She recalls, as a girl at Spokane's St. Charles School, that her nun-teachers would play basketball with the children in full habit. It's that kind of engagement with people that inspired Franciscan Sister Celeste Clavel to profess vows and receive the habit 50 years ago.
It was because of women like Sister Florence Leone Poch — "very natural and ordinary, full of kindness and fun" — that young Celeste came to Portland's Palatine Hill, where the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia had their western headquarters and novitiate. What Sister Florence Leone had, Celeste wanted.
She was just out of high school and the Second Vatican Council was just starting. She and her classmates began formation under the old regimen, but watched the news from Rome with excitement. They were glad for Mass in English and embraced the Council's call for religious orders to reclaim their original missions and ways, as much as possible. The women's habits slowly changed into the 1970s and then were nixed.
In the Northwest, the Franciscan Sisters were educators, nurses and hospital administrators. Sister Celeste became a teacher in Portland, Pendleton, California and Washington. She ministered for years in the classroom and studied music. She loved it.
"Parents said I had a great effect on their children's organization," Sister Celeste says. "Even more, I wanted students to become closer to God and to know how much God loves them. I wanted them to have a sense of prayer, that it happens not just in church, but wherever they are."
She would choose to live her life the same way again, even with its challenges. Community life has been essential.
"You can't live this life by yourself," she explains.
Sister Celeste, 70, was celebrated last month at Ascension Parish in Southeast Portland, where she is music minister. She also is business manager for the Franciscan Spiritual Center, a spiritual ministry located on the campus of St. John the Baptist Parish in Milwaukie.
Attending her celebration were her four siblings, two of whom are also Franciscans.