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Clare Date ’23

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Franciscan Faces

Clare Date ’23

A Sea Change

Autumn 2023 | Jessica Walker

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“Don’t talk to me about God,” Clare Date said as soon as she walked into the priest’s office.

Clare was on her fifth Navy deployment. Although she normally looked forward to being at sea, summer 2017 had a few mishaps within the area of operations. The latest tragedy had happened the day before when a Marine Osprey launched from the ship and crashed in the Coral Sea; these three casualties were even closer to home.

Clare had not grown up religious, but her friend encouraged her to visit the junior Navy chaplain onboard—a young Catholic priest—if only to receive some counseling.

So, Clare poured out her anger, frustration, and grief to Father David Hammond ’06. She visited him again the following day, then the next. By the end of the week, she was sitting in the ship’s chapel late at night, just hoping to spend time alone. She found herself praying to God, “If you’re real, you have to tell me right now because I can’t keep doing this by myself.”

God answered.

“I saw every moment of my life— the most mundane things, most exciting things, the worst things I’ve done, best things I’ve done. But everything was from God’s perspective, and it was all permeated with love,” she says.

Awestruck, Clare ran to Father Hammond’s office. This time, the only thing she could say was, “Sir, did you know God is real?”

“Father Hammond started giving me books, and I would come back the next day having read them cover-to-cover,” Clare says. “It was like I had been thirsty all of my life, and I finally knew where to find water.”

Catholicism, though, was still out of the question. Nevertheless, she attended Mass one Sunday.

“I figured that once I found out what was true, I could take that and leave the rest,” she says.

She started attending daily Mass, read the Gospels for the first time, and had many conversations with Father Hammond. The more she learned, the more her heart was convicted. On October 4, 2017—St. Francis’ feast day—Clare was baptized on the flight deck.

Fr. David Hammond ’06 (far left) next to Clare Date at her baptism.

As Clare was finishing her military service, she looked at Catholic universities where she could study theology. She mentioned Franciscan University to Father Hammond and discovered it was his alma mater where he had participated in the Priestly Discernment Program. In spring 2019, Clare studied at Franciscan for a semester before spending two years discerning with the Poor Clares. When she left the religious community, she returned to Franciscan and will complete her theology degree in December 2023. Clare and Father Hammond, who’s her godfather, continue to keep in touch.

“The Lord put the two of us together for a reason. He’s my spiritual father, and I wouldn’t be where I am right now without his guidance,” she says. “People should know the amazing work our military priest chaplains do and pray for them because they are in some of the darkest territory.”

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