Sister Helen Francine died on October 1, 2019; she was buried in the community cemetery on October 7, following the Mass of Christian Burial at Saint Joseph Villa.
Sister Helen, born on July 13, 1932, was one of Francis and Helen Cantwell’s three daughters, Dorothea, Eleanor and she, Joan. She attended St. John the Baptist School and later, Little Flower High School. A few months after graduation, in September of 1950, she entered the Sisters of Saint Joseph.
Sister Helen’s ministry was primarily in the field of education. Although she taught at the elementary level for several years, most of her teaching experience came at the secondary level. She was a talented language teacher, particularly of the Spanish language; an immersion experience in Mexico, concentrating on Spanish, helped to prepare her for her future success teaching this language in the classroom. She taught in the Philadelphia and Washington Archdioceses as well as in the Dioceses of Harrisburg and Allentown. As a matter of fact, she even taught the other Sisters in a convent where she lived…and gave them homework. Dedication knows no bounds. After retiring from the classroom in 2002, Helen served as assistant librarian at Cardinal O’Hara High School before retiring to the Villa in 2012.
In eulogizing Helen, S. Terry Shaw chose this paragraph of our Constitutions to reflect Helen’s life, “The zeal and ardent desire that enlivens and directs our ministries also leads us to adjust them in a discerning spirit…always in favor of what will tend to the glory of God and benefit all people.” Helen did her best to incarnate that ideal; she was a valued member of the communities where she lived. She has been described as “solid”, “fully alive”, giving herself to everything she did”; this included not only her daily living but also her travels and the annual, “second to none” Super Bowl party financed by her sister. She dearly loved her family; she took care of her father during his final illness, was devoted to her two sisters and their families, and they to her.
Helen, which means “shining light”, was indeed a shining light to the Cantwell, Blade and King families and to the Sisters of Saint Joseph. We are grateful for having had her presence among us. We pray, but really we know that she intercedes for us with the God in whom she lives.