Sister Helen Singleton was named Jean by her parents, John and Helen (Walsh) Singleton. She and her five siblings were supported by her father’s work as a chauffeur. Educated by SNDdeN at St. Mary’s School in Beverly, Massachusetts, she entered the Congregation in 1947. She never considered a life other than that of a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur and she loved it.
For 47 years, Sister Helen was a gifted and much-loved teacher at schools in Massachusetts towns, including Somerville, Peabody, Lawrence, Charlestown, Waltham and Salem. She was concerned for her students and ensured that those who needed help were clean, clothed and fed. Such was the appreciation for Sister Helen that one year a student gave her a dog for Christmas!
Sister Betty Murtagh, SNDdeN recalls walking down a street with Sister Helen when a man working on a roof yelled down to them: “Sister Helen! You had me in fourth grade!” Former pupils visited Sister Helen often, and just recently a student of Sister Helen’s during the 1970s at Our Lady’s Comforter of the Afflicted School wrote: “You are still talked about as our favorite teacher EVER! And forever loved!”
Following her years in teaching, Sister Helen ministered to other Sisters by managing a house where they could recuperate after a hospitalization before returning home. She gave them excellent care and wonderful meals, as she was a very good cook. One of the ways she showed her generous nature and kind heart was by giving gifts of baked goods to people she knew were struggling with illness, grief or other trouble. An example of her thoughtful nature is remembered by a Sister who suffered a long-term illness. She marveled that throughout that illness, Sister Helen sent the Sister a card at least once a week.
While sharing a house in Wakefield, Massachusetts, Sister Helen and Sister Betty Murtaugh attended daily Mass at St. Joseph Church. When Sister Helen was asked for prayers by others, she unfailingly prayed the rosary for them, as she had great devotion to it. The two Sisters established a prayer group of lay people from the church and enjoyed socializing with them, often while eating a delicious treat baked by Sister Helen, accompanied by coffee—Sister Helen’s favorite beverage.
Sister Helen was generous and loving with her family. She took care of her mother and one of her sisters when they were unwell, and she remained close to other family members.
"Sister Helen is so loved by her family. We think of her as our personal avenue to the ear of the Almighty," said her nephew Bob Barnes, with a smile. "We deeply respect the continuous spiritual support she has provided to her family and friends for so many years. We have seen it at work. She has touched so many, many souls."
Sister Betty said that Sister Helen "was a genuine, simple person who gave her all to whatever she did. She’s really lived her life for others.”
Sister Helen went home to her good God on December 7th, 2022. Her funeral was held on Thursday, December 15, in the Notre Dame du Lac Chapel in Worcester, Mass.