Sister Andrew was born Helen Joyce Phillips in Conway, Michigan in 1929. The third of eight children and the only girl, she grew up in a Protestant family in rural northern Michigan. In his eulogy at her funeral Mass, Brent, her nephew, explained that in her early years there were limited opportunities for women. It was not until World War II that women had an opportunity to enter the workforce. After the war women were expected to return to being homemakers to ensure that jobs were available for returning veterans.
Helen trained as a bookkeeper in Detroit Business School. From 1948 to 1951 she worked at Western Union and at Lockwood Hospital in Michigan, then in New Mexico for a few months, before returning to Michigan for another three years. In 1954 she moved to Los Angeles, CA and worked as a bookkeeper in Orbach’s Department Store.
While working in Detroit she stayed with a Catholic family. She attended Mass and developed a strong faith and respect for the Church. This experience ultimately led her to becoming a Catholic, along with one of her brothers who was in the Navy in San Diego, CA. A short time later, in 1957, she joined MMM in Winchester, MA, along with twelve other young women, eight of whom were from the Midwest.
After her profession, which Mother Mary attended, Andrew remained in Winchester for three years, and as assistant novice mistress, helped to guide young women in their early years in MMM. She was assigned to Ireland in 1963 and worked in the office in the IMTH. She then spent several months in Leon, Spain, doing secretarial and promotion work.
In 1964, Sister Andrew returned to the USA and spent four years at Pope John XXIII Seminary, Weston, MA. She was responsible for staff management, supplies and bookkeeping and served in MMM leadership. In 1970, she was back in Winchester, where she did office work in for three years before moving to Alameda, CA. Here she worked tirelessly for over seven years in mission awareness and vocation work in the western USA.
In 1981, Andrew was assigned to Kenya, where she provided material for mission awareness work. She returned to the USA in 1982 and spent twenty-six years assigned to the Chicago community, organizing mission awareness for the West and Midwest of the USA.
A fall in January 2008, followed by further ill health, necessitated her retirement. She was admitted to Resurrection Life Center in Chicago in 2009. Despite multiple disabilities, Andrew maintained her interest in MMM and family activities and had an active Facebook page. She died peacefully on 12 July 2017.
Sister Andrew enjoyed playing cards and sharing stories of her brothers’ hunting adventures and other escapades. Apparently she was well able to hold her own in apple fights! She had a great memory for names and making connections and loved hearing firsthand stories of mission experiences.
Brent commented that the women who joined MMM with his Aunt Helen were ‘united by a devotion to God, a strong sense of purpose, a yearning for adventure … and to have some fun along the way.’ By the time she first arrived in Winchester, Andrew had traveled across the USA via Route 66 with three friends.
Brent said, ‘I always remember her as permanently on the go, raising money for MMM, enjoying traveling and meeting new people, and ultimately driven to make a difference in the world.’