Sr. Helen Bernice Lovell lived an extra-ordinary life. Not "extraordinary", but “Extra Ordinary”. In many ways hers was a simple life punctuated by those events common to so many of us. She married, had children, was a book-keeper for a small company. After her husband’s premature death, she took over his leadership in the Civil Air Patrol and became a Lieutenant Colonel in that organization. She gardened, knitted, made wool braided rugs. There wasn’t a charitable organization in New Hampshire that didn’t benefit from her involvement. She was a woman of deep faith, a cradle Episcopalian who was a lay reader and Eucharistic visitor. When her parish church was without a regular priest, she literally kept the doors open, leading Morning Prayer many Sundays. She also graduated from New York Training School for Deaconesses at St John the Divine in New York City.
In 1993, her faith led her to an interview with members of the Brotherhood and Companion Sisterhood of Saint Gregory in a retreat center. She asked to be admitted to the Sisterhood. The group sent her out of the room and discussed her request. Was she too old for the rigors of formation at 79 years old? Would she even live long enough to be clothed as a novice or make her first Profession? Those assembled decided to take a risk, mostly based on both their prayerful consideration and her eager joy at becoming a member of such a community.
Well, that gamble paid off in grand ways for both the Sisters of Saint Gregory and Sr Helen. Helen brought her joy, solid faith and child-like excitement at being a Sister for nearly 25 years. She was Treasurer, a mentor to many postulants and novices and our de-facto Altar Guild. Her laugh was contagious. She charmed Boston cops, Amtrak conductors and transit workers, not to mention ,the Right Reverend Robert Hershfeldt, Bishop of New Hampshire, who not only fell in love with her at her town-wide 100th birthday but also demonstrated that love again as he presided at her funeral.
Sr. Helen Bernice was a saint. She embodied fully what Saint Catherine of Sienna said: “If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze!” Our dear sister did just that.
Serva Servorum Dei.