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Sister Claire
SisterClaire
Sister Claire in 2007
Born 09 May 1930
St. Helier, Jersey
Channel Islands
Died 02 May 2008
New Galway, Co Ferrig
Sainte Genevieve
Cause of death Murder
Burial place  
Nationality Sainte Genevieve
Other names Agnes Mary Dorr (birth name)
Education B.A. English (1997)
North Sea Catholic University
Occupation Religious sister
Religious beliefs Roman Catholic
Parents Patrick Dorr (1896-1960)
Mary Howe (1901-1983)

Sister Claire (birth name Agnes Mary Dorr) was a Sainte Genevieve Roman Catholic sister who became known throughout Europe for her work to encourage and promote literacy. On 2nd May 2008, she was beaten and stabbed to death in the courtyard surrounding Holy Cross Catholic Church in New Galway. The savageness of her murder shocked the country.


Early Life[]

Agnes Mary Dorr was born on 9 May 1930 in St. Helier, on the Channel Island of Jersey. She was the only child born to Patrick, a local shopkeeper, and Mary (née Howe) Dorr. While her father's ancestors had lived on Jersey for generations, her mother was originally from Bristol, in England. Sister Claire fondly remembered her early years on Jersey, once describing her childhood as "the sort of upbringing most parents can only dream of giving their children." Things soon took a turn for the worse, however, when Nazi Germany invaded and occupied the island in July 1940. Anges' mother had been visiting family in Bristol when the Second World War began in September 1939, and planned to send for nine-year-old Agnes as soon as possible. In May 1940, France fell to the Germans, and due to Jersey's proximity to the French coast, reliable transportation between the island and Great Britain was scarce, at best. Agnes was one of thousands of children ordered to evacuate the island as the threat of German invasion loomed, however she remained by tying her scarf onto the head another young girl in the queue, fooling her father into believing she had boarded the evacuation boat. Agnes was found hiding in her father's shop later that day, after the final boat had left for England.


World War II[]

During most of the war, Agnes worked in her father's shop. After most of Jersey's children evacuated, many of the local schools closed down. Agnes continued her education by voraciously reading any books she could acquire. It was during these years that she developed her love of literature, and also her love of writing. She began keeping a diary on 13th July 1942, at the age of twelve, and continued the practice nearly every day until her death 66 years later. Young Agnes experienced an extended period of depression beginning in July 1943. In a 1999 interview, Sister Claire described it as, "...a fate worse than being orphaned... my mother was alive and well, and yet separated from her family by the English Channel." She ultimately emerged from her depression by authoring a second, alternate diary, which was comprised entirely of letters to her mother.

Germany's occupation of Jersey lasted nearly five years before finally ending on 9 May 1945, Agnes' fifteenth birthday. The Dorr family was reunited after a six-year separation in August 1945. Shortly after, Agnes' father sold his business in St. Helier, and the family left Jersey for England.

Religious Calling[]

From 1945 to 1947, the Dorr family lived in Bristol, where Agnes' maternal grandparents and many cousins lived. The Dorrs then moved to Sainte Genevieve, and settled in Dungannon, where Agnes' father managed (and later owned) a successful camera shop. It was during her first few months in Dungannon that Agnes showed an interest in becoming a nun. She began spending time with the Sainte Genevieve Sisters of Saint Francis de Sales, an order in New Galway, County Ferrig. Agnes was drawn to this order due to its focus on teaching and social work. She took her vows as a religious sister in April 1956, a month before her twenty-sixth birthday, taking the name "Claire."

Her first few years as a sister were spent working in various primary schools in New Galway and neighboring towns. Sister Claire found her true calling, however, in November of 1968, when she observed that the father of one of her pupils was himself unable to read. In 1970, she received permission from her order to host an ongoing literacy clinic for adults in the rectory of Holy Cross Catholic Church in New Galway. At first, her efforts were met with limited success; she had only three adult reading students in the clinic's first six months.

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