Helen Nilan Obituary (2022) – Newington, CT

WEST HARTFORD – Sister Helen Nilan (Sister Mary Thaddeus), a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery, West Hartford, CT died April 1, 2022, at Msgr. Bojnowski Manor in New Britain, CT. Born in Brooklyn, NY on September 30, 1927, to the late James Howard Nilan and Ellen Mary (Gordan) Nilan, Sister Helen entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on September 8, 1950 and celebrated her profession of vows on August 23. , 1956. At the time of her death, Sister Helen was 94 years old and in her 72nd year of religious life. Sister Helen graduated from Sacred Heart Academy in Stamford, an all-girls high school opened and administered in 1922 by the Sisters of St. Joseph. After her time at the Academy, she graduated from St. Mary’s Hospital School of Nursing in Waterbury, CT. After joining the community, Sister Helen earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Diocesan Sisters College, West Hartford, CT, and held a position at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Stamford, eventually supervising the pediatric ward. She was sent to St. John’s School in Deep River as a nurse, a position she loved as much as her young charges appreciated the extra attention she provided during illnesses. In 1966, Sister Helen graciously responded to the invitation of our Congregation to go on mission to Iceland. For several years she was a nurse supervisor at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Reykjavik, Iceland, and later as an administrator at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Hafnarfjord, another of the Danish missions of the Sisters of St. Joseph. The Danish province was a pioneer in work for the benefit of the sick in Iceland, paying attention to the many servicemen and their families stationed there who attended the hospital. Although not fond of snow and cold, Sister Helen rejoiced in her time in Iceland, offering healing and her good humor as a soothing balm to patients, staff and families. Sister Helen has returned to the United States for a well-deserved vacation. However, a serious car accident while traveling from West Hartford Provincial House to St. Joseph’s Hospital ended his dream of returning to his beloved Iceland. For a time, she resumed nursing duties at St. Joseph’s Hospital before moving to St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, where she became a full person in the pastoral service. Her caring personality and good humor provided patients and families with a friendly face and a listening ear. Not one to back down from a challenge, Sister Helen took up calligraphy and oil painting as a hobby, producing beautiful works of art in both mediums. Walking the long corridors of the hospital eventually became difficult. She responded to another invitation to serve as a driver for the sisters living at the West Hartford Provincial House. Sister Helen became a volunteer driver, sharing her talent as a driver for fourteen years. Still not ready to retire, Sister Helen took on the role of receptionist/switchboard operator for the Provincial House, a natural ministry she expressed through her voice on the telephone and her warm welcome and hospitality when she invited guests. to go through the doors. Always in love with dogs of all breeds and sizes, Sister Helen expressed particular joy when visiting guests at the convent arrived with their furry companions. During her shift, she put away a small bag of dog treats for the lucky four-legged guests. The Sisters always knew when a special guest was arriving by their warm welcome and laughter, and the guest’s occasional thanks. As her health declined, she never failed to attend activities of interest and maintained a high level of attention to all community endeavours. Needing more care after a fall, she moved to Bojnowski Mansion with her usual kindness. The Sisters of Saint Joseph would like to thank the staff and the administration for the attention and care they have given to Sister Hélène over the past few years. In addition to her community sisters, Sister Helen is survived by a cousin and wife, Roy and Roe Cummins of Pennsylvania, and dear friends, Patricia Delyonas and family from Norwalk and Jane E. Hall and family from Bethel. She is predeceased by her sister, Mary Nilan. Due to ongoing COVID-19 health conditions and restrictions for licensed facilities, a funeral service for family, friends and sisters will be held Thursday, April 7 at 10:00 a.m. at the Sisters of St. Joseph Cemetery on Ringgold Street in West Hartford. If not vaccinated, please wear a mask. In lieu of flowers, we ask that you consider a memorial donation to the Sisters of St. Joseph, c/o Office of Mission Advancement, 650 Willard Avenue, Newington, CT 06111. Fisette-Batzner Funeral Home, 20 Bonair Avenue, Newington, takes care of the arrangements.

Published by Hartford Courant on April 5, 2022.

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