In 2019, Sister Clara Caceres, SDS celebrates 60 years since professing first vows in her South American homeland of Bogota, Colombia. Years after professing final vows in 1965, she became an American citizen. Her life between those milestones brought many different experiences.
Gloria Beatriz was born the eldest of four children on June 10, 1938 in Bogota. At an early age she studied in a German School in Bogota, where she recalls all the German students had accordions. When she became interested in playing accordion she received one from her parents as a birthday gift. The instrument always remained special to her.
When the SDS Congregation opened a school in Bogota, Gloria transferred there. Her new school was where she came to know Salvatorians Mother Ottilia Haeckel and Mother Bathilde Feder. At the age of 18, she entered the convent, responding to their invitation to join the Salvatorians. After completing formation, Sr. Clara studied at various universities in Colombia and earned a teaching diploma. After graduation, she continued her education at a number of institutes in Bogota.
Sr. Clara’s early ministry in education took many turns. She taught basic subjects at many grade levels, served as a librarian, taught English to SDS Aspirants, and served as instructor for a school dance and drama clubs, which she especially enjoyed. Through her teaching years, she also ministered on the staff at Colegio Divino Salvador; Colegio Parroquia Divino Salvador, Colegio Maria de los Apostoles, all in Bogota; and Colegio del Divino Salvador in Medellin, Colombia. She also served a year as the administrator of an adult literacy program sponsored by the Public Ministry of Education.
In 1991, Sr. Clara requested a sabbatical in the U.S. where her family had relocated. She also spent time getting to know Salvatorian Sisters in the U.S., and in 1993 transferred to the North American Province. After coming to the United States she took a course in English as a Second Language (ESL) at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Later, she became a student in the YMCA’s ESL program. When she progressed to advanced-level classes, she began teaching beginning-level ESL. A staff person once said, “She is a wonderful asset in both capacities, as student and teacher.”
Sr. Clara’s first school assignment in Milwaukee was teaching conversational Spanish at Divine Savior Holy Angels High School. She later taught Spanish at St. Jude Elementary School, Sacred Heart School of Theology and Bruce Guadalupe School. For 13 years she taught Spanish at Milwaukee’s Mother of Good Counsel School, where she also assisted with the kindergarten class.
The teacher in Sr. Clara remained alive even after she retired from serving in the classroom. She continued to teach Spanish to adults, many of them sisters and young men in Salvatorian formation. Adults who were her students said Sr. Clara came alive in way that was not often seen outside of her role as a teacher.