Sister Helen Werner

Current Ministry Location: Maryknoll Sisters Center-Maryknoll, NY

Sister Helen Werner was  born on  January 5, 1920, the same year that the Maryknoll Sisters Congregation was recognized by Rome.  The family lived outside of a small village by the name of Fowler, Michigan, on an 80-acre farm, where they were quite self-sustained with raising their own garden vegetables, cows and chickens.  She grew up in a healthy atmosphere and a happy family, being the youngest with two brothers and five sisters.

Helen entered the Maryknoll Sisters on June 7, 1938, with a dream that started ten years before when she was eight and her older sister Dorothy (Sister Celine Marie) joined Maryknoll. This is where Sister Helen’s missionary journey began.

After graduation from Maryknoll Teachers College, Sister Helen was assigned to Panama in 1944 to teach school to the children of Jamaican immigrants for 10 years in Panama City. She became very aware of the poverty and dehumanizing conditions of the inner city, a consciousness that never left her.

In 1954, Sister Helen applied to enter the Maryknoll Contemplative Community at Maryknoll, NY,  being part of Maryknoll’s universal prayer presence, supporting the missionary activities of her  sisters and brothers throughout the world.

Responding to a request from the Maryknoll Sisters in Guatemala, the Contemplative Community in 1985 agreed to go to El Quiche, an area badly affected by the violence that swept Guatemala in the 1980’s. Sister Helen was one of the three Sisters to be assigned and arrived in Guatemala on January 6, 1986 and had the opportunity to visit the Sisters and their ministries before going to Cochabamba, Bolivia, for language study. When they returned to Guatemala, Sr. Helen and her companions went to Lemoa, El Quiche area, arriving on August 2,1986.   Her Prayer Presence among the people brought many blessings to Lemoa and beyond, and Helen and the Community were mutually blessed by the people!   One of our Maryknoll Sisters spent a month with Sister Helen and when the sister was asked about her visit, the sister said simply:  “It was a sacred and delightful time.  I felt I spent a month with God and God’s people!”

In 2021, 35 years later Sister Helen returned from Guatemala to Maryknoll, NY, at 101 years young! In January of 2023 she celebrated her 103rd birthday!   She now enjoys spending her days praying with her dear Sisters for the needs of the world, being part of an Evolutionary Consciousness Circle with other Maryknoll Sisters in the Nursing Residence,  writing reflections, and reading spiritual books on Kindle and even texting!   In so many beautiful ways, our Sister Helen gives us all a glimpse into who God is  and what God is like ~ and for each of us, her life reflects that LOVE is who we are!