CLARE JOSEPHINE KEARNEY
Passed away on August 23, 2020, after contending for about 7 years with Parkinson’s disease with dementia. She was predeceased by her brothers Fr. Gerard, William, and Richard, her nephews William Jr. and Steven and her brother-in-law Ronald Hansen. She is survived by her husband Peter, her brother and sister-in-law Nicholas and Katy, her brother Abbot Barnabas, her sister Mary Hansen and numerous nieces and nephews.
She was born, in her own childhood language, on “August and the fifth,” 1940, the daughter of Lionel John Senecal and Clara Josephine Strecker in Atwood, Kansas. She attended high school at Mount St. Scholastica Academy in Atchison and upon graduation entered the community of Benedictine nuns there. She earned her college degree there as Sister Mary Peter, while teaching at elementary schools in Creston, IA; Papillon, NE; Kansas City, KS; Omaha, NE and Atchison, KS. She was the Liturgist for the Mount community and wrote music for antiphons which are still sung today.
In her desire for further education, she wrote to Catholic University in Washington, DC, and was offered a full scholarship to obtain her M.A. in liturgical studies, while serving as part of the campus ministry staff, now as Sister Clare Senecal. In 1972, the year of her arrival at Catholic U, she met her future husband Peter, who was teaching Bible in the theology department. In 1974, she obtained her M.A. liturgical studies. In 1976, she was dispensed from her vows at the Mount. In 1977, she obtained an M.M. in Music Education (piano) from the Catholic University Music School. She remained devoted to her friends in the Benedictine community and to their apostolate.
After a friendship of 8 years, Clare and Peter grew closer and married one year later, on May 23, 1981, and lived in Falls Church City. Clare had by this time earned a position as editor of the Endangered Species Bulletin for the US Fish and Wildlife Service. When Peter introduced her to the Washington Society for Jungian Psychology, Clare found a goal for her professional life. From Virginia Commonwealth University, she obtained an M.S.W. in social work in 1993 as a gateway to Jungian studies. At this stage, she received training at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, DC, where she worked with the seriously mentally ill. On her third try, she was accepted in the New York Center for Jungian Studies in 1994 and, after years of weekly travel between Washington and New York, received her certificate as a Jungian analyst in 2003. She practiced at her office in Falls Church, VA, and then opened an office in Fredericksburg, VA, after she and Peter moved there.
Upon noticing in 2013 that she was having memory problems, she discontinued her Jungian practice. By 2016, her symptoms were more grievous and she was diagnosed as having dementia with Lewy bodies. Although they had planned to age in place in Fredericksburg, Clare and Peter decided to seek admission to an apartment in Goodwin House because of its reputation for outstanding health care. They were eventually admitted to Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads in Falls Church, VA. Clare’s diagnosis was now more likely Parkinson’s. In time, she was admitted to the Goodwin House Health Care Center, where, despite the solicitous care she received, the disease eventually proved too strong.
There will eventually be a memorial service for Clare at the Goodwin House chapel when Covid 19 subsides. Those who knew Clare, admired her and loved her may wish to make a memorial donation to Mount St. Scholastica Benedictine Sisters or to Goodwin House Foundation.
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