sister helen rottier

(S. Joseph Anthony)
March 1, 1941 – May 19, 2015

A loving woman devoted to the service of God’s people; a faithful friend

Helen Rottier, first daughter born to Alphonse and Josephine (Vanden Heuvel) Rottier of West De Pere, Wisconsin, grew up with three sisters and four brothers on a dairy farm. After graduating from St. Joseph Academy in Green Bay, she worked in a law office for a year then entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on September 15, 1960. She received the habit and the name Sister Joseph Anthony on March 19, 1961. Her bachelor’s degree in mathematics was from Fontbonne College (1965).

From 1965-1970, S. Joseph Anthony taught junior high in Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri. When S. Helen taught at Valle Grade School in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, S. Mary Ann Hilgeman recalls her as “joyful and good-humored … a very good mathematics teacher…” In 1970-1982, she taught at St. Francis de Sales High School in Denver, Colorado, and then at Denver Central Catholic where she was successively teacher, assistant administrator and administrator. S. Mary Ann Figlino remembers those Denver days: “My memories of Helen are many good ones. In particular was her laughter, enjoying time in our Denver community and her excitement of making a 30-day retreat together.”

S. Helen received a grant to study at The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., earning a master’s in mathematics (1974). S. Mary Ann Hilgeman shared a room with her at Catholic University where they succeeded in saving money by dining out once a day and using a coil to heat liquids. Their room air-conditioner “kept the produce cool and us frozen.”

S. Mary Ann Potts met S. Helen when they were living at St. Francis de Sales Convent and teaching at Central Catholic High. They were drawn into friendship by the fact that each of them had a profound experience of the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius. S. Mary Ann remembers that when they would be looking for a directed retreat, S. Helen’s choice was always someplace where, if possible, there would be a body of water. In Denver “…we both found great peace and satisfaction in teaching the poor and ministering to Hispanic students.” Their friendship was a lasting one that included over 40 years of living in community together.

When Denver Catholic closed, Reicher Catholic High in Waco, Texas, was S. Helen’s next assignment—as a teacher in 1982 and as assistant principal in 1983. Her 1984-1990 assignment as principal at St. Joseph Academy in Green Bay allowed her creative leadership talents to shine, bringing the school to be acknowledged as a “Blue Ribbon School recognized by the government for its excellence.” In that same year, she herself was honored as Wisconsin Administrator of the Year for Catholic Schools.

After a short sabbatical in Kingstree, South Carolina, S. Helen went to Brownsville, Texas, spending 1990-1997 at various schools in Brownsville as teacher, principal or in administration. In 1997 she became principal of Immaculate Conception Grade School in Rio Grande City, Texas, until 1999 when she became principal of St. Martin de Porres, Weslaco, Texas. In 2012 she began two part-time ministries, teaching at Our Lady of Guadalupe School in Mission, Texas and special projects for the diocese. “Her last contribution to Catholic education was … as special projects coordinator in the diocesan school office. Her work with federal programs brought much needed funds to the Catholic schools. She wrote grants for science and she also helped the schools to raise their math scores,” says S. Mary Ann Potts.

S. Helen’s life included rich and varied experiences: camping, fishing, several summers helping in an orphanage near Tijuana, Mexico; Vacation Bible School in South Dakota, immersion programs in Mexico City and Guatemala; and travels in South America and Europe. Helen loved to read, enjoyed animals, was an excellent cook and baker, had a deep love of family, and of course, followed the Green Bay Packers.

S. Helen Oates with input from S. Mary Ann Potts

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