Helen Elaine Foley was born in Brisbane on September 24, 1938 to Frances and Ella (nee Rice) Foley. Helen was the first child in a family of four – three girls and one boy. Growing up in a Catholic family atmosphere in the suburbs of Brisbane helped to form the young Helen in her faith and instil in her a deep respect for her neighbour.
Helen was enrolled at Christ the King Parish School, Graceville, which was conducted by the Presentation Sisters. After completing her primary education, she attended All Hallows College, Brisbane where she gained her Senior Certificate.
The Good Samaritan Sisters were well known to Helen throughout her school days as her aunt, Sister Bonaventure Foley, was a member of the order and Helen travelled regularly to Lourdes Hill College to learn music from her aunt. During these visits she frequently met other Good Samaritan Sisters.
After leaving school, Helen worked as a stenographer in the Queensland Government, Department of Education. During this period she was pursuing her musical studies under Mother Michael. After Mother Michael was transferred to Charters Towers, Helen resigned from her position in the Queensland Government in order to complete her studies under Mother Michael.
In 1963, Helen entered the Good Samaritan Novitiate at Pennant Hills, New South Wales, and so commenced a new phase in her life. Upon entering the novitiate, she was given the religious name of Sister Mary Gerardine, but later, when the opportunity arose, she reverted to using her baptismal name, Helen.
On January 5, 1970, Helen made her profession of vows and moved to Lourdes Hill Convent, Hawthorne to complete her studies at the University of Queensland where she gained her Bachelor of Arts in the same year. Helen was an accomplished musician having attained her AMusA, ATCL (Teachers) and LTCL (Licentiate of Music, Teachers) in the 1960s.
Returning to New South Wales in 1971, Helen commenced a ministry of teaching when she was transferred to Mount St Benedict College, Pennant Hills where she remained for three years. Between 1974 and 1981, Helen fulfilled the role of classroom teacher at St Mary Star of the Sea, Wollongong; St Scholastica’s, Glebe Point; and Stella Maris College, Manly. She was always a valued member of staff and a talented teacher.
It was while she was living at Manly that Helen gained a further Bachelor of Arts from the University of New England, Armidale, and her Diploma of Education. In 1984 she completed her Master of Education Administration from the University of New South Wales.
Returning to Mount St Benedict in January 1982 as Principal was a great joy for Helen, and she undertook the new challenge with enthusiasm. In 1987, Helen moved to Canberra where, for six months, she cared for Anne Schneider who was dying.
In 1988, Helen was appointed the Province Counsellor for Queensland and moved to Balmoral, a suburb of Brisbane, where she remained until October 1993, when she was elected as a member of the Council of the Superior. This latter role saw her return to New South Wales, living on the Good Samaritan Property at Camden where the Mater Dei Special School is located.
Following her terms of leadership, Helen was given some time of renewal. In 2001, she travelled overseas and participated in the Benedictine Renewal Programme in Rome and also attended a Franciscan Theology Course in Canterbury, England.
From 2002, Helen was involved in community development work in the Narellan-Camden area. She served on Boards of Directors and as a member of the governing companies of our Good Samaritan Colleges over many years where her vast experience and expertise were greatly appreciated.
Twice during her life Helen was diagnosed with cancer and on each occasion displayed great fortitude in overcoming the cancers.
Helen died on March 17, 2014 at Liverpool Hospital in Sydney. Helen is survived by her two sisters Marsha and Anne-Marie and her brother John. She is remembered with love and gratitude by all her Good Samaritan Sisters.