Sister M. Francis Helene Fox, CSC

(July 18, 1925 - February 16, 2013)

Word has been received of the death of Sister Francis Helene (Fox), who died at 3:50 p.m. on Saturday, February 16, 2013, in Saint Mary’s Convent, Notre Dame, Indiana.

Though Sister Francis Helene was a quiet, reserved and gentle woman, her innate ability to relate well with others was recognized early in her religious life. After only nine years as a classroom teacher in the elementary schools of the East, she was appointed principal of Holy Cross School in Garret Park, Maryland. Her leadership skills were so subtle that everyone willingly accepted the directives she gave because they were without a hint of authoritarianism. In the numerous times she served as a superior, her authoritative touch was so soft that an outsider might not even realize she was the superior of the convent, but the order in the house gave evidence that Sister Francis Helene was in charge.

It was no surprise that this talent to lead soon was tapped for a role in the formation ministry of the congregation. In 1970 Sister Francis Helene was asked to accept the important position of assistant to the novice director in the novitiate. Because she never wanted to be unprepared for any assignment, Sister Francis Helene enrolled in the postgraduate course in formation offered at the Institute of Religious Formation at the Saint Louis School of Divinity in St. Louis, Missouri. Bolstered by this academic background, she willingly assumed the responsibility of novice director in 1972. At this juncture, programs in formation were in a state of flux. So, in 1975 when the invitation to join an inter-community formation program in Denver was offered, the congregation accepted and Sister Francis Helene gracefully moved with her charges to Denver, Colorado, to become part of this innovative program.

After the weighty responsibility of directing the spiritual development of the young religious, Sister Francis Helene was eager to get back to teaching the children she loved. She was delighted to be assigned to St. Patrick’s inner-city school in Baltimore, Maryland. She was a classroom teacher for just one year before being assigned as the principal. She loved the children and the parents very much, and it was reciprocal. Seven years later Sister Francis Helene received the sad news that the school was to be closed — this in spite of the parents’ heroic struggle to keep it open. It was with a heavy heart that she locked the school doors for the last time.

Because of her mother’s failing health, Sister Francis Helene asked permission to become actively involved in her mother’s care. She moved to Columbus, Ohio, in 1987 and began a dual ministry of care for her mother and volunteering at Mount Carmel East Hospital. Here again, recognition of her leadership qualities quickly moved her into the position of health care coordinator of volunteers. In this role she interviewed and assigned new volunteers, supervised the total program including providing in-service opportunities, writing the newsletter, and organizing activities and award ceremonies. She did all of this without fanfare in her simple low-key efficient manner. While engaged in this dual role she managed to complete an internship in the chaplaincy program at Mount Carmel Medical Center.

After her mother’s death in 1993, Sister Francis Helene continued her involvement in health care, serving seven years in the Archives Department of Mount Carmel Medical Center while at the same time serving as an area councilor for the congregation. She then was called to accept again the role of superior for the next six years at the Notre Dame Avenue convent in South Bend.

This “good and faithful servant” came to Saint Mary’s after 50 years of service but never stopped sharing herself and her talents. When asked if she had any hobbies outside the responsibilities of her ministries, Sister Francis Helene said she liked to read and could crochet. The “could crochet” was a major understatement as her skills with a crochet hook were put to excellent use in the Gifts for the Unborn, Inc. program. Year after year she made each week at least a dozen beautiful and delicate booties that were included in gifts boxes for expectant mothers. This apostolate became a new ministry for Sister Francis Helene, one that she enjoyed and gave her great satisfaction.

Sister Francis Helene was an exemplary religious in every respect, but her unwavering acceptance of all aspects of her vow of obedience serves as an example to all. Regardless of what she was asked to do, she willingly complied and immediately went about preparing herself to fill whatever role she was given. Her constant “yes” echoes the “fiat” of Mary. She was welcomed by Mary on Saturday when she said “yes” to God’s call to come home. She now rests in peace.


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