sister helen miljour


(S. Mary Alvina)
January 17, 1930 - August 14, 2016

Caring, joyful, prayer-filled woman

On January 17, 1930, George and Alvina (Everard) Miljour of Perkins, Michigan, welcomed their 10th child, a daughter, who was born at home. Their completed family would have seven daughters and five sons. As they were old enough, the children worked summer jobs to help support the large family.

Helen met the Sisters of St. Joseph in first grade when two sisters came from Negaunee to teach catechism. In her sophomore year of high school, she transferred to a school staffed by our sisters, St. Paul in Negaunee. A junior year retreat drew her to the conviction that she would become a sister. She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on September 15, 1948, and received the habit and the name Sister Mary Alvina, March 19, 1949.

S. Helen taught primary grades at Most Holy Rosary (1951) and St. Luke the Evangelist (1953), both in St. Louis. In 1961, she received her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Fontbonne College, becoming then teacher/head of the math department at Most Blessed Sacrament (St. Louis). Teaching algebra at St. Thomas Aquinas High in Florissant (1962-1963) was next. “What I remember with joy about S. Helen Miljour was her love of the students [at St. Thomas Aquinas] and her wonderful good humor. It seems that no problem was too big to resolve and, in the end, find some way to laugh about,” said S. Ida Berresheim.

After six years teaching math at St. Francis de Sales, Denver, she spent a year earning a master’s in physics from the University of Wisconsin (1970). Teaching physics, advanced algebra and advanced geometry at St. Joseph in Atlanta, Georgia, followed. In Atlanta, S. Helen had a unique opportunity: “I had always wanted to know what went on under that hood of a car.” So she took classes in the evening “… a class in brake work … auto electricity… auto servicing… it was wonderful. I loved doing different things…” In all, she took 220 (real) hours of auto classes.

She received an education specialist degree in science education from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley (1993). During the next three years she taught science in grades 1, 2, 3, and 6 at St. Elizabeth School, and evening classes at Avila College: physics, physical science, home repair, and auto technology, both in Kansas City, Missouri. She lived at St. Elizabeth House of Prayer where she began her ministry of spiritual direction as a staff member and then as director. Next, she was the assistant administrator at St. Joseph Convent in Marquette, Michigan. In Ishpeming, Michigan, she was a retreat director at Tri-Parish Center, then staff member at the Shantivanam House of Prayer, Easton, Kansas. She studied at Holy Names Center in Spokane, Washington, in 1982, and then served as campus minister at Catholic Student Center-Northern Michigan University, Marquette.

The year 1984 found her at Still Water House of Prayer in Stillwater, Minnesota as a staff member. In 1987, she ministered on the staff at the Sisters of St. Francis in Independence, Missouri. Having experienced a massage while on a retreat, S. Helen recognized massage as a wonderful tool to help refresh the body while refreshing the spirit during retreat. She worked on certification and earned her license as a massage therapist in Kansas City. There she ministered at Avila (Foyle Hall, 1991-1996); the Massage Therapy Training Institute, director (1994-1996); and at the Emmaus Community, spiritual direction (1999-2008). She met the needs of spiritual direction, massage, therapeutic massage and energy therapy as needed.

Failing health brought her to the ministry of prayer and presence at Nazareth Living Center (2008). In Sister Marilyn Peot’s homily at Helen’s funeral, she said, “One thing we do know: She knew and lived her call. She was real. She was a lover. She was a contemplative.”

Helen Oates, CSJ

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