Identical twins celebrate 70 years as Franciscan sisters


The orphaned twins grew up with a joint faith in God.

Sister Mary Clare Bernet was born on June 6, 1930, just 15 minutes before her little sister, Sister Mary Robert Bernet, entered the world. Then, in her late teens, the eldest twin once more took a path that her younger twin would follow.

In 1949, Sister Mary Clare decided to leave high school to join the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities — a religious congregation the girls, as orphans at the Mount Loretto Orphanage on Staten Island, were familiar with as they were growing up. After one year, she was joined by her younger sister, and the two women set out on a 70-year religious vocation that saw them teach in various schools for nearly 60 of those years — in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Although Sister Mary Robert will officially reach her 70-year religious life milestone in January of 2020, a Mass was celebrated in the twin sisters’ honor by Auxiliary Bishop Peter Byrne, with nine concelebrants assisting in the celebration. After the jubilee Mass on August 3, the sisters were treated to a lunch with 150 guests.

The sisters now live in a convent in the Franciscan Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in Peekskill, having finished their teaching careers in 2011. In a joint statement, the twins explained that they “would not trade their vocation for anything.”

In an interview with Catholic New York, Sister Mary Clare went on to share that “We were happy that we were both called by God.” Fellow convent resident Sister Mary Anne Maceda also explained: “They love God, and they love Jesus, and they wanted to share that in their ministries.”

For further details of the work the sisters carried out during their active years, read the full story by Chris Sheridan for Catholic New York.