Sister Helen Jean Vinton: a woman for all time
Our family has lived on the shores of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for the past 28 years. Surrounded by the awesome grandeur of Lake Superior, the towering granite cliffs and the serenity of giant white pines, my thoughts always turn to thankfulness and gratefulness. In this awesome presence, why do I think of God the Creator and give thanks for the beauty that surrounds me each day? Where did this love of God’s creation come from?
Seeds were planted in my first biology class at Ladywood (later Ladywood-St. Agnes) High School in Indianapolis in the early 70’s starting me on a journey of appreciating creation and protecting it passionately. Sister Helen Jean was the teacher in that biology class facing a quiet young woman who had no interest in science and knew nothing about protecting the environment. After that year I was a changed person. My sister, Anne, and I started recycling aluminum cans on our lunch hours. We rode our single speed bikes to school, hair and uniform skirts blowing in the wind. Sister Helen Jean instilled in me the sense that God’s creation given to us must be protected. Her quiet way, her love for God’s creation and her passion for teaching influenced so many young minds.
In the years since high school, raising our children and in my retirement years as a volunteer, protecting the environment has been my focus. Teaching, learning and showing by example I have been able to follow in sister’s footsteps.
It is time for me to send a note of thanks to Sister Helen Jean. She was a forerunner in the environmental movement and quietly went about doing her work one student at a time. I give thanks to God for the one year I was able to spend with her in that high school biology class. The seeds she planted have grown in many directions in my life and I give thanks for that.
— Maura Healey Davenport, Class of ’72, lives with her husband, Ken, on the shores of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. She is on a local watershed council, participates in battery recycling in their community and was part of the planning for an independent community environmental monitoring program for a copper/nickel mine in her county. And she still picks up trash on her daily walks.