Triplet sisters Bridgette, Caroline and Julia Clarke are members of the class of 2014 at Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School in Washington and are the first triplets to graduate from there.
Triplet sisters Bridgette, Caroline and Julia Clarke are members of the class of 2014 at Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School in Washington and are the first triplets to graduate from there.
The Clarke triplets, Bridgette, Caroline and Julia, the first set of triplets to graduate from Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School in Washington, insist that they are different from each other. Bridgette is an artist who loves chocolate cake; Julia wants to be a neuroscientist and prefers ice cream; and Caroline is the commencement speaker at this year's graduation. (Her anonymous essay was chosen by a panel of her peers and teachers.) Caroline does not like chocolate cake at all.

But what the girls have in common, besides their family, their long blond hair and their devotion to their high school, is their deep faith which belies their young age.

"One great thing about faith is that it allows you to ask questions," said Julia. "But [faith] is founded on something so true," she said.

Caroline and Julia discovered their faith, they said, after Visitation's junior year retreat, called Kairos. Before that Caroline said, she was scared to talk about her faith, worried about her peers thinking she was too religious. Instead, after the retreat, she realized she could talk to her classmates about it, and that in turn deepened her friendships. "I feel gratitude that we can share it and really understand it and see the beauty of it," she said.

Julia said that the retreat made her think about the ways she had turned away from God and how unhappy she was because of it. "How profoundly different I felt," she said, "when I had that faith and love around me." Now, she finds comfort in sharing her struggles with faith. "Not sharing and talking things out," she said, "heightens anxiety and fear and makes them a bigger deal than it is." Accepting her fear and doubts and then exploring them is part of her faith, but she said, "Clarity will always come if you look for it." Or as Bridgette added, "Faith grows from doubt."

Bridgette's faith came to her a little earlier, in her sophomore year. She remembers her religion teacher telling the class that their relationship with God was a love story. "Have patience with [your faith] and with yourself," Bridgette advises any young person struggling with faith. "Right now, you may feel alone, but...prayers are always answered, whether you see it or not."

Last summer the triplets attended a camp in Michigan on Salesian leadership. (Visitation emphasizes Salesian spirituality which is based on the teachings of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal, which in-part encourages practicing simple acts of kindness.) The girls returned from camp energized and excited to spread their enthusiasm to their peers through campus ministry, a small club with only a handful of girls. They set up a booth at the school club fair and cast their net, attracting dozens of students. The triplets then helped set up a "Thought of the Day" program where students each took turns emailing out positive thoughts. They started having night prayer services. They made prayer chains. In homeroom, they exchanged ideas about how to pray.

"Campus ministry is our focus," said Caroline. The club this year grew to about 25 students.

This fall, the triplets will go separate ways to college: Bridgette to Providence College; Caroline to Boston College where the triplets' older sister and Visitation graduate, Katherine, attends; and Julia to Wake Forest. The three laughed about how they plan to make a beeline to the campus ministries at their colleges, and Julia and Caroline are hoping to participate in a week of service before classes started. They all worry about leaving the Visitation cocoon where faith is a given and they can easily start every school day with morning prayer.

"What am I going to do with this [faith]?" Caroline wondered. "How are we going to live our faith in our ordinary lives?"

They don't know what they want to do when they grow up, but all three intend to do some sort of service program after graduation, like the Jesuit Volunteer Corps or the Peace Corps. The sisters are bonded through their DNA, but they are also bonded through their joyous and thoughtful faith, which was inspired by their parents and fostered at Visitation. And this fall the girls will bring that faith beyond their home and school walls.

The three girls love the way that Father Ed Ogden ends school Masses. "Go forth glorifying the Lord by how you choose to live your lives," he says.

"Not to get all biblical here," said Caroline, "But Isaiah says God takes our hand. He's always holding our hand. If anyone lets go, it will be us."