Helen Elizabeth Collins, daughter of John Collins and Louise Grimes, was born in Carlsbad Springs, Ontario, December 10, 1913. She had two brothers, Earl and Emmett and one sister, Viola, all older than her, who preceded her into heaven. Helen’s younger sister Rita, who survives her, is a member of the Congregation of the Daughters of Wisdom in Ottawa.
Because of her mother’s serious illness, Helen was unable to enter high school until she was fourteen. Later she spent two years at boarding school (Pensionnet Notre Dame de Lourdes). In 1930 Helen felt a call to become a Sister of Providence. Her father told her it was “a wild goose chase”. However, Helen applied and was accepted into the Novitiate on August 15, 1930. Hers was the last class to enter at the House of Providence. In December of 1930 they moved to Heathfield, “the farm” in the midst of a real blizzard.
After Helen’s first vows she was sent to Maryvale Abbey, Glen Nevis to finish her high school. In 1934 she graduated from Ottawa Normal School and, because she was fluent in French, taught for a while in Lancaster. She began with forty-three pupils in grades one and two. For the next twenty plus years Helen taught in elementary separate schools in various Ontario locations. When she retired from teaching because of ill health she enjoyed doing housework for a time in St. Joseph’s Vocational School Winnipeg. Feeling she was too young to retire, Sister requested to study and become certified as a health record analyst. She graduated from the Royal Columbian Hospital, New Westminister, BC and was assigned to Providence Hospital, Moose Jaw where she spent seventeen years, but as the work load increased she began to become ill again. After suffering two severe heart attacks, and at one point not expected to live through the night, Sister Helen recovered sufficiently to take on the responsibility of caring for the chapel in Providence Manor, Kingston. Her doctor suggested that she should return to the West and so she was welcomed into pastoral care ministry in Moose Jaw until she again underwent emergency heart surgery. It was also discovered that she suffered from an inoperable eye condition that could result in blindness.
Returning to the Motherhouse in Kingston, Sister Helen, although coping with her physical weakness wanted to remain as active as possible. Eager to attend all community functions, Sister asserted herself and made her influence felt in many ways. She supported the associate program and attended most of their meetings. She stayed interested in current events both locally and world wide. Her assignment to pray for the Sisters in Perth was taken seriously and Sister Helen looked upon her sufferings and weakness as an important part of her daily prayers.
Sister Rita, FDLS, Helen’s younger sister, was able to be present at the wake service. As well, her nephew John McAllister and cousin, Catherine Weatherdon attended the funeral liturgy. Several Sisters of Providence who had been in classes taught by Sister Helen took an active part in the celebration of Sister’s long and full life.
Archbishop Francis Spence, assisted by several members of the local clergy presided at the Mass of Christian Burial held in the Chapel of Mary Mother of Compassion. Father Terry Boyle, a former pupil and homilist, remarked that Sister Helen, a feisty woman of God, faithfully walked her journey to fullness of life in Jesus. Now, God smiles on us whom she leaves behind and invites us to celebrate Helen’s call to new life.