Sister Helen Leo Ebelhar, 87, an Ursuline Sister of Mount Saint Joseph, died Nov. 10, 2020, at Mount Saint Joseph, in her 68th year of religious life. She was a native of Sorgho, Ky.
Sister Helen Leo was a devoted teacher, but best known for her compassion shown to family members and her Ursuline Sisters.
She graduated from Mount Saint Joseph Academy in 1951. She graduated from Brescia College, Owensboro, Ky., in 1967.
Sister Helen Leo taught in Kentucky at St. Columba School, Louisville (1954-56), St. Anthony School, Browns Valley (1956-59), St. Catherine School, New Haven (1959-63), Blessed Mother School, Owensboro (1963-64), St. Peter of Alcantara, Stanley (1973-74), St. Bartholomew School, Buechel (1974-80) and Mary Carrico School, Knottsville (1980-82). She was principal and teacher at St. Sebastian School, Calhoun (1964-67) and principal at Immaculate Conception School, Earlington (1967-73). She was sacristan at the Motherhouse (1982-91) and served in family ministry from 1991-2011.
Survivors include the members of her religious community; five siblings, Beverly Ebelhar of Owensboro, Helen Reinstedler of Louisville, Barbara Powers (George) of Bowling Green, Patricia Mearkle (Walt) of Windsor, Conn., and Doug Ebelhar (J.J.) of Hendersonville, Tenn.; a sister-in-law, Sidney Riney Ebelhar of Owensboro; nieces and nephews.
In compliance with health and public safety directives the wake service at 6:30 p.m. Thursday and the funeral at 10:30 a.m. Friday are private.
Glenn Funeral Home and Crematory, Owensboro, is in charge of arrangements.
Donations in memory of Sister Helen Leo may be made to the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph, 8001 Cummings Road, Maple Mount, KY 42356.
In Remembrance of Sister Helen Leo Ebelhar, OSU
November 12, 2020
Sister Pat Lynch, Assistant Congregational Leader
Martha Louise Ebelhar was born on January 17, 1933, in Sorgho, located in Daviess County, Kentucky. Her parents were Leo Ebelhar and Helen Cecilia Russell Ebelhar. She had five sisters and four brothers. Family survivors include her sisters: Helen, Barbara, Patricia, and Beverly, her brother Doug, and her sister-in-law Sidney Riney Ebelhar. We offer our sympathy and prayers to them and to her nieces and nephews. She is also survived by the members of her religious community.
Sister Helen Leo’s father was born in Mariah Hill, IN in 1898; her mother was born in Saint Raphael, KY in 1904. Little Martha Louise was baptized eleven days after she was born, on January 28, 1933 in St. Mary Magdalene Church in Sorgho, KY. She was confirmed in the same church on May 15, 1940 by Bishop Cotton.
She attended elementary school at St. Mary Magdalene in Sorgho, KY and high school at Mount Saint Joseph Academy, so she had many teachers who were Ursuline Sisters. She was described by her classmate, Sister Ruth Gehres, as “a good student, a serious student. She also enjoyed the fun (and sometimes mischief) we had at the Academy.” She attended Brescia College and received her bachelor’s degree from there in May 1967.
Martha Louise entered religious life on September 7, 1951, just a few months after graduating from the Academy. When she told her family, she was going to enter the convent, her brother, Russell, said she would be back home in six weeks. This year marks her 68th year of religious life. She had many classmates when she entered and we also extend our sympathies to those who remain: Sisters Eva Marie Boone, Ruth Gehres, Michael Ann Monaghan, Mary Diane Taylor and Mary Patrick McDonagh. I learned from Sister Michael Ann yesterday that Sister Helen Leo’s brother, Russell, was not wrong in predicting that she would want to come home from the convent. Apparently, Sister Michael Ann talked her out of leaving the community. Sister Helen Leo told Sister Michael Ann that she would not be here if Sister Michael Ann had not had that talk with her on the balcony!
She was received into the Novitiate on August 14, 1952, being given the name Sister Helen Leo in honor of her parents. Sister Ruth said of her: “in the novitiate, she was faithful to her religious life—to work, her education, and prayer…probably a bit more serious about these things than some of the rest of us (still youngsters) were at times. I think she was probably homesick many times. Her family lived so close, and yet our visiting times were so limited.” Sister Ruth described Sister Helen Leo as being “very devoted to her Catholic faith and to her family.”
Sister Helen Leo made her First Profession of Vows on August 15, 1954 and professed her Final Vows on August 15, 1957. Her first teaching assignment was at St. Columba School in Louisville in 1954. She went on to teach in nine different elementary schools in Kentucky and was also principal at two of the Catholic schools. Sister Jean Madeline Peake described her as a “wonderful teacher, dedicated, generous and a hard worker.”
After ministering in education for 28 years, Sister Helen Leo served as Sacristan at the Motherhouse for nine years. She was happy to devote herself to this service in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. She then spent the next twenty years in family ministry to her mother and to her sister Beverly. She also served her religious community by driving Sisters to doctors’ appointments and other places. As she went about the Owensboro community, she was noted to be “a caring person, friendly with everyone, and a natural evangelizer.” One of the Sisters said, “She never met a stranger.” She was known for her compassion shown to family members and to her community.
Sister Helen Leo retired in 2011 and joined the Powerhouse of Prayer. In her room in the Villa, Sister Helen Leo was cheerful and friendly. But she gradually became less communicative. However, she still enjoyed family visits, and she loved to look at family pictures. Sister Ruth said, “I remember not so long ago when I picked up some family pictures and asked her who all these people were. She perked up, obviously enjoying telling me who was who in those pictures. At times like these, she could surprise you with a lot of words.!”
Sister Eva Boone said that during the past few months she had found Sister Helen Leo smiling more, more in touch, even when she wasn’t able to talk much. Sister Helen Leo loved people and she loved her family. She also loved Jesus and her Ursuline community.
Among her favorite devotions was the chaplet of Divine Mercy, which Sister Alicia prayed with her as she was dying. She left us rather suddenly this time, after a couple of “false alarms” earlier this year. We are grateful to our Staff in the Villa for their kind care for her, and we are happy that Barbara and Doug came to be with her just a few weeks ago.
And now, Sister Helen Leo, you are reunited with some of your family and you know the fullness of God’s love. May you rest in peace.