Helen was born in Greenwich, Connecticut, a small town where her parents owned and operated a bakery. There were six children born to her parents; twin boys died in infancy. Although Helen was born after her twin brothers had died she always thought about them. Her mother was a Catholic but her father had no religious belief. At a very young age Helen had what she describes as a deep experience of God, which remained with her during her formative years. Her attempts to share this experience with an older sister were not understood.
At age five Helen began violin lessons and became an accomplished violinist. Music was always an important part of Helen’s life. After graduating from Greenwich High School she began nursing studies and obtained her license as a practical nurse. Upon the death of her mother she inherited a house of her own. Later she cared for her ill father until he died.
Helen was a joyful outgoing person who enjoyed the friendship of both men and women. She loved dancing and socializing. She had a few suitors but felt in her heart that she was not called to the married life. One of her friends was a champion swimmer and diver with whom Helen shared her love of swimming.
On one of her trips to New York City she injured her ankle and felt unable to continue walking. Providentially she was close to Divine Providence Shelter at 45th St., so she limped in to rest. It was there that Helen met the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. At first she found them strange but later returned to have a long conversation with one of the Sisters. She started attending daily Mass. On a subsequent visit to 45th St. Helen asked hypothetically what a person needed to do to enter this religious community. Eventually she entered the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary June 12, 1935 at the age of 24.
In 1937 Helen’s first mission sending was to St. Francis Sanatorium, Roslyn, now called St. Francis Hospital, where she received tutoring on setting up and running a laboratory. These were the early challenging years of the hospital. She also worked as a practical nurse. Helen remained in this mission until 1959 when she was sent to O.L. of the Eucharist in Brighton. Here she served as receptionist, was involved in the Third Order of St. Francis, and used her musical talents in the liturgy.
She related well with young people and was able to reach out to them during the turbulent 70s. During the summer season Helen was the lifeguard at Grace Haven, the province vacation house, utilizing her skill in swimming like the proverbial fish. She also entertained her community by dancing the Charleston.
In 1975 Helen was sent in mission to St. Francis Community, San Francisco, serving again as receptionist. From 1978 to 1982 she did pastoral work with the Navajo people at St. Michael’s, Arizona. Sent again to O.L. of the Eucharist she taught CCD, was the sacristan and involved in the Charismatic movement, relating once again with young persons. From 1989 to 1992 she worked in the FMM Skilled Nursing Center and was a member of St. Michael’s Community.
She spent the year from 1992 to 1993 doing pastoral ministry in Tampa, Florida. Her next mission sending was to Trinity Community where she worked part time in the Fruit Hill Day Program until 1998. Failing health necessitated Helen’s transfer to O. L. Queen of Peace.
Presently, Sr. Helen is in St. Antoine’s Residence where at age 105, she remains remarkably alert and involved in activities.