Sister Profile: S. Helen Alder

 Sister Helen Alder

Sister Helen Alder, a Sister of St. Joseph for more than 53 years, shares her life experiences as a CSJ beginning with her initial skepticism at becoming a sister.  She recounts her journey as a teacher and then finding her true passion in nursing.

What was your motivation/inspiration in entering the CSJ community?
As I begin this, it is difficult for me to believe that I have been a Sister of St. Joseph for over 53 years. The time has gone so quickly and I have had so many experiences. I attended St. Teresa’s Academy in Kansas City, Mo., and that is how I met the CSJs. I was impressed by their caring and the fact that they obviously enjoyed life. I never even thought of becoming a religious. I wanted to be a registered nurse, marry and have a family. However, while at STA, a priest and a sister asked me about religious life. I told them I was not interested…. But the thought kept coming to me. Finally, I decided to enter with about 10 other classmates.  I was sure that the sisters would find me unsuited and send me home.  Well, that didn’t happen, and along the way I realized I was happy and at peace. I thank God every day for my vocation as a CSJ.

What was your motivation/inspiration in entering the CSJ community?
While I was at peace with my decision, there was one big hurtle early on. I was told I couldn’t be a nurse and that I would be a teacher. I was overwhelmed by this. I prayed, actually, begged God to help me. So I graduated from Fontbonne with a degree in elementary education and minors in psychology and theology. I taught first grade for five and a half years and awoke one morning unable to speak at all. I was diagnosed with a tumor (not cancerous) on my vocal cord. After  having the tumor removed and doing speech therapy, I was told by the doctor that I needed to find another line of work where I didn’t have to project my voice. like nursing. So the community sent me to nursing school. WOW!  Isn’t God good?  

What ministries have been particularly inspirational for you?
I’ve been a registered nurse for more than 40 years and have loved every ministry I’ve had. Probably the one I loved most was Carondelet Home Care in Kansas City. I met so many wonderful people. But I also loved my experience in Vredenberg, Ala., In 1985,  I went there to help open a clinic in a tiny town with no health care, The people were extremely poor, but so grateful. That experience really changed my life and set me on a path working with the marginalized. Since then I’ve worked closely with Asian, Hispanic,  African and Native Americans.  I have learned that no matter what our background is, we are all people of God. We are all brothers and sisters to one another, If you are open and loving with people, they will accept you and love you back.

What experience shaped you most as a person of God?
One life changing experience was making the Thirty-Day Silent Retreat. I found out that I could keep my mouth shut for all 30 days of that retreat.  And I loved it!  I became aware of God’s great love for me and became more aware of God’s work in my life.  Every year I have my “vacation with Jesus” on an eight-day silent retreat.  This is a very special time for me. I can’t imagine not doing this.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love to read, photograph (especially flowers), attend movies and plays, listen to any type of music, and travel. In my daily prayers, I always thank God for my Sisters, friends  family and all of the wonderful people I have met through my ministries. I continue to minister as a parish nurse two days a week at St. Therese Little Flower Parish in Kansas City.

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