Sr. Helen Brennan, SP (1928-2023)

Sister Helen Theresa Brennan (Sister Dympna), age 94, a Sister of Providence for 73 years, died July 20 2023 at St. Joseph Residence in West Seattle, Washington.  

Sister Helen was born on August 10, 1928, in Jerome, Arizona, the fourth of five children to Joseph Patrick and Marie Elsie (née Applegate) Brennan. She had two brothers and two sisters.  When she was eight years old the family moved to Camas, Washington (1936), where she first encountered the Sisters of Providence in catechism class.

Her parents were models of peace and justice for the family.  Sister Helen’s father owned a plumbing and sheet metal business where she said he believed in being “honest and fair with the work he performed, the prices he charged and the wages he paid.”  In 1943, the family moved to Vancouver where her father worked in the shipyards.  Sister Mary Claver sparked her interest in religious life and reinforced her commitment to social justice when Sister Helen attended Providence Academy in Vancouver, Washington.  She graduated from there in 1947 and went to work in a Portland, Oregon, bank for two years before joining the Sisters of Providence in 1949.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in education (1962) from the College of Great Falls (now University of Providence) and a master’s in religious education from Seattle University (1974).

After making her First Profession in 1951, she taught third grade at Holy Family School and kindergarten at St. Catherine’s, both in Seattle.  She spent three years at Providence Academy (1954-57) before being assigned to Immaculate Conception Grade School in Fairbanks, Alaska, where she taught for eight years (1957-65).  She then undertook a series of administrative positions including principal at Holy Rosary Grade School in Sun Valley, California (1965-68), Director of Religious Education back at St. Catherine’s (1968-71), religious education duties in Fairbanks (1971-78) and in various in youth ministry positions in Yakima, Washington as well as Superintendent of Schools in the Diocese (1978-91).

The commitment to justice instilled in Sr. Helen by her parents was lived out in her volunteering with several service- and justice-oriented groups such as Habitat for Humanity in Seattle, Call to Action, the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center (IPJC), sponsored by the Sisters of Providence, Catherine Place, and the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.  While in Yakima, she initiated a Diocesan Peace and Justice office.  Sr. Helen was strongly committed to non-violence and reconciliation in daily life.

She is preceded in death by her parents and all four of her siblings: William, Elsie (Repman), Carl and Elinor (Fern).


All are invited to the Funeral Mass on Saturday, July 29, 2023, at 11:00 am at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, 7000 35th Ave SW, Seattle.  All are also welcomed to the Rite of Committal on Thursday, August 17, 2023, at Mother Joseph Catholic Cemetery, 1401 E 29th St, Vancouver, Washington at 12:00 pm.  Bonney Watson Funeral Home is overseeing arrangements. 

To view Sister Helen’s obituary and picture and to sign her memory book, please visit the website for Bonney-Watson Funeral Home at