Sister Helene Purfield

November 20, 1924 - February 25, 2018

Hardworking, generous, dedicated to ministering

On November 20, 1924, Marian Frances was born to Col. Emmett and Helen (Carson) Purfield of Colorado Springs, Colorado, the third of five children. The children attended Cheyenne School from kindergarten through high school—all in the same building.

When Marian graduated from high school, she started nursing school but then decided to enter religious life. Her cousin, Sister Mary Paul Purfield, was a Sister of St. Joseph. Though Marian said she did not know her very well, they did sometimes travel home together for visits, later on.

Marian entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on February 11, 1944, receiving the habit and the name Sister Michael Helene on August 15, 1944. Her bachelor’s degree in nursing was from St. Louis University (1958).

Sister Teresa Maria Eagan who entered with Sister Helene says, "She must have been a good novice as I have no stories about her. I know she was a good worker and devoted to her brother [Father James] with whom she worked for many years.”

Sister Michael Helene’s first ministry was teaching intermediate classes at St. Patrick School in University City, Missouri (1946). Next, she was a nursing student, earning her RN through St. Teresa’s College while training at St. Joseph Hospital in Kansas City (1947). She became the obstetrics nursing supervisor at St. Joseph Community Hospital in Hancock, Michigan (1951), then held the same position at St. Joseph Hospital in Kirkwood, Missouri (1954). In 1957, she was at St. Louis University working to complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Sister Michael Helene returned to St. Joseph Hospital in Kirkwood as an obstetrics nursing supervisor (1958).

She left St. Joseph Hospital to study anesthesiology at Charity Hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana (1964), receiving her certification from Tulane University. Two years later, she went to St. Joseph Hospital in Kansas City, where she served as a nursing supervisor.


In 1969, Sister Michael Helene relocated to Dayton, Ohio, and ministered as a nurse anesthetist at the Anesthesia Association of Dayton. In 1982, she returned to her hometown of Colorado Springs to care for family.

Then, in 1995, she transitioned into pastoral ministry, serving at St. Paul’s Parish in Colorado Springs, Colorado, as a pastoral minister (1995-2005) and as the coordinator for homebound ministry (2005-2013).

She retired in 2013, though continuing a volunteer ministry. Sister Michael Helene moved to Nazareth Living Center in 2014, carrying out her ministry through prayer and presence.

Sister Helen Oates