Sr. Helen Brennan – 70th Jubilee

My journey with the Sisters of Providence began in 1936, when Sister Beatrice Ann came to our parish in Camas, Wash., to teach Sunday catechism. I loved learning about Jesus. Religion was already an important part of my Irish home, and justice was another. Both stayed central in my life.

            In the eighth grade, I enrolled in Providence Academy, Vancouver, Wash. Sister Mary Claver was the first to ask me if I had thought about entering religious life. Like my parents, she was deeply concerned about social justice and became a strong influence.            After making my first profession in 1951 as Sister Dympna, I taught grade school in Seattle, Yakima and Vancouver, Wash. and in Sun Valley, Calif. I then went to Fairbanks, Alaska, where I was reunited with Sister Beatrice Ann, this time as my principal. My experience in Fairbanks was truly a blessing. I had more freedom than other places I had taught, allowing time to become part of the community, get to know families — even ice skate with students.

In 1968, I became director of religious education at St. Catherine’s, Seattle. This was a time of great change in the church and parochial schools, and I was excited about this new ministry. I was finally able to do what I had entered the community to do: share my faith with others. Religious education was my career for the next 23 years. The 1970s were particularly memorable, as I was privileged to return to Alaska to minister with the beautiful people of that state.

As I reflect on other life blessings, I count the time with my blood sister (formerly a Sister of Providence) at the end of her life among them. I was grateful to live with her in Yakima and at St. Joseph Residence in Seattle and be there when she could no longer take care of herself. It was a gift to both of us.

            Since retiring in 1996, I have had more time to ponder and pray and share with others. I remain active in St. Patrick Parish, the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center, an ecumenical Habitat for Humanity group, and Call to Action Western Washington — building a new church for the world in an inclusive way. I encourage the sisters and others to become educated about the changes needed in the church and in society (starting with empowering women!). When I find articles about important issues I make copies for the sisters to read and discuss. One of the most exciting and meaningful was studying Pope Francis’ Laudato Si encyclical together.

            Looking back on 70 years of religious life, I am grateful for all the people I’ve met along the way, all those who challenged and encouraged me to grow, and all the enriching experiences provided by the community.