Sister Claire (Claire Stephen) Spellman, 1928 – 2015

Sr. Claire (Claire Stephen) Spellman
Sr. Claire (Claire Stephen) Spellman

Sister Claire Spellman, 87 years old, and a Sister of Notre Dame for 69 years, died peacefully at Mercy Retirement and Care Center in Oakland on November 25.

Born in San Francisco to James and Marie Spellman, Lucille graduated from Notre Dame San Francisco in 1946, then entered the Notre Dame Novitiate. As Sr. Claire Stephen, she received her BA and Secondary Credential from College of Notre Dame (now Notre Dame de Namur University) and her MA in English from Catholic University of America.

For 28 years, Sister taught in Notre Dame elementary and secondary schools in Belmont, Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, Salinas, Marysville and in Washington state.  She also taught at St. Francis High School in Sacramento, and served on the Board of Education for the Sacramento Diocese.  Sister Claire later served as Hospitality Director at El Retiro Retreat House, then as administrative assistant at the Provincial House in Saratoga.  She especially enjoyed her year of living and working at the Sisters’ international headquarters in Rome.

Outgoing and gracious, Sister enjoyed travelling, camping, meeting new people; she had a good sense of humor and fun.  Long-time friend, JoAnn Callas Shaw was just 14 years old when she met Sr. Claire at Notre Dame, San Francisco; since then, Sister Claire has been “a constant” in her life and has had a positive impact on her whole family.

Sr. Claire lived through the tension and turmoil of the 1960s and 70s, but felt that Vatican II and the major changes taking place in Religious Life were for the good.  She wrote to her family that “the new direction now in the Church, where everyone will work together more closely, is what the good news of the Gospel is all about.  God works through everyone in his own way.”

When her good friend, Sr. Geraldine Harris braved the opposition of the City Council and fearful neighbors to open Susan House in Campbell, Sr. Claire joined her in forming a caring community for women with developmental disabilities.  For nearly twenty years, they helped the young women feel at home and live as independently as possible.  The Sisters soon won the acceptance and appreciation of people in the neighborhood and the city.

Sister is predeceased by her sister, Claire Fahy.  She will be lovingly remembered and greatly missed by the Sisters of Notre Dame, brother-in-law Neil Fahy, nieces Cathy Newsom and Jean Fahy, nephews Jim and Steve Fahy, grand-nieces Marie Zillius and Lynette Richardson, and many former students and friends.



  1. Sister Claire will be remembered in Marysville by her beautiful welcoming smile and her genuine commitment as a Follower of St. Julia. For generations the Sisters were part of Marysville and the legacy of Sr. Claire and many others will live on for generations!

  2. Sr. Claire hired me to teach at Notre Dame High School in San Jose. It was my first teaching job and she took a big risk hiring someone very eager to teach and with little experience. I guess her gamble paid off, since I was at Notre Dame for 7 years! I had wanted to be a teacher since I was a little girl and Sr. Claire made that dream come true. God bless you.

  3. Sister Claire was a long time friend to me and my family. I first met Sr. Claire in 1961 when she was my homeroom teacher at NDSF. She always had a smile and laugh for you. Very loving, caring woman who will be missed. May she rest in peace.

  4. I had the good fortune to have Sr. Claire as a high school teacher at NDSF in the 60s. We became lifelong friends. To me she exemplified a vocation lived fully, with her devotion and steadfastness in all she undertook and her unfailing kindness and caring. A lesson for us all, regardless of our own vocations.

  5. I didn't pass the test to go to Notre Dame however, that didn't keep me out. Notre Dame gave me an opportunity and Sr. Claire was instrumental in making sure I chose a path I would be successful in achieving my goals. You were a great teacher too. I remember your gentleness and patience with me. Thank you.

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