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The Energizer Blog

  • Writer's pictureEileen McDargh

Resilient Life and Labor- Lessons from my Junior High School Principal

Dateline: Jacksonville Beach, FL. St. Paul's Catholic School.  That was the introduction to Sister Helen Lange, OSB, our principal/music teacher/choir director. As new kids on the block, we were amazed to have a principal who smiled, cracked jokes, and seemed to relish her work. It was a far cry from the stern-faced, ruler -carrying principal in Atlanta. Sister Helen could make a bunch of adolescents sounds angelic and believed in us enough to put on a stage production: The Cowboy on the Moon. With Mom as PTA President, the two of them devised all manner of new events for the school carnival and, I am sure raised more money and madcaps than in times past. Despite our family's many moves around the U.S., Mom and I never lost track of Sister Helen. I'd hear from her about some contemporary class she was taking in Oregon or some fun she was having with the students and community members in St. Leo's, FL.  The picture of her in the red hat and purple scarf told me she might be aging but was NOT getting older. Today, she continues to embody curiosity, a love of learning, interest in others, and optimism.  The latter has become harder to come by since last year, the Benedictine Mother House decided that Sister Helen needed more care and moved her away from beloved sisters and into an assisted living facility in Dade County, FL.  Her first reports back to me were that she didn't like it but she'd somehow manage.  Making lemonade out of the lemons of loss, her last letter (dictated to a writer), said she had fun weaving around in wheel chairs and finding ways to help others.  She sent some poems she had written in 1962 and ask that I call her sometime on her cell phone because on September 28, she turns 100!!!! What she didn't tell me - as she was never prone to complain-- was that  macular degeneration has taken most of her sight.  I found it out by search her name on the chance I could find a picture of her.  Ok, Sister Helen, this is an early 100th birthday card--reaching out to all my friend so that by just reading of your resiliency, they can also hold your image in their minds and hearts. You will have to have someone read this to you-- even with the glass reader that the local Lions Club gave you. But know you are loved and honored beyond measure. You are my hero for resiliency if life and labor!

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