to our brothers and sisters in the provinces of Manabi and Esmeraldas, who seem so far to be the most affected, and we invite everyone to participate in the national collection for the victims in order to help in their most urgent needs,” the statement said.