The month of May gives us the opportunity to remember both Mary, mother of Jesus, and all other women who have left imprints on our hearts and souls — our mothers, of course, but also beloved grandmothers and aunts, teachers, doctors, neighbors and dear friends. All the women who have journeyed with us in life can be remembered during the month of May.
We have a brand new design for our Mother’s Day card
click on the link to view: MothersDay order form22
Virtual Fundraiser Event
Lace up your sneakers anytime/anywhere
This event supports all Mission Helper ministries…
“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2
“For the love of God…” were the words that launched the founding of our congregation, the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart. It is this same love of God that compels us to condemn the acts of violence against truth and democracy that we witnessed in our nation’s Capitol.
As citizens of the US, we were shocked but not surprised, that the rhetoric of hate that shapes the leadership of our country, permeated its very marrow, resulting in the needless death of 6 people and acts of domestic terrorism against the democracy we cherish.
Since 1890, we have partnered with people of color, with immigrants, refugees, and those seeking asylum in our country. Engraved in our hearts is the suffering they have endured and the hope they cling to – to live in a democracy supported by a constitution and a rule of law that sees all people as God sees them.
Words and behavior matter.
We call on all elected leaders, by voice and by vote, to condemn the violence and vandalism that erupted in our cherished institution and the hateful rhetoric that incited it.
We call on all Church leaders, by voice and behavior, to guide us to our best selves. Speak the truth of the gospel, offering hope that God is indeed with us.
We call on ourselves to look closely at our words and actions, to repent of complicity that leads to division, to seek transparency in our witness.
The way forward is not clear. We grapple with much that divides us. “For the love of God”, let us begin anew the conversation.
-January 11, 2021
On Saturday, December 2, approximately 70 people convened at the Mission Helper Center for the annual Advent Day of Prayer. Facilitated this year by Sr. Mary Therese White, OSF, the theme was “The Radiance of Christmas: Celebrating Christ’s Light Within You”.
The morning session focused on celebrating not only the historical event of Christ’s birth, but his continuing birth in his people through the Holy Spirit and the waters of baptism. We were invited to consider what is being birthed within us at this time, and what God desires to bring forth in us and others.
Attendees enjoyed a delightful meal prepared by Carolyn Rodgers and her granddaughter, Alex Holmes.
In the afternoon, we considered how we act as Christ’s light in the world. We were invited to reflect on the question of who has been light for us, revealing God’s presence. We also reflected on how we bring the light of Christ to others.
Sr. Mary Therese’s presentations were accompanied by evocative music and prayers. Participants’ feedback indicated that the day was highly enjoyable, and extremely helpful to their spiritual journeys during Advent.
The day ended with Mass for the first Sunday in Advent, celebrated by Fr. Bill Watters, SJ.
At our annual congregational meeting in June, Mission Helpers celebrated seven Jubilarians. Ranging from 25 years through 75 years, collectively these Sisters have dedicated 375 joyful years of service to the people of God. Last week we profiled four Jubilarians. In this issue, we profile Sr. Dolores Beere, Sr. Barbara Wills and Sr. Mary Margaret.
Sr. Dolores Beere – 75 Years
Born and raised in Baltimore, Sr. Dolores entered the Mission Helpers Community in 1942. Within the first years, her ministry began to focus on the deaf, beginning at the Mission Helpers School for the Deaf in Irvington, Maryland.
“I took to that ministry right away,” Sister Dolores recalled in a 2012 interview. “The Sister I worked with was quite the talker, and she talked and signed at the same time, so I learned quickly.”
In 1948 she was called to Puerto Rico and taught at St. Gabriel School for the Deaf, the first such facility on the island, begun by the Mission Helpers in 1902.
Following a year there, Sr. Dolores moved on to serve in New Jersey, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Massachusetts, West Virginia and New York. In all these places, she managed to minister to the deaf in the community, even if that wasn’t her primary ministry.
Assigned to the Diocese of Detroit in the Apostolate to the Deaf in 1969, Sr. Dolores and the Cardinal established what was essentially a parish totally devoted to the deaf community. Finally she was able to work with the deaf full time, establishing a seniors’ program and training deaf Eucharistic Ministers and lectors. “I was determined that the deaf would be able to do everything in the church that anyone else could do,” she said.
She served there for 16 years. Returning to Baltimore in 1985, Sr. Dolores established a relationship with the deaf community in the area. Well into her 90s, she held monthly luncheon meetings for a group of deaf seniors; she usually did the cooking and baked the bread. Now, at age 94, she lives at Mercy Villa, but comes to Mission Helper Center once a month to meet with the deaf.
These words from scripture (John 10:10) have motivated her ministry: “I have come to bring you life and to bring it in abundance.”
“That’s what I want to bring to the deaf—I want them to live their lives to the fullest.”
Sr. Barbara Wills – 65 Years
A native of Baltimore, Sister Barbara first met the Mission Helpers while attending Baltimore’s Catholic High School. “Sister Justina came to talk with us about vocations,” she says, “and I visited the Motherhouse for a day of recollection. I thought that if I ever entered a religious community, it would be the Mission Helpers. I loved children, and I knew the Sisters ran orphanages and worked with children.”
Still, it was seven years before she joined. During that time, she worked for Studebaker, the automobile manufacturer, first in Baltimore, then in Washington, D.C., before joining the Mission Helpers in 1952.
By the time she began her ministry as a Mission Helper, the orphanages had been closed, “But,” she says, “I loved being a Mission Helper from the beginning.
I sent my clothes and suitcase home on the very first day, and never, ever thought about leaving. I loved it. And I still do.”
She has taught religion at all levels from elementary school to programs for adults, serving as Director of Religious Education (DRE) in many parishes and dioceses in Florida, South Carolina, Virginia, New York, Colorado and Arizona.
“I loved it out west,” she says, “especially Arizona, where I worked with the same priest in three different locations. I had children’s classes—pre-school through high school, and adult education, which I especially loved.”
She served for 39 years as the Mission Helper Archivist, painstakingly maintaining the records of the Community’s long history and the lives of the hundreds of women called to service as Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart. Anticipating the sale of the Mission Helper Center, the Archives have been moved to Catholic University of America’s Archives in Washington, D.C. The Archives staff at CUA has praised Sr. Barbara’s diligent and meticulous care of this historic treasure.
Sister Barbara holds a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a master’s degree in Doctrinal Theology from LaSalle University in Philadelphia.
Sister Mary Margaret – 60 Years
Growing up in Indiana, Sister Mary Margaret says that one of her early memories was a “strong nudging that kept coming back to me. I knew I wanted to spend my life with what is really important, and that seemed to be knowing that God loves us and that we are invited to love God in return.”
After researching religious communities specializing in teaching religion, the name and spirit of the Mission Helpers stood out, and she entered the Community in 1957.
Most of Sister Mary Margaret’s ministry has been in diocesan or parish missions with a focus on religious education. She has served in Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana and Texas where she visited small, rural parishes where a priest was rarely available.
“There weren’t many Catholics in those areas,” she recalled in a 2007 interview. “We had adult classes in which we just taught the basics of the Bible and prayer. We visited the people in their homes; everyone was so open and faith-filled, hungry to learn more about their faith.”
She remembered another special mission in Baltimore: “I had the unique opportunity to spend time in St. Martin’s parish, where our foundress Mary Frances Cunningham began. We rang every doorbell and welcomed the people to the parish. Some of them remembered our Sisters from the old Biddle Street convent, and a few had even known Mother Demetrias!”
Sister Mary Margaret holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a Master’s degree in Catechetical Theology.
To read the profiles of our other 2017 Jubilarians, click here.
Part 1 of 2
At the annual gathering of the congregation in June, the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart celebrated the jubilees of seven Sisters. Ranging from 25 years through 75 years, collectively these women have devoted 375 years in joyful service to the people of God.
In this first of two installments, we profile Sr. Princess Mary Dawson, Sr. Celeste Burgos, Sr. Clare Walsh and Sr. Susan Engel.
Sr. Princess Mary Dawson – 25 Years
Sr. Princess Mary was born and raised in Philadelphia and began to think about religious life during her high school years at West Catholic Girls High School. There were Sisters from various communities at the school, and she began to visit them and participate in prayer days and weekend retreats.
She visited the Mission Helpers and felt more “at home” with them than with other communities. She joined the Sisters for a two-week Vacation Bible School program in Hattiesburg and Lucedale, Mississippi, and became even more interested in joining the Community.
“I saw the Sisters in action there—having fun and sharing our love of God. I was particularly taken by their hospitality and acceptance of the people they served—they were down to earth and just themselves no matter what they encountered.
Sister Princess Mary joined the Mission Helpers in September 1992. She trained as a Medical Assistant and worked in healthcare in Altamonte Springs, Florida, before becoming a teacher’s aide at a Child Care Center there. She has also served as an advocate for the elderly homeless and was a residential caregiver in Boston and in Baltimore.
She says that her most meaningful ministry so far is the one she has had since 2012 at Catholic Social Services of West Alabama, where she manages the food pantry and assists in many other services to the poor.
“This ministry has helped me grow in so many wonderful ways,” she says. “It is my responsibility to ensure that there is enough food and other supplies to share with the poorest of the poor who come to us.
“I am privileged to be able to serve these sisters and brothers, and I feel blessed daily because I feel valued here. I am serving God where it really counts.”
Sr. Celeste Burgos – 50 Years
Sr. Celeste was born in Puerto Rico and joined the Mission Helpers in 1967.
In her early years she worked in parishes in Hispanic communities in Florida, Arizona, Baltimore and New York, followed by five years as an assistant for Catholic education to the Archbishop of Venezuela in Barcelona and Caracas.
In 1984 she was called to ministry with the Hispanic community at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston. As director of religious education and pastoral associate to the Hispanic community, Sr. Celeste spent more than 22 years teaching religion to children and young people, conducting RCIA programs and preparing deacons and laity to teach religion at all levels.
Since 2007, she has been the Pastoral Associate and Social Services coordinator for the Hispanic Community at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where she serves the critical needs of the growing and underserved Hispanic members of the parish. Most of the 250 families are undocumented and are very wary of seeking help from official agencies; instead they turn to the church and to Sr. Celeste.
She conducts bilingual catechetical programs for pre-school through confirmation; oversees the liturgies at the church, works with the choirs, and often sings at weddings and quinceaneras.
As the only Spanish/English translator in the community, she frequently serves in an advocacy role, communicating with immigration lawyers and other local officials on behalf of the Hispanic people.
In looking back over 50 years of service, Sr. Celeste believes that she has learned as much from the people she has served as they have learned from her.
She has a B.A. in Theology and a master’s degree in Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry.
Sr. Clare Walsh – 50 Years
Born in Stoneham, Massachusetts, Sister Clare grew up in Wakefield, just north of Boston. She went to public schools, was active in the CYO and taught religious education while in high school.
She thought about religious life but didn’t want to teach. “I didn’t want to be in an institution,” she says, “and I wanted to be with lay people.”
A magazine advertisement for the Mission Helpers caught her eye—the featured Sister—Sister Felicia—“had a warm, open and loving expression. Also I was impressed that they were a Community without walls—no institutions.” She entered the Community in 1967.
Early ministries in religious education and faith formation took her to North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and upstate New York. In 1980 she returned to Boston and joined the staff of the New England Medical Center, serving as Director of Pastoral Care for eight years, and helping develop and co-lead the Ethics Consultation Center for 19 years.
Feeling that she was being called to something else, in 1999 she enrolled in the Jesuit School of Theology, earned a Master’s Degree in Spiritual Direction, and served for three years at the Center for Religious Development, a Jesuit training center for spiritual directors.
After serving on the founding committee of The Jesuit Collaborative, in 2005 the Jesuit Provincial asked Sr. Clare to be the Provincial Assistant for Ignatian Spirituality and the Associate Director of the Jesuit Collaborative where she served until 2015.
Today she teaches a practicum in spiritual direction at Boston College; she also offers spiritual direction and directs retreats in the Ignatian tradition. Recently, she felt a “nudge” to do something that she had no formal preparation for—fundraising to support the Mission Helpers’ commitment to the Asylee Women Enterprise.
“For 50 years I have loved loving God and being loved by God,” she says. “And I am so grateful that God has surrounded me with my Mission Helper sisters, women of the heart, as well as loving family and friends who do this so well.”
Sr. Susan Engel – 50 Years
Sr. Susan was born in Hollis, New York, and joined the Mission Helpers in 1967. At the time she was a buyer for an upscale women’s clothing store on Long Island, where life, she recalls, “revolved around the clothes you wore, the people you knew, the places you went and the things you owned. I wanted something else.”
She spent a volunteer year with the Mission Helpers among the poor in North Carolina. “Those Sisters were happy, full of life and did an unusual ministry,” she says. “They had the freedom to roam. And they did. They went out and worked among the people.”
In her first 18 years as a Mission Helper, Sr. Susan lived in 9 different states doing faith formation at the diocesan level and a summer in Germany giving workshops for a Master Teacher Program, sponsored by the Army.
In her last 32 years, as Pastoral Associate, at Annunciation Parish in Rosedale, Maryland, Sr. Susan’s faith has been influenced and shaped by the joys and sorrows in the lives of parishioners; by the 8 talented pastors and skilled staff with whom she has worked.
During those 32 years, Sister has also served as a Counselor at the Archdiocesan Counseling Center and is currently on staff for the Baltimore Marriage Tribunal. While fulltime in the Parish, Sr. Susan also served the Mission Helpers as Vocation Director, Novice Director and Treasurer.
“Fifty years ago, she says, “religious life, the Catholic Church and Society were vastly different than today. None of us ever knows what lies ahead, but how fortunate I am to have met the Mission Helpers and spent all these years among an amazing group of women I call Sister. We are still roaming around out among the people of God!”
Sr. Susan has a B.A. (Summa Cum Laude) in Philosophy and Theology from Loyola College and a Master’s Degree (Summa Cum Laude) in Behavioral Science from The Johns Hopkins University.
…for without love there can be no service“.
–Mother Demetrias, Founder of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart.
On Sunday, April 23rd, Sr. Elizabeth Langmead, MHSH President, joyfully welcomed approximately 60 people to the annual Donor Appreciation Mass and Brunch at the Mission Helper Center. Sr. Liz thanked our donors for their continued loving accompaniment and support of the ministries of the Mission Helpers, confirming that these are vital to the continued thriving of our varied works.
Rev. George Witt, SJ, Provincial Assistant for Spirituality Ministries of the Maryland Jesuit Province, presided at the liturgy. He reminded the congregation that after the Resurrection the apostles were sent out on mission to carry on the work of Jesus. Referencing the words of Acts 1:8, “You shall be witnesses unto me to the uttermost parts of the earth”, he noted that this is also the call of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart.
After Mass, guests and Sisters enjoyed a delicious brunch in the dining room, prepared by Carolyn Rodgers. Patricia Dodd, Mission Advancement Director, thanked the assembled gathering for their loyal support. Two MHSH Sisters, Onellys Villegas and Danielle Murphy, spoke about their ministries, which are made possible in part by the financial support of our donors. Sr. Onellys spoke movingly about her full-time work with women victims of domestic violence through the House of Ruth. Sr. Danielle, now semi-retired, performs visitation ministry through Oak Crest Retirement Community, and also tutors children at the Immigration Outreach Service Center of St. Matthew Parish.
Attendees were given cards created by Administrative Assistant Tom Mackin, each with a quote from Mother Demetrias, including the title quote, above.
“From the Heart of God…” was the theme that captured the attention of nearly 80 people who gathered on Saturday, December 3, 2016, at the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart for an Advent Day of Prayer.
Mission Helper Sr. Clare Walsh, facilitator of the day, began with a quote from “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” inviting us to look at where our hearts might be “two sizes too small.” Dr. Seuss gave way to reflecting on Advent Scriptures from Isaiah and Luke, followed by Pope Francis’ Year of Mercy challenge – to enter the chaos of our world with Jesus, Mercy Incarnate.
Participants were asked to reflect on “Where in our lives is God inviting us to enlarge our hearts and to love a bigger God?”
The day of prayer provided an opportunity to slow down, linger, ponder, wonder…to step out of the rush of Christmas into the hush of Advent.
“From the Heart of God…” came reflection, silence, prayer, lively faith sharing, and a delicious lunch.
Our gathering ended at 3pm with Rev. Robert Albright presiding at Liturgy during which Sr. Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH, renewed her vows.
The Mission Helpers have sponsored days of prayer at their Center for the past 12 years. Sr. Jane Geiger, MHSH is the behind-the-scenes person that has made it all happen. Keep your hearts open for the next one…watch for the announcement.
(Heart image by Lydia Cho, RSCJ)