Sr. Helena, who came from Newport, Co. Tipperary, was born on 15 November 1921. She was educated at the local Mercy Secondary School and joined MMM in 1943, when the Congregation was only five years founded. Around the time of her first profession of vows Mother Mary Martin was receiving many requests to expand our missionary work beyond Nigeria, where all the early foundations were made.
As MMM began its second decade of life, Sr. Helena became one of the pioneers of our work in Tanganyika, as it was then called – now Tanzania. She sailed for east Africa with Sr. Christina Hanley and Sr. M. Kieran Saunders. The trio first went to Galapo mission to study Ki-Swahili before opening the dispensarry at Tlawi.
Sr. Helena’s skills in domestic management were well recognized, and soon she deployed these skills in helping to establish our first mission hospital in east Africa, at nDareda, a village located on a ‘shelf’ of the eastern branch of the Great Rift Wall, about 50 miles down the Rift Valley from Tlawi. Before long, the original small chuch dispensary at nDareda was on its way to becoming a fully functioning hospital with 177 beds, and soon would be a well recognised nursing training school.
In 1960 Sr. Helena was asked to transfer to the United States, and became part of our novitiate community at Winchester, MA, where she remained for the next nine years. Then she was recalled to the Motherhouse at Drogheda, Ireland, and for four years took charge of the very busy guest department there. This was followed by ten years at Wimbledon, London, where she was Sister-in-charge of the small MMM community that helped at the Apostolic delegation.
Following sabbatical leave at Regina Mundi Institute in Rome, she spent three years as home Sister at the Regional house in Dublin. She returned to Italy where she assisted the work of Bishop Jaaroslav Skarvada who was ministering to Czech refugees in Rome. When it became possible for the Czech exiles to return home, she moved to Prague and continued working with Bishop Skarvada until her retirement in 1996. She then returned to the Motherhouse and helped in many ways while her health permitted. In 2003 she was admitted to the nursing facility Áras Mhuire and was cared for there until she died peacefully on 13 June 2011. May she rest in peace.