Sister Helene Marie Kelly
“Thank you! Everything in me says, “Thank you!” (Psalm 138:1)
“To each of us in our lifetime it is our task to find and nurture unique gifts, some quality that sharpens our senses and brings us to close awareness of our work in this world — our connection to one another,” said Sister Ruth Johnson in her commentary for Sister Helene Marie Kelly, who died March 25.
“Sister Helene Marie’s concentration was her family, the community, her music and — always — friends. More than once her needs were put on hold in order to give more time to a friend or a community endeavor. In fact whatever Sister Helene Marie was doing held her entire concentration,” Sister Ruth continued.
Born Dec. 13, 1919, in Chelsea, Mass., Catherine Frances Kelly was one of five children of John and Delia (Murray) Kelly. She attended St. Rose, Chelsea, for grade school and secondary school. She entered the Congregation July 22, 1937, and professed first and perpetual vows Jan. 23, 1940, and 1946, respectively. She earned a bachelor’s degree in music from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and a master’s degree from Vermont University, Burlington.
Sister Helene Marie commenced teaching primary school in February of 1940 at St. Clement, Lansdowne, Md. In September of 1940, she began teaching kindergarten and music at St. Ann, Washington, D.C. Most of her more than five decades of teaching occurred on the East Coast. Those ministries included Lady Isle and St. Patrick School, Portsmouth, N.H.; Dunblane, Washington, D.C.; Ascension, Halethorpe, Md.; and St. Polycarp, Somerville, Mass. Sister Helene Marie also taught at St. John, Robstown, Texas, and St. Agnes, Chicago. She returned to the Woods in 1998.
“Sister Helene Marie’s family meant everything to her. She kept up with all the events and occasions in their lives and they in turn included her in all their happenings,” said Sister Ruth.
“Music had a special place in Sister Helene Marie’s life. As a teacher she tried to instill not only the appreciation and perfection of the performing arts, but a life-time application to the discipline of daily living.
“Sister Helene Marie had a spontaneous laugh. It could be evoked with any joke or humorous occurrence. Some of the aides in Health Care remarked that it would take her more minutes to tell a joke because she couldn’t stop laughing, so the punch line had to be written out in order to finish the tale,” shared Sister Ruth.
“Sister Helene Marie’s life was one of complete dedication to the Congregation. Her love and devotion to Saint Mother Theodore influenced her way of life and shaped her daily choices. Tradition and custom, prayer and generosity, friendship and love became ways of enriching the rule she committed her life to,” continued Sister Ruth.
“It is impossible to fit accounts of Sister Helene Marie’s attributes into one session. These you are aware of: her work ethic — she was always busy; her faithfulness to her correspondence — letters to family, cards to the sick and lonely, cheery messages; her consistent prayer life; and her love of the Eastern shores and eating fish,” said Sister Ruth.
“So now we bring the body of our sister and friend to this sacred place — promised to you in baptism, united to you through sacred vows. Sister Helene Marie passes from death to life, faithful and true in life and through death. Bestow your promises of a place of love and rest, of peace and everlasting fulfillment. Until we meet again, we take leave of you now,” concluded Sister Ruth.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Helene Marie was celebrated March 28, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She was preceded in death by all of her siblings.
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