Sr. Irene Clare Duval knew she wanted to be a nun since she was 8 years old, but it wasn’t until she was 48 that she joined the Compassionate Franciscan Sisters of the Poor (formerly the Missionaries of the Poor – Sisters). During the four decades in between she served in the U.S. military, went to college, and worked for the New York City police department as a drug chemist.
Once she had finally paid off her college loans, Sr. Irene joined an order and two years later was sent to Haiti — her birthplace — to minister to a desperately poor community in the mountains of southern Haiti. The people of Viloux quite literally had nothing until she came.
Sr. Irene started a school feeding program that provides meals to 121 children, most of whom were going days without food before she arrived. She opened up the local government school to more children by hiring additional teachers and launched a dispensary, doling out medicine and care to families who had nowhere to turn when they got sick. With our help and support from generous Catholics, she has been able to keep these vital programs running.
“People are always coming to me with some need. I’m able to help because of the varied experiences I’ve had,” Sr. Irene said. “I think that was God’s plan, why he had me wait so long to become a nun.”
One thing Sr. Irene has learned over her life is the importance of prayer. She says it is especially helpful when she makes the trip from her home to Viloux each week to minister to the people. She takes the tap-tap — an overcrowded public bus — then walks the last hour-and-a-half through rocky roads winding up the mountains.
“Prayer is my lifeline,” she explained. “Over and over, I’ve seen how powerful prayer is.” Through her strong faith in God and rich life experiences Sr. Irene works diligently to help Haiti’s poor, despite the challenges.
Click here to read more about Sr. Irene and her life-saving work in Viloux, Haiti.