Helen Laughlin, CSJ

We remember her in the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring.

February 18, 1928 – April 28, 2020

In the Maxims of Perfection of Father Jean-Pierre Medaille, we read: “Great souls do everything in great peace. They are like the deep and mighty rivers flowing without noise or haste, coursing rapidly, carrying great ships and enriching many lands and making them fertile.”

“Great souls do everything in great peace.” This statement is an apt description of Sister Helen Laughlin.

Helen Theresa Laughlin was one of nine children born to Thomas and Mary Laughlin.  With four brothers and four sisters, Helen was raised in Boston and graduated from St. Gregory High School in Dorchester.  Helen entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in September 1946 and received the habit the following March, when she also received her religious name, Sister Clarentius.  There is a story that Helen’s mother, comparing Helen’s new name to that of her friend Clare Horan, lamented that Clare received the beautiful name of Miriam Carmelita.  In contrast, Helen had received the name of some obscure male saint.

Helen’s ministry began in foodservice, which led to an assignment to the novitiate in Framingham. Her influence on the novices was a fine example of quiet fidelity.  Not only did the novices acquire skills under her tutelage, but they also learned how to employ those skills with great grace. 

Sister Helen’s life of ministry was reflective of the tradition of the Sisters of St. Joseph to respond to the needs of the dear neighbor. As times changed and Helen assessed contemporary society’s needs, she answered generously.  When her skill as a culinary expert was no longer required she assumed the role of a student to be prepared to teach, earning a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. 

Later she gave service to the retreat house in Cohasset, Bethany Health Care Center, and the parish of St. Gabriel in Brighton.  In each of these ministries, this kind, gentle woman brought her skill and her loving disposition to serve the dear neighbor.

In Helen’s final years at Bethany, while she experienced diminishment, she maintained her gentle nature, responding to greetings with a word or two, a nod, and always a smile. May she now experience the well-earned reward for her life of dedication.

Given by Judith Costello, CSJ

May 16, 2020