Helen Janssen, CSJ
Strong, benevolent, creative, grateful lover of life, nature, music and people are just a few ways those who knew her best describe Helen Rose (Nicholas) Janssen, CSJ.
Born thirteenth of fifteen children on a farm in Wadena, MN, on January 19, 1922, Helen died peacefully on June 13, 2019, at Carondelet Village in St. Paul. Helen entered the community of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in 1940, and in 1960 earned a BA in Sociology from the College of St. Catherine.
Her long vocational career included more than 50 years as a teacher at many CSJ supported schools including: The Catholic Boys Home, St. Anthony and St. Thomas the Apostle in Minneapolis; St. Columba, St. Luke and Holy Spirit in St. Paul; St. Michael in Grand Forks, ND. Sixteen of those years were spent teaching kindergarten through senior high school in Hawaii and the last 12 at her home parish, St. Edward in Minneota, MN.
After taking the necessary courses, Helen spent 20 years serving in the health care ministries as a home health and nurses’ aide, and hospice care chaplain at Prairies Home Hospice and Minneota Manor; as well as teaching CPR for the Red Cross.
She was proud to be the first CSJ Emergency Medical Technician for the communities of Minneota, Marshall, Ghent, and Taunton, MN. In 1991, she received the State of Minnesota Humanitarian award for her “significant contributions to the long-term health care industry.”
Of this work Helen states, “I saw miracles of grace, one after another, it was very life giving.” One friend shared “she was probably the nicest, kindest person I have ever met.”
Other friends will remember Sundays after church with Helen. For a number of years they gathered to make cookies, share conversation and love.
The following is taken from an interview about Helen’s life by Ben Bauer, UST in 2015.
What was the most memorable or favorite part of your vocation?
“Well teaching, of course. No, I would have to say that I dearly loved my hospice work. I mean between hospice and teaching, they’re pretty much equal. There were so many miracles of grace I saw in the hospice ministry that it was just a very, very wonderful 20 years of my life.”
What is something that you are most proud of in your life?
“To persevere and love 51 years of teaching (laughter) and still be sad on the last day. I think that’s quite an accomplishment (laughter). It was fulfilling and demanding, especially with younger ones, you have to have tremendous patience. But they are so ... they are like sponges. They’re just so ready. Ready to learn and accept. There’s nothing like a little child.”
Is there anything that you did not like about being a nun?
Who would you say has been the biggest influence on your life?
"My parents. They were people of deep, deep faith who were always there for you and always accepted what life brought to them. They were real teachers of patience, dignity, and endeavor. Whatever virtues I ever had, I definitely saw in my mother, especially.”
What is the secret to living such a long and happy life?
“Well, you know, I think the mind, the body and the spirit all work together. You keep a healthy positive attitude and live a healthy lifestyle. Be sensible about what you do and keep active. Those things and my genes, I suppose it runs in the family. Also, acceptance and surrender and then be grateful. I think attitude is a tremendous factor in healthy living. Just keeping positive. Some people find the ill in everything and some people find the good. I think finding the good in everything is the way to go.”
What is the most important advice you would like to give to the younger generations?
“I would say that knowing that life is a gift and that what you do with your life is a gift for you and for others and will be your eternal gift in eternity. That’s my advice.”
When you go to heaven and see God, what do you think your first words will be?
“What my words will be? (laughter) I don’t know if I’ll even have any words, I think I’ll be so astounded.”
A few favorite quotes from Helen: “What God says, God does.” “Love casts out fear.”
Helen is preceded in death by parents Helen (Wassenberg) and Nicholas Janssen; sisters Aida, Elizabeth, Margaret, Mary, and Theresa; brothers August, Edward, Francis, George, Henry, John, Leo, Peter, and Peter I.
She is survived by many nieces and nephews; grandnieces and grandnephews; countless lifelong friends and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Consociates.
Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated Thursday, June 20 in Our Lady of the Presentation Chapel, St. Paul, MN. Burial at Resurrection Cemetery in Mendota Heights, MN. Sister Helen, rest in love and peace.