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Sister Helen Therese Conway

The Gospel according to Matthew: 5:14-15, The Passion Translation (TPT):

“Your lives light up the world. Let others see your light from a distance, for how can you hide a city that stands on a hilltop? And who would light a lamp and then hide it in an obscure place? Instead, it’s placed where everyone in the house can benefit from its light. So don’t hide your light! Let it shine brightly before others, so that the commendable things you do will shine as light upon them, and then they will give their praise to your Father in heaven.”

From all accounts, Sister Helen Therese was one such disciple of Jesus whose life lit up the world of those who knew and loved her, said Sister Ann Casper in her commentary for Sister Helen Therese Conway, who passed away on Thursday, April 16, 2020, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. She was 94 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 72 years.

Sister Helen Therese Conway

Sister Ann continued: Eileen Conway was born to Clarence and Daisy McClellan Conway on Jan. 25, 1926, in Chicago. From the outset, I imagine Eileen’s birth lit up the Conway family household. Her eight siblings all preceded her in death – her sisters Ethel, Daisy, Margaret, Dorothy Jane and Thoretta; her brothers Robert, Clarence and Patrick. She dearly loved her large family and communicated with them often. Her many nieces and nephews remained close to their Auntie Eileen and enjoyed visits with her in her various ministry locations and here at the Woods.

Her niece Mary Lou recalls, “My mother and she were very close and spoke by phone once a week until my mother’s death in 2017. Most summers of my childhood we traveled to Terre Haute to visit her. We would stay in the old guest house. Her friends would ask to drive my dad’s car around campus. We also visited her in Galesburg, Wilmette, and Greenfield. She loved teaching and she loved her ‘Sisters.’ Showing us around Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, she would beam with pride at all the accomplishments of the college and of the Sisters. Our family is grateful for the love and care she received. She and my mom are catching up in heaven.”

Her nephew Paul comments, “My aunt was a beautiful woman who will always be remembered for her love of family and her dedication of service in education. Her lifelong commitment to the community of the Sisters of Providence was truly beautiful. I too have fond memories of my last visit with her at SMW, reminiscing about the entire family. Up until a few years ago, she would keep track of all the comings and goings of the family.”
This dearly loved Aunt Eileen attended Our Lady of Angels in Chicago and went on to Providence High School where she met up with the Sisters of Providence. She graduated in 1944 and entered the Congregation on Feb. 2, 1948. She made first and perpetual profession of vows on Aug. 15, 1950, and 1955, respectively.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in education at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and her master’s in education at Indiana State University. She was granted permanent state certification in both elementary teaching and supervision.

With these credentials, Sister Helen Therese spent a total of 37 years in education, with brief teaching stints in California and Illinois, and spending 27 of those in Indiana, as a teacher and as principal, sometimes at the same time. She was at Greenfield, Indiana, for 18 years. A dear friend from those years who remained close was Janet Tosick. Her three children all attended St. Michael’s. Janet relates, “We became fast friends when our oldest went to first grade, and our golden retriever named Judge followed the bus to school. She called me and said, ‘Honey, your dog is at school!’ That was the first of many calls!”

Helen had more than a few friends at St. Michael’s! Janet mentioned a time she organized a trip to the Woods about three years ago. Several visited Helen and had lunch together with her. She says of that day, “There was a lot of laughter and what a good time we all had with sister. After the lunch, she came over to me and gave me a big hug and said, ‘Thank you, Janet; that meant so much to me to see so many of my old friends!!”

Providence Associate Kathleen Fleming shared, “I always admired her learning to use a computer at her age. She’d make lists of questions to ask me about computers when I got to the Woods. She would say, ‘You are used to talking to kindergartners, so I think you would keep it simple.’ I told her she had it wrong. The kindergartners were helping me. I gave her a copy of Word for Dummies and she said, ‘Is this an insult?’ Apparently, she had not been introduced to the Dummy book series.”

Kathleen also related Helen’s story of a young boy who was always in trouble, so much so that she told him he would have to go with her to the convent at noontime and eat his lunch on the steps. Undaunted, he asked if he could bring his guitar along because he had to practice to play at Mass. He added, “I could serenade the sisters while you eat.” Helen said that his answers always made her laugh.

Sister Agnes Eugene Cordak and Sister Helen Therese Conway

Another student, who is now Deacon Steve, noted “Sister Helen Therese was my principal when I went to St. Michael’s in Greenfield in the 70s. She was AMAZING! I developed a respectful fear of God … and her! She impacted so many lives, so positively. I am who I am today because of her. I am in service to the Church because of the faith foundation that she helped develop in me.”

After Helen Therese’s illustrious career of 37 years as teacher and principal, she came to the Motherhouse in 1987 and spent another 30 years as an administrative assistant on the Provincial staff and then in residential services. In 2017, she truly retired and devoted more time to a ministry of prayer.

It’s not surprising that Helen Therese did not have a lot of hobbies, given her years of active ministry. We do know that she loved puzzles and often did them in the early hours of the morning in the Community Room with her good friend Sister Lawrence Ann, and then several times throughout the day. Before relaxing with the puzzle, however, she had a daily ritual of visiting the Church where she would pray before the tabernacle and Mary’s altar, proceed to pray at the Our Lady of Providence Shrine and at the alter of St. Joseph, and then stopping to pray before the Mother Theodore statue in the Church hallway on her way to the Community Room. When I saw her during my walk, I was always impressed by her devotion and prayer.
She also loved to play Free Cell on the computer in her office when there was a lull between gathering information and printing the Day-by-Day bulletin.

Sister Helen Therese Conway (right() with Sister Lawrence Ann Liston.

For several years, she was the “go-to person” when the Mission Advancement office needed silverware wrapped in napkins for the donor dinner. She never liked to be idle, yet, one sister remarked that “she was always fearful that she would put somebody out or annoy them by her words or actions.” I doubt that happened very often!

Annette Powell and her husband, who have attended Mass at Saint Mary’s for the last seven years, mentioned that “when seeing Helen Therese in the back pew, I felt like I was with an angel on earth. Something about her always made my soul feel good, safe, and loved. I will always remember her for these reasons.”

The celebration of Eucharist was very important to Helen Therese and in the last year or so, she struggled to get to daily Mass on her walker, and she was always there. Now, she struggles no more, but walks freely to the banquet God has prepared for her in heaven.

As we heard in the Gospel reading, Sister Helen Therese was not one “to hide her light” and did indeed “light up” the lives of her family, her sisters and her many former students and friends. We join them “in giving praise to our Father in heaven” for her long life of service and dedication. May she rest in peace without fears and worries, and enjoy God’s presence and that of Our Lady of Providence, St. Joseph and Saint Mother Theodore Guerin for all eternity.

Funeral services for Sister Helen Therese took place on Friday, April 24, 2020, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

A Virtual Wake took place at 10:e30 a.m., on Friday, April 24, followed by Funeral Liturgy Outside Mass at 11 a.m. The funeral was closed to the public.

Click here to see photos of Sister Helen Therese through the years.

We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Helen Therese in the comment section below.

Sister Helen Therese Conway

Complete Ministry

In Indiana: Teacher, St. Andrew, Indianapolis (1950-53); Teacher, Holy Trinity, New Albany (1953-54); Teacher, Sacred Heart, Terre Haute (1954-55); Teacher, St. Catherine, Indianapolis (1965-67); Teacher, Our Lady of Greenwood, Greenwood (1967-69); Teacher/Principal, St. Michael, Greenfield (1969-87); Provincial Staff Administrative Assistant, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (1987-91); Administrative Assistant, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Residential Services (1992-96); Administrative Assistant, Congregation Campus Services, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (1996-2003); Administrative Assistant, Residential Life and Services, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2003-2015); Residential Services, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2015-17); Prayer, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2017-2020).

In California: Teacher, St. Elisabeth, Van Nuys (1955-59).

In Illinois: Teacher, St. Joseph, Galesburg (1959-60); Teacher, St. Francis Xavier, Wilmette (1960-64); Teacher, Our Lady of Mercy, Chicago (1964-65).

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20 Comments

  1. Maureen Scharf on April 17, 2020 at 7:33 am

    Sister Helen Therese (Auntie Eileen) was my mom’s sister. She was the last remaining “Conway” sibling. She dedicated her whole life to the Sisters of Providence. My last visit with her at St. Mary of the Woods was so very special. She was showing severe signs of dementia. She retold special family stories over and over. Every year until this last she sent beautiful Christmas blessings.
    A very special thank you to those at St. Mary of the Woods who loved and took care of her in her final days!
    As my mom would always say, ” May her soul and all the souls of the faithful departed Rest in Peace”
    I Love You Auntie Eileen,
    Maureen Scharf

    • Madonna on April 17, 2020 at 10:20 am

      You were blessed to have an aunt who was a Sister of Providence. I am sorry for your loss.

    • JENNIFER TOWNSEND on April 21, 2020 at 11:08 am

      she was the principal of my school. I loved her so much. She had a huge influence on my life.

  2. Mary Lou McLennan Pugliese on April 17, 2020 at 8:43 am

    Sister was my aunt, the last of eight Conway siblings. My mother and she were very close. and spoke by phone once a week until my mother’s death in 2017. Most summers of my childhood we traveled to Terre Haute to visit her. We would stay in the old guest house. Her friends would ask to drive my Dad’s car around campus. We also visited her in Galesburg, Wilmette and Greenfield. She loved teaching and she loved her “Sisters.” Showing us around St Mary-of-the Woods she would beam with pride at all the accomplishments of the college and the Sisters. Our family is grateful for the love and care she received. She and my Mom are catching up in heaven. RIP, Auntie Eileen.

    • Madonna on April 17, 2020 at 10:23 am

      Wow, she had a few nieces. All of her relatives were blessed to have a Sister of Providence for a relative. That “old guest house” brings back some very good memories. Those were the days. I am sorry for all Sister’s relatives who have lost her here on earth and now have an advocate in heaven.

    • Bernadette Clifford on April 18, 2020 at 12:20 pm

      Sister Helen Therese and I have been friends since I was in the eighth grade at St. Catherine’s in Indianapolis in 1967. I have seen her many many times since then. I loved listening to her stories about her family as I was one oh 12 siblings. She was just a all around wonderful lady. One night I went out to see her in Greenfield and she was already in bed. It was about 9:00. I then just drove around with some friends and that is when I met my future husband. She met him and approved. We were married 3 years later and she attended our wedding. We have now been married 48 years. She met all of our children and I will never forget her. Same as her niece, I always received Christmas Cards from her until last year. May she Rest In Peace and enjoy being with her family again. Until we meet again. I love you

  3. Paul Villiger on April 17, 2020 at 9:18 am

    My aunt was a beautiful woman who will always be remembered for her love of family and her dedication of service in education . Her life long commitment to the community of the Sisters of Providence was truly beautiful. I too have fond memories of my last visit with her at SMW, reminiscing of the entire family. She loved a good puzzle and I know she had done so many of them! Up until a few years ago she would keep track of all the coming and goings of the family. My thanks to all the Sisters and health care works for looking after her in her final days! May Eternal life shine upon her forever! I will miss you Auntie Eileen! Love and peace your nephew Paul Villiger

  4. Jenny Nowalk, PA on April 17, 2020 at 10:39 am

    I recognize Sister from attending Providence Associates events,,,,,for the past 10 years….her face is very familiar……I am grateful to read your memories and reminiscing about her and your family. My mother in law will be buried tomorrow and we are in this time of “social distancing” from my father in law and many family members. Sharing with others the joy of these remarkable women soothes my soul and relieves some of my sadness. My mother in law gave me the most wonderful husband I could even hope to have……that alone led to 5 beautiful kids and 6 grandchildren……There will be great rejoicing in heaven as these humble women enter the gates!

  5. Judy Livingston on April 17, 2020 at 12:12 pm

    Sister Helen Therese was a good friend. I always enjoy visiting with her when I would come to the Woods. When I would bring items to the Woods, I would give them to her. I knew that would always get to the right people and places. Her pleasant personal was a blessing. She will be missed. Rest In Peace my good friend🙏

  6. Sister James Michael Kesterson on April 17, 2020 at 12:18 pm

    Helen Therese and I were good friends and band members. When Sister lived alone at St Michael, Greenfield, I would spend the weekend with her. We had such a good time sharing, solving “problems” and praying

  7. Annette Powell on April 17, 2020 at 1:06 pm

    My husband and I have attended church with Sister Helen Therese for the last 7 years. When seeing her I felt like I was with an Angel 😇 on earth. Something about her always made my soul feel good, safe and loved. I will always remember her for these reasons.

  8. Deacon Steve Pareja on April 17, 2020 at 3:01 pm

    Sister Helen Therese was my principal when I went to St. Michal’s in Greenfield, IN, in the ‘70’s. She was AMAZING! I developed a respectful fear of God…and her! ;-). She impacted so many lives so positively. I am who I am today because of her. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to personally thank her in 2006 for being so influential in my life. I am in service to the Church because of the faith foundation that she helped develop in me. Eternal Rest Grant Unto Her, O Lord…

  9. Janet Tosick on April 17, 2020 at 3:55 pm

    Sister Helen Therese was so special to our family. I met Sister when she was Principal at St. Michael’s in Greenfield, and our three children were students. We bonded quickly when she told me her first teaching assignment was at St Andrews in Indianapolis. She taught my older brother! She had a wonderful personality. When Sister retired I visited her at St Mary’s. She talked about her family with so much love. .
    Our last visit was in November and it was so special. Our visit was lunch and seeing her room. Her parents picture touched my heart.
    I recently wrote her, and I will miss her so much! I am becoming an associate and I pray her beautiful spirit will be with me.
    Our family sends love to Sisters family and her many friends at St Mary’s, and all who loved Sister Helen.
    Love and Prayers, Janet and Michael Tosick and Family, John, Anna, and Mike Tosick

    • Mary Lou McLennan Pugliese on April 18, 2020 at 11:29 am

      Thank you for being so good to our aunt.

  10. Kathy Dowling on April 17, 2020 at 4:03 pm

    Sister Helene Therese was principal at St. Michael’s where my sister Chris Dowling taught for many years. My sister thought so highly of her andSister Rose Celine and Sister Veronica Ann. I met her on many occasions and saw first hand how dedicated she was to the students and their families. I even tagged along on a visit when all three had retired from St. Michael’s and served in the convent. She was small in stature but had a mighty soul! What a blessing she was to all! 🙏🏼

    • Julie Harmon on April 20, 2020 at 6:58 pm

      Kris Dowling was one of my favorite teachers in the 80’s, and Sister Helen was an amazing principal. Sister had a way of getting complete respect from all students. You did not want to be in her office, yet you could feel her love.

    • jennifer (armes) townsend on April 21, 2020 at 11:12 am

      your sister taught both me and my brother and sister helen was the principle. Both of these women had a huge influence on my life.

  11. Louise Fiano on April 17, 2020 at 4:37 pm

    Sister Helen was a beautiful lady that loved people. She used to be the principal for St Michaels in Greenfield.
    She will be so missed.
    I’m sure God is saying “Welcome home good and faithful servant”

  12. Mimi McKee on April 17, 2020 at 5:38 pm

    Sr. Helen Therese was principal and teacher at St. Michaels in Greenfield where I attended grade school. My parents loved her and sent her flowers every St. Patrick’s Day! I visited her a couple of times after she retired and she never seemed to change. Rest In Peace Sister!

  13. Cathy Campbell,SP on April 20, 2020 at 9:56 am

    Sr. Helen Therese and I became good friends when we both ended up as residents of Lourdes Hall. She had a natural talent for enabling me to look at the brighter side of life and she always enabled me to laugh. I will miss her across the table from me at a meal. Feel very blessed that I had a chance to share a few final laughs with her the day before she slipped away to heaven. When I start taking life too seriously, I will close my eyes and see her making a crazy clownlike face with a twinkle in her eye – telling me to lighten up. Enjoy eternity, Helen dear, I am certain you will be bringing many laughs to all with whom you are reunited forever.

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