Sister Helene O’Sullivan
Current Ministry Location – Cambodia
Helene O’Sullivan was born August 11, 1943 in New York City to Elizabeth (Keane) and Thomas O’Sullivan. She had 2 sisters: Susanne and Elizabeth and 2 brothers: Robert and Thomas. She graduated from Cathedral High School, Bronx, NY in 1961.
Helene entered the Maryknoll Sisters September 2, 1962 at the Center in NY after two years of study at Mt. St. Vincent College, NY. She pronounced First Vows June 24, 1965 at the Center and Final Vows May 30, 1971 in Hong Kong. She earned a B.S. in Education from Mary Rogers College in 1967, an M.A. in Adult Education in 1975 and an M.Ed. with a specialization in Justice and Peace in 1991, both from Columbia University, NY. She also studied Community Development at Coady International Institute in Nova Scotia receiving a Diploma in 2003.
Sister Helene was assigned to Hong Kong in 1967. After Language study in Cantonese at Hong Kong University Language School, she began teaching in Maryknoll Sisters School (MSS). She taught secondary high school and college students, teachers in training and did pastoral work with the poor in the slums.
Sister Helene joined a group of women engaged in outreach ministry to the “vulnerable poor” of the commercial sex industry. Action for Reachout, located in a storefront, warmly welcomed these women whether they were addicted to drugs, struggling to quit or arrested and back again for help. Through hours on the streets and waiting for a judge to hear the women’s cases, Sister Helene heard the stories of lovable women who didn’t start out on the streets, but ended up there.
In contrast to the poor in the slums who could openly organize themselves, Sister Helene was startled to learn that the women who worked on the streets couldn’t protect themselves from harsh police treatment and were almost totally vulnerable to organized crime and the system that treated them as throwaway people. The staff and volunteers at Action for Reachout helped these marginalized women to recognize their own human dignity. Sister Helene found that helping the women to create options was one of the most