Somehow we don’t usually think of musicians and business managers combined in one person—but with Sr. Celeste Clavel, the combination seems to work quite well. Although she spent a number of years teaching in Washington, Oregon, and California, her current ministry includes working as a music minister at Ascension Parish in Portland, a position she has held since 2000, and as business manager at the Franciscan Spiritual Center in Milwaukie, Oregon.
Sr. Celeste’s ministry at Ascension Parish reflects the usual busy hubbub of parish life. She coordinates the choirs—two Spanish and one English. She schedules cantors, writes intercessions, communicates with presiders, and accompanies the choir at Mass. “I usually begin each week by checking what is planned to make sure it is still appropriate for the liturgy and current events,” she explained. “I email the plan to the choir and create the worship aid. If there is room, I try to include something about the readings or feast days coming up that week.” Add in Wednesday staff meetings and evening choir rehearsals—plus a private music student—and Sr. Celeste’s “typical” week is busy by anyone’s count!

At the spiritual center, things are usually a bit quieter. There Sr. Celeste keeps track of payroll, sends bills to the finance office in the east, and handles the weekly deposits and expenditures. She also leads a Taize service during hermitage retreats as well as during Advent and Lent.

Asked what she enjoys most about her ministry, Sr. Celeste is quick to respond. “The relationships! I have learned how important this is to me,” she said. “I enjoy hanging around in the vestibule between Masses to make connections with people or sitting with different groups for coffee and doughnuts after Mass. Friendships have been formed from a simple greeting. At the center I enjoy the conversations that come around the lunch table and other places.”

Another plus for her work at Ascension is the fact that the parish is staffed by the Franciscan friars from the Santa Barbara Province. That Franciscan connection began when Celeste was in fifth grade and St. Charles Parish in Spokane opened a school staffed by our sisters. She recalled her fifth grade teacher, Sr. Bertilla Morgan, who moved up with the class each year as a new grade was added. In high school Sr. Celeste joined the youth choir directed by Sr. Emma Holdener and recalled basketball games when students were “challenged” by Srs. Thomas Ann, Marie Inez, and Florence Leone. “We had so much fun!” she recalled. “I also spent hours in the classrooms helping the sisters. It was a wonderful group of people and I cherished our relationship.” That early Franciscan influence apparently had a strong impact on the Clavel children—three of whom became Franciscans. Sr. Celeste’s sister, Joanne, is a member of our congregation and her brother is a Franciscan friar. He actually ministered with her for a time at Ascension Parish!

Sr. Celeste is also active in congregational activities—especially when it involves planning or carrying out liturgies. She is often involved in liturgy planning for chapters, assemblies, and jubilees. She also assisted with the “Mother Francis Retreat” program and served on teams doing presentations in Tacoma, Spokane, and Portland as well as in Scottsdale, Arizona; Danville, California; and Little Falls, Minnesota.

Although Sr. Celeste admits that coordinating two different ministries is sometimes a challenge—“I haven’t figured out that bi-location thing yet,” she laughed—she does manage to fit in some leisure time, especially if that leisure involves being out of doors. Their convent has space for planting both vegetables and flowers and Sr. Celeste enjoys working in this garden. “We really enjoy the produce plucked right from the backyard—berries, lettuce, cucumbers, peas, onions, broccoli, and tomatoes,” she said. “I don’t see it as work. Time spent there is sacred work.”

In 2013 Sr. Celeste was a golden jubilarian and looking back over those 50 years has only deepened her love for the gift of her vocation. “I love being a Franciscan sister in this congregation! What a privilege it is!” she said. “When we began uncovering the depth of our Franciscan spirituality, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It resonated with me and articulated what has been and is in my heart. I am filled with gratitude for my vocation, my family, my sisters in community who walk this Franciscan path with me, all who have ministered with me, and all I have met along the way. God has been and is extravagantly good to me!”