Remembrance of the Life of Sister Helen Ann Reynolds SL
Sister Helen Ann was born May 17, 1918, in Rockford, Ill. She was one of four daughters and two sons of Marie Ellen (Hennessey) and Thomas J. Reynolds. She entered the Sisters of Loretto from St. Peter Parish, Rockford, in 1936. Sister Helen Ann received the habit and her religious name on April 25, 1937, pronounced her first vows on April 25, 1939 and made her final vows on Aug. 15, 1942.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in education, with a minor in elementary administration, from DePaul University in Chicago in 1950; and a master’s in education, with a major in elementary education from St. Mary College, Xavier, Kan., in 1962; and a master’s in guidance and counseling from the University of Texas at El Paso in 1969.
Sister Helen Ann’s first ministry was in parish elementary schools. She spent 25 years in this ministry, 11 of those as a kindergarten teacher in the St. Louis Archdiocese. She taught at St. Rose of Lima, St. Louis, 1939-1942; St. Catherine of Siena, Pagedale, 1942-1947; Immaculate Conception, Maplewood, 1947-1949; and Mary Queen of Peace, Webster Groves, 1952-1953. Sister Helen Ann also taught kindergarteners in Springfield and Cape Girardeau, Mo. Her last years of teaching kindergarten were in Monrovia, Calif., 1961-1964. In 1964, she was appointed principal for six years of St. Patrick School in El Paso, Texas.
In 1970, Sister Helen Ann began her ministry among the Native Americans serving as guidance counselor (U.S. Civil Service) at the Theodore Roosevelt Boarding School at Fort Apache, Ariz., and as a teacher-supervisor for the Standing Rock Reservation School, Fort Yates, N. D., 1972-1973. She also worked in special education on the Papago Reservation, Vaya Chin, Ariz., 1974; as guidance counselor at Oglala Sioux Community College, Pine Ridge, S. D., 1977-1978; as education specialist at the Santa Rosa Indian School, Sells, Ariz., 1978-1981; and for the Bureau of Indian Affairs on the Hopi Reservation, Keams Canyon, Ariz., as a federal program coordinator, 1981-1982.
Her third ministry was her involvement with Pet Visitation, first at Children’s Hospital, Denver, from 1975 to 1977, where she helped establish the Pet Prescription Program. This activity spread to local nursing homes and to the Hospice of St. John, in the Denver area. Sister Helen Ann worked at the Colorado Dog Academy, Lakewood, as a dog trainer, 1986-1992, and began ministry as pet therapy volunteer at the area hospice in 1990 for eight years. She also was an active pet therapy volunteer at Nazareth Hall Infirmary, El Paso, 1980-2000, and then at the Loretto Motherhouse and at children’s hospitals in the area. She also taught pet education in elementary public schools of rural Kentucky.
As a child, Sister Helen Ann dreamed of working in an orphanage with young children or failing that, working in a dog kennel. She fulfilled both dreams with her varied ministries. The “icing on the cake” she once said was the opportunity, in 1973, to serve as a representative of Friends of Children in Vietnam, where she worked as office manager. She was able to travel to Saigon, where she escorted five babies for adoption to the United States. She also worked as bookkeeper for the Urban League, Denver, 1984-1986, provided halfway house refuge overnight for dogs flying from the Western Slope out of Colorado, and trained hearing-ear dogs for the deaf, Prescott, Ariz., 1983. Her prayer in retirement was “God, please make me the kind of person my dogs think I am.” Sister Helen Ann moved in 2006 to Loretto Motherhouse Infirmary, where she resided until her death.
Sister Helen Ann died Aug. 21 at Loretto Motherhouse Infirmary in Nerinx. She was 96 and in her 78th year as a Sister of Loretto at the Foot of the Cross.