Living the Faith: Robert Claverie

Who is he? Worshipped at Corpus Christi, Sacred Heart and St. James Major parishes before becoming a parishioner of St. Maria Goretti in 2007; an usher and member of the KC, Holy Name Society, “Just Faith” ministry and Finance Committee. He and his wife Ann also contribute to the education of more than two dozen orphans in Africa.

What is his profession? Claverie, a Vietnam veteran, worked for five years in the mail room and circulation departments of the Clarion Herald before attending Straight Business College under the G.I. Bill. He worked as a clerk at a local steamship company until a back injury – suffered while trapped in an elevator for more than six hours – prompted his retirement in 1980.

When did volunteering become his calling? He has been feeding the homeless for decades, often on his own time and from his own pocket, taking sandwiches and fruit from his garden to popular gathering spots. He keeps bottled water in his truck to help those he encounters while driving around the city; on cold days he passes out coffee and soup. “If you can help just one person while you’re here on planet earth, you should,” he said. “You’re here for a purpose. We are our brother’s keeper.”

How did Hurricane Katrina impact him? Upon returning to their flooded home in Gentilly’s Edgewood Park neighborhood, the Claveries fed neighbors, and first responders at their own expense and began partnering with Baptist Theological Seminary’s “Mission Lab” volunteer corps. Since 2006, the couple’s home has been a job-coordination site for more than 3,000 volunteers from around the world. “I take them out to job sites to clean up storm drains, gut and paint houses and help the elderly with their chores,” Claverie said. “When they come (to my home), I lead them in prayer before we go to work. I’m proud of that.” Himself the recipient of post-Katrina assistance from the Council on Aging, Claverie repaid the agency in full when he got back on his feet and set up a fund to help struggling seniors pay for their utilities and medications. In 2007, he built a memorial to Katrina victims on the lot next to his home, using salvaged components of razed houses. The surrounding garden is dominated by an eight-foot cross.

 

He has a special place in his heart for women religious. Claverie takes fresh produce to the convents and nursing homes of the Sisters of the Holy Family, the Poor Clare nuns and the Daughters of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. “I bring them greens in the winter and tomatoes and whatever’s growing in the summer,” he said. “(Women religious) are very dedicated in their ministry. Not many people realize it, but they sacrifice a lot.”

What guides his faith?  “If it hadn’t been for Jesus, I wouldn’t be (doing volunteer work). He called me and I answered. It’s all through him.”

 

Interviewed by Beth Donze

 

To nominate a candidate for “Living the Faith,” e-mail clarion herald@clarionherald.org.

 

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