Obituary of Sister Helen Hengel SCSL
August 27, 1923 - Shaunavon, Saskatchewan
October 25, 2023 - Calgary, Alberta
Sister Helen Hengel, Sister of Charity of St. Louis, died in Calgary, AB at Providence Care Centre on October 25, 2023, at the age of 100 with 80 of these years spent in religious life.
Sister Helen was born in Shaunavon, SK, and raised on a farm. She was the middle child of three girls. She attended high school at St. Joan of Arc Academy in Swift Current, SK where she was taught by the Sisters of Charity of St. Louis. She joined the community in 1939 and made her first profession of vows in 1942 at Bienville, QC.
Her many ministries began with teaching (Swift Current, SK, Radville, SK and Medicine Hat, AB from 1943-1951). She became School Principal in Medicine Hat, AB from 1951 - 1955, in Radville, SK 1955-1956 and Calgary, AB in 1957. She was Formation Director for the SCSL from 1958-1964 and from 1967-1969. In 1964, she completed her degree in Religious Studies in Rome, at Regina Mundi and completed a Master of Educational Psychology in Calgary in 1970. After becoming a Certified Psychologist in 1977, Helen worked for more than 25 years as a counsellor for University of Calgary Counseling Services, AADAC (Alberta Alcohol & Drug Abuse Centre), and her own private practice. She also held Serenity Retreats for those in addiction recovery in various locations of North America, including the FCJ Christian Life Centre in Calgary.
In addition, Helen was involved in the Cursillo Movement, Marriage Encounter, and Group Therapy for those recovering from addictions. She led personal and spiritual growth groups for both women and men. She was the first woman to be part of the retreat team at Mount St. Francis Retreat Centre where she preached retreats and was involved with the AA 12 Step program, especially hearing the 5th Step.
At various times, she served as part of the SCSL Provincial Leadership Team. In her later years, she devoted much of her time to women’s spirituality groups and made herself available for 5th Steps with AA and Al-Anon. Helen spent the last seven years of her life at Providence Care Centre where, despite her physical limitations, she remained positive and vitally interested in what was happening in the Church and the world. Her faith in God was her anchor and it spilled into gratitude for the blessings of each new day.
Helen was a teacher par excellence in her various ministries during her entire life and she was recognized as such. In 1984, she was awarded Calgary’s YWCA “Woman of the Year” in Education at their Women of Distinction banquet, became a member of the Alberta Order of Excellence in 2009, and in 2022, received the Queen Eizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee Medal (Alberta). Helen claims that two of her greatest achievements included becoming a Sister of Charity of St. Louis and being nominated to the Alberta Order of Excellence. Her epitaph: “She lived until she died.”
Sister Helen will be lovingly remembered by her SCSL Sisters congregation-wide; sister Joan Markell, her many nieces and nephews, their families, and many friends.
She was predeceased by her parents, Anthony and Kathleen (nee Murray) and sister Olive (Tony) Boyle, and brother-in-law Russ (Joan) Markell.
Funeral Mass will be celebrated at FCJ Sacred Heart Convent (219 – 19th Avenue SW, Calgary, AB) on Wednesday, November 1, 2023, at 11:00 a.m. Condolences, memories, and photos may be shared and viewed with Helen’s family here.
If friends so desire, in lieu of flowers, memorial tributes may be made directly to Elizabeth House, c/o Pastoral Centre, 120 - 17th Ave SW Calgary, AB T2S 2T2.
We are so very grateful to the staff and volunteers of Providence Care Centre for the compassionate care given to Sister Helen during her 7 years as a resident and especially during her final journey to God.
In living memory of Sister Helen Hengel, a tree will be planted in the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area by McInnis & Holloway Funeral Homes, Fish Creek, 14441 Bannister Road SE, Calgary, Ab t2x 3j3, Telephone: 403-256-9575.