Sister Dorothy Helbling, 92, an Ursuline Sister of Mount Saint Joseph, died Nov. 1, 2020, the feast of All Saints, at Mount Saint Joseph. She was in her 73rd year of religious life.
A native of St. Anthony, N.D., she was an Ursuline Sister of Belleville, Ill., before the merger of that community with the Ursulines of Mount Saint Joseph in October 2005. She always had a welcoming smile for everyone she met.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics (1952), a master’s degree in education (1956), and a certificate in theology (1975) from Saint Louis University. She also earned a master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Notre Dame (1962) and a master’s degree in pastoral studies from the Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis (1992).
From 1975-83, she served as provincial superior of the Ursuline Sisters of Belleville. She was general superior of the community from 1983-89 and 1995-2005.
Sister Dorothy taught at St. James School, Millstadt, Ill., 1952-53, and Holy Rosary School, Fairmont City, Ill., 1953-54. She taught in North Dakota at St. Mary High School, Bismarck, 1954-58, and Bishop Ryan High School, Minot, 1958-74. She was inducted into the Minot Catholic Schools Hall of Fame in 2010.
She was a retreat director at King’s House Retreat and Renewal Center, Belleville, 1978-86, and was on the staff of Liguori Publications in Liguori, Mo., 1993-2003.
Survivors include the members of her religious community, nieces and nephews.
In compliance with health and public safety directives, the funeral and wake service will be private. The wake service is at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, the funeral Mass at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, at Mount Saint Joseph.
Glenn Funeral Home and Crematory, Owensboro, is handling arrangements.
Donations in honor of Sister Dorothy may be made to the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph, 8001 Cummings Road, Maple Mount, KY 42356.
Remembrance of Sister Dorothy Helbling, OSU
November 3, 2020
Sister Amelia Stenger, OSU, Congregational Leader
Read by Sister Pat Lynch, Assistant Congregational Leader
Sister Dorothy waited for a long time for her call from Jesus to come to her final home. On the Feast of All Saints, she said goodbye to this world and journeyed to her lasting home in heaven. She died peacefully at 8:25 p.m. on November 1, 2020.
Dorothy Helbling was born on June 17, 1928 in St. Anthony, North Dakota where her grandparents were homesteaders. The family came from Germany then migrated to Odessa, Russia. From there they came to America. Her parents were Anton Erasmus and Mathilda Helbling. Her mom was a housekeeper, and her dad ran a furniture store. He was also an electrician.
She was the second of four children. She had an older brother, Jack, a younger brother, William and younger sister, Rose Marie. She attended St. Anthony school and was taught by the Ursuline Sisters in elementary school. Almost from the earliest days of her memory as a child in the small North Dakota town, she thought of becoming an Ursuline sister. She said, “At my first communion, I promised God I would be a sister—like my teachers.”
The promise grew in intention during the ensuing grade and high school years. While in high school she wrote to her eighth-grade teacher and said she wanted to join the community. On July 3, 1946 she joined the Ursuline Order. She said, “I just felt it was the right thing to do.” She had a special saying that she tried to live by. It said, “In the simplicity of my heart I have offered all things.”
And over the years, she did just that. When she arrived in Belleville to enter the convent, she was met by some of her former teachers at St. Anthony. She felt at home right away. She spent three years in formation learning the mission and ministry of the Sisters. She studied vows, theology, Scripture, and prayer. On July 26, 1949 she made temporary vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. For three years she attended St. Louis University and graduated with a degree in Mathematics and a minor in physics. Education was a value to the community. She did not stop there. She went to school in the summers to get a master’s degree in Education.
On August 6, 1952, she made her final profession and right after that began teaching in a grade school in Millstadt, IL, which was only about six miles from Belleville. She taught grades 5,6,7,8 and was principal. The next year she was assigned to Holy Rosary Parish in Fairmont City, IL to teach third and fourth grade students. In the middle of the year she had to take over the upper class of seventh and eighth grades and supervise the younger Sister who was teaching in her lower classroom. The parish community at Holy Rosary school consisted of at least twelve different nationalities. She said they were great people and were grateful for any little act of kindness.
In 1954, she and two other sisters went to Bismarck, ND, to teach at St. Mary’s High School. She was there for four years and they were asked to staff the newly constructed Bishop Ryan High School in Minot, ND. So, in August 1958, she began her life in Minot. There she was able to continue her teaching ministry of Mathematics, physics, and religion until 1974. One of her students at Bishop Ryan was future Ursuline Sister Mary Ellen Backes, but she had another famous student, too, the North Dakota Governor John Hoeven. He said, “Sister Dorothy taught Advanced Math at Bishop Ryan High School when I attended the school. She was an outstanding teacher, who made a real difference for me and for all her students. She was professional, prepared, clear and considerate. I knew her students really liked and respected her. She is a wonderful person… a true woman of God.”
During some of her teaching years in Bismarck and Minot, she attended Notre Dame University in Indiana in the summers to obtain a master’s in mathematics. She received a grant that allowed her to go six summers to obtain that degree.
In 1974, she came back to Belleville. She did not find a job right away, so she enrolled in an institute called “Theology of Religious Life.” At the conclusion of that year of studying spirituality, she was elected the Community Leader. She was in that position for eight years and then was told to stay in office while they were doing some restructuring. In 1983, the Ursuline Sisters of Belleville became an independent community. Up until that time they had been under the Motherhouse in Germany. After being in the leadership position for fourteen years, she completed her terms and attended Aquinas Institute in St. Louis where she received a Masters of Pastoral Studies with an emphasis in Spirituality.
After graduating from Aquinas, she was called home to help take care of her mother and was able to do that until her mother died on January 15, 1993. She took care of her mother but seeing the need for help at the local Church, she began entering original baptismal, marriage, and death records of Sr. Joseph’s Church in a computer program when she was not with her mother. She was always looking for ways to help.
She had begun her retreat work and spiritual direction many years earlier. For eight years she was a part time retreat director at the local Oblate Retreat House in Belleville. Probably the hallmark of her spirituality ministry was the direction of Days of Prayer in a number of locations in the Belleville area. She directed over one hundred of the days, including a Day of Prayer for fifty Methodist ministers and their wives.
In 1993, she was offered a job at Liguori Publishing Company, the largest Catholic publishing company in the United States at the time. It was located just south of St. Louis. She was in the advertising department and also had the mission to help form faith community with the company. In 1995, she was elected for another four-year term as the leader of the community but continued to work for Liguori one day a week. In 1999, she was assigned to the electronic department as a research editor for Liguori’s web site named “PastoralLink.”
In April 1999, she was again asked to take another leadership term of four years. It was during this time that the community was discussing a probable merger with the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph. The talk of merging Ursulines of Belleville began when Mount Saint Joseph leadership was asked if the senior Belleville Sisters could come to Saint Joseph Villa. Sister Dorothy said, “We felt we were closer to Mount Saint Joseph than the Roman Union Sisters. They were open to us and we felt we were welcome.” The merger was complete in 2005.
From 1999 to 2011, Sister Dorothy continued to work in the Belleville area. She did outreach to many homebound people and did hospitality work at Our Lady of the Snows Shrine. She continued to work with the Auxiliary and Associates, helped a Handicapped person with daily needs and continued doing spiritual direction.
In 2011, she moved to Mount Saint Joseph to retire. She prayed for sisters on mission and continued to help in any way she could. It was during these days that she remembered her years of service to so many. She would tell stories about her times in North Dakota and remembered many of her students.
During her last years, she lived in her memories. She would talk about Superiors meetings and when asked how she was doing she would say she was on her way to a meeting. During these times, the staff of the Villa were so kind to her. We are grateful for your care and support of Sister Dorothy. We also offer our prayers and thanks to Sister Catherine Kaufman who has been such a wonderful caretaker and friend.
We do not have the list of the women who entered the community when she did. When they joined our community, she joined the class with Sister Fran Wilhelm.
Her brothers and sister have welcomed her to heaven and those who remember her now are her nieces and nephews. We hope you have been able to see and hear through this live streaming service. We offer you our sympathy and prayers.
Sister Dorothy gave all she had to her Ursuline community. She worked tirelessly for others and her reward is now great in heaven. Sister Dorothy, we thank you for your dedication to the Church and to the Ursuline community. Rest in peace.