Mass celebrated for the one hundredth birthday of Sister Helene at the Little Sisters of the Poor, Northcote

Saturday 25th March 2017

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In this great moment of thanksgiving we join Sister Helene in reflecting on the wonder of what God has done in her life and service as a Little Sister.

The words of the Gospel today reflect the normal dimensions of a life led in God’s service. The angel assures Sister Helene, ‘do not be afraid’, as he did Mary. When Sister Helene asks how can this come about, ‘the Holy Spirit will come upon you’, the angel answered, ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow.’

This is the call to religious life which is embraced after the following of Jesus, as Mary did. The words of the Psalm: “Here am I. I come to do your will”, reflect the genuine service of Sister Helene over all these years.

Sister Helene was born in Dunedin on 28th March 1917, the youngest of five children. One of her sisters, Sister Marie Helene, entered the Little Sisters and spent many years in London province.

Upon entering religious life at the age of eighteen, she took first vows in Sydney in 1937 then went to Auckland and Adelaide and went to France from 1939 to 1982.

Significantly, during 1940 as a young Sister she was interred for six weeks by the Germans at a camp in Besancon.

Since 1982 Sister Helene came first to Drummoyne, to Perth in 1985 and finally to Melbourne in 1992. So in addition to her one hundredth birthday, this year she celebrates her Silver Jubilee of being with us here in Northcote.

Sister Helene was always very attentive to the residents and their ongoing care. I remember this for the way she attended to my mother when she was here for two years until her death in 2004.

It is good to say that Sister Helene has never lost her individuality and independence, and her readiness to have a view. On one occasion she was seen the carrying the mattress from her own room to that of a resident because she believed that the resident’s mattress was not as good as hers.

Her nephews, nieces and families visit Sister Helene regularly and I do want to join you all in thanking God for Sister Helene, who generously, humbly and with individual giftedness has served for so long here at Saint Joseph’s Home. Her watchword I am sure and the invitation she gives us in prayer is to take the words of Mary: “The Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name. And here am I Lord, I come to do your will.”

We thank the Lord that his plan has included Sister Helene’s presence with us and the grace that he has given to her. The vision of Saint Jean Jugan and the care and love for others is so well represented in these moments as we thank God for Sister Helene.

+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.

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