S. Mary Helen McKenna
Mary Helen McKenna died May 29, 2019, at the age of 98 in Mother Margaret Hall. S. Mary Helen was born on Dec. 7, 1920, to John and Helen (McCall) McKenna in Jackson, Michigan. She had one brother. S. Mary Helen was a Sister of Charity for 80 years.
Mary Helen grew up in Jackson attending St. Mary Star of the Sea Catholic schools, graduating from the parish high school in 1939. She was taught by the Sisters of Charity for all 12 years. She chose to become a Sister of Charity in September 1939. “It was their self-sacrifice and consecration to God that attracted me to imitate their gift-of-self to God and the Church,” S. Mary Helen shared at the time of her Jubilee.
Mary Helen earned the Bachelor of Science in Education from the Athenaeum (Cincinnati, Ohio) in 1943 and the Bachelor of Arts in English from the College of Mount St. Joseph (Cincinnati) in 1952. It was in 1959 that she completed a master’s degree in English from the University of Detroit.
Mary Helen’s ministries included more than 45 years as a dedicated teacher and elementary principal; wherever she served she was regarded as an excellent educator. She began her ministry at St. Mary, Hyde Park, Cincinnati in 1943. Next she went to St. Leo, Detroit, Michigan (1946-’52); then to Shrine High School, Royal Oak, Michigan (1952-’54); Queen of Martyrs as principal, Birmingham, Michigan (1954-’59); St. Albert, Kettering, Ohio (1959-’61); St. Leo, Detroit (1961-’64); St. Charles, Kettering, Ohio, as principal (1964-’69); St. Luke, Detroit, Michigan (1969-’71); Elizabeth Seton High School, South Holland, Illinois (1971-’72); St. Mary, Albuquerque, New Mexico (1973-’74); Sacred Heart, Colorado Springs, Colorado (1976-’77); Pauline Memorial, Colorado Springs (1977-’78); Mount Campus School, Cincinnati, Ohio (1978-’79); St. William, Cincinnati (1979-’85); and St. Boniface, Cincinnati (1985-’87). In between S. Mary Helen worked in a parish setting at St. Benedict, Florence, Colorado (1972-’73) and as religious education coordinator at Christ the King parish, Pueblo, Colorado (1974-’76).
In 1987 she chose to look to ministry at Children’s Hospital, Cincinnati serving as an assistant in the Child Life Activity Program. There she enjoyed planning creative and engaging activities for hospitalized children in music, art, drama and poetry; she remained there until 1995. She found it very life-giving. Sister volunteered throughout the remainder of the 1990s in Over-the-Rhine and downtown Cincinnati. Her leisure activities included reading and listening to classical music. S. Mary Helen moved to Mother Margaret Hall nursing facility in 2001 where she served in the ministry of prayer.