A Call to Service

Sister Clare Marie Dalton, RSM Shares Her Inspiration to Serve

“We shall not cease from Exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.”  -T.S. Elliott

Sister Clare Marie Dalton, RSM quotes this poem, a smile on her face, as she reflects upon the arc of her career. As a very young nurse, her first position was at Mercy General Hospital, where she currently serves as the Vice President of Mission Integration. “I suppose we doend up where we started!” she jokes.

As a student at Mercy High School in Tralee, Ireland, Sr. Clare was called to service. She was inspired partly by her aunt, Sr. Mary Grace O’Flaherty, RSM, who is now retired and living at the Mercy Center in Auburn. “My aunt would come to visit us and tell us stories about her work here. I also went to a high school run by the Sisters, so the influence was strong.” She joined the Sisters of Mercy at age 18 and flew to California to complete her novitiate in Auburn. With a passion for serving those who are vulnerable and in need of support, Sr. Clare found herself drawn to health care. “I was always interested in health care so I trained as a nurse to serve our ministry.”

Sr. Clare became a nurse in 1976 and after several years, she was called to continue her education in the area of religious formation. She became an educator and leader among new sisters in a process now called “incorporation.” The rest of her career has combined these two roles as she has served in numerous mission integration capacities.

At Dignity Health, several Sisters of Mercy ensure that our mission and values stay at the center of all we do. Sr. Clare does this for Mercy General Hospital in a myriad of ways. In addition to overseeing the chaplains and hospital volunteers, she also helps to manage the House of Mercy, which offers hospitality to families of patients who have traveled long distances for medical treatment.

“Frequently I reflect that our whole health care ministry began with Catherine McAuley and Mercy House in Dublin,” she says. “I like to make that connection for our employees here at Mercy General, because I want them to understand that they are carrying on her work and the mission of Mercy.”

When asked what keeps her motivation strong, she says she loves being able to help patients and their families. “My favorite part is that I have a great deal of flexibility in how I can help people,” she says. “I am able to identify patients and families who are in need of assistance and determine the best way to offer that support.” Sometimes this takes the form of emotional or spiritual support, other times it means helping someone to find a ride to a follow-up appointment, ensuring a family member is contacted, or sitting with someone in the chapel.

Often Sr. Clare is able to provide assistance because of the generosity of Mercy Foundation donors like you. Clean clothes for patients experiencing homelessness, gift cards for gas to those who may not be able to afford the transportation for treatment, or assistance with final arrangements for a loved one whose family is unable to cover the cost of burial are all examples of mercy you have helped provide at Mercy General Hospital.

Sr. Clare’s passion for helping those in need springs from a call to care for the vulnerable and underserved. She is particularly drawn to assisting men, women and children with few resources or those without families to help care for them. “I like being around patients and families,” explains Sr. Clare, “and there is a certain satisfaction in knowing that maybe I’ve made a small difference to them.”

“Even as I end up where I started, I have a greater understanding of all that is important in life—faith, justice and peace to name a few,” explains Sr. Clare. “I am filled with gratitude for a meaningful life of responding to God’s call, and I admire the
dedication and generosity of all who work and support the mission of Mercy—past and present.”

Mercy Foundation is deeply grateful to Sr. Clare for the spirit of compassion she brings to Mercy General Hospital, as are the hundreds of patients and their families who benefit from her many kindnesses. Thank you, Sister Clare, for keeping the mission of the Sisters so present and central in our health care ministry!