Sister Claris Zwareva

czwareva_lgCurrent Ministry Location-Maryknoll Sisters Center-Maryknoll, NY

Sister Claris was born in Chinhoyi, Mashonaland, Zimbabwe (known then as Rhodesia). She graduated from Monte Cassino High School, Macheke, Zimbabwe in 1971.

She then graduated with a Diploma in Nursing from St. Joseph Hospital School of Nursing in Reading, PA. She also took courses at Alvernia and Albright Colleges, both in Reading. It was there that she met Sister Maura Clarke, M.M. at a seminar on global awareness. During the seminar Sister Maura offered a role playing exercise to awaken awareness of world hunger and injustice that made a lasting impression on her.

She passed her PA State Boards of Nursing and returned to Zimbabwe where she worked at St. Ann’s Hospital, Brunnapeg and Gweru General Hospital, Gweru. Her heart was restless thinking of Sister Maura Clarke, who was murdered in El Salvador in 1980. After six months, she decided to leave her community. She was anxious to work at a grassroots level and at that time they were involved largely in institutional work.

Sister Claris joined the Congregation at the Maryknoll Sisters Center, Maryknoll, NY on August 19, 1984 and passed the NY State Nursing Board examination. She made her First Vows on December 15, 1985 at the Sisters Center and was then assigned to Bolivia. She made her Final Vows on October 29, 1995 in Cochabamba, Bolivia. 

Sister Claris’s first mission assignment was to La Paz, Bolivia from 1987-1989, where she worked in the Santa Rita parish clinic while she learned Spanish, both the technical medical vocabulary as well as ordinary speech. She did outreach sponsored by Caritas, which provided a weekly ration of food for poor mothers, and she offered basic health care training. She spent a good deal of time in the soup kitchens in the poor barrios as a way to find out who was sick and needed care. While there, she opened the Santa Monica Clinic, an outpost of the Santa Rita Parish. She then moved to Cochabamba where she continued health education, visiting families living on the periphery, and working in the Santa Ana Clinic. She also worked with the Christian Family Movement and also with the youths of the Santa Ana Parish.

She was the administrative secretary for the Institute of Bioethics at the Catholic University of Bolivia and saw the need to integrate bioethics as an academic subject in school, “particularly in today’s world which is threatened by AIDS and poverty.” At the Institute she provided educational materials for the students at the documentation center and assisted the seminarians to study more effectively. She continued working for the defense of human life in all its aspects using opportunities to educate and raise awareness on the dignity of human life.

Returning to the U.S., she earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology from Marymount College of Fordham University, NY. in 2005 and earned a Masters Degree in Bioethics from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH in 2006. 

Sister Claris returned to Bolivia in February, 2007 to share her new learnings and make connections with social justice and peace workers in the field of bioethics. In 2011, she volunteered for a month with the Medical Missionaries, a non-denominational group of health professionals, in the rural highlands of Haiti.

In 2011 she interned with the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns in New York, to eventually assume the role of Main NGO representative of the Maryknoll Sisters of Saint Dominic at the United Nations where she worked to increase exposure on issues that affect the poor. In that capacity, she worked in collaboration with the Maryknoll Office for Global Offense until 2018 when she resumed studies at the Fordham graduate School of Religion. She completed her studies in May 2021 earning a degree in Christian Spirituality with a concentration in Spiritual Direction. She has been working as a Spiritual Director for Christians seeking to grow in their spiritual life, until September 2021 when she was elected to serve on the Congregation’s Leadership Team for the next six years.