Sisters of Today

Sister Helen Doyle

Profiled in October 2006 (updated April 2013)helen_doyle

This year of 2013 is 57 years since I entered the Sisters of St Joseph and during that time things have changed considerably - in society, in religious life and in my personal life.

I grew up and worked in Wellington, a city that continues to be an important part of my life. I was educated by the Sisters of Mercy for 9 years in primary school and then fulfilled my ambition to go to boarding school. I attended Sacred Heart in Whanganui which was the Alma Mater of my mother, two aunts and a cousin. Boarding school was all I had dreamed of and I relished my years there and the many friends I made. This was my first experience of the Sisters of St Joseph.

Later I entered the Novitiate just prior to Vatican II so life was very predictable and formal. I taught at many small country schools over the next twenty years and it is the relationships with Sisters, pupils and families that I recall with warmth.

Vatican II called for a re-shaping of religious life which enabled Religious to look beyond the classroom. It led me into a new and challenging environment as Hospital Chaplain at Wellington Hospital and I found life satisfying and unpredictable. It was my entry into life among people at a crisis time in their lives and couldn’t have been further away from my former experience in the classroom.

After overseas study I applied for a position as a Medical Social Worker in Waikato Hospital where I remained for twelve years. Working as a team member with doctors, nurses, physio and occupational therapists meant that every day was a learning day. Following up older people after their discharge from hospital was an opportunity to work closely with them and their families in all areas of the Waikato.

It was while I lived in Hamilton that I first lived alone, with the nearest Sisters of St Joseph being either in Auckland or Taupo.  My sense of belonging became much more important to me and I learnt a new meaning of community  and community life.

And where did all this lead me?  To the fulfilment of a dream!  It had become obvious to me in my work with older people that there was a huge gap for them between living alone and their need for Rest Home care.  The older Sisters, too, were facing this crisis in their lives.

I became part of a group of Sisters charged with finding an answer to the housing needs of older independent people.  Over a period of 2-3 years Quinlan Court became a reality and I had the honour of becoming its first Manager.  My seven years there were most rewarding and I am determined to spend my senior years in that supportive and independent environment.

Now in my ninth year working in the Congregation Archives I am aware of the Sisters appreciation of what has gone before and being very supportive and helpful with information and memories when requested.

Also keeping me busy is the pastoral work with the older Sisters living in and around Whanganui. I regard it as a privilege and see it as my contribution to the sisterhood.

I never cease to be grateful for the loving support of the Sisters of St Joseph and the opportunities I’ve been offered over 50 years in personal and spiritual development. I count myself privileged to be one of them.

Gallery / Whakaahua

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