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Clermont Catholic Community farewells Sr Helen Archer rsj

16 May, 2023

The Catholic Community of Clermont gathered recently to thank and farewell  Sr Helen Archer who has lived and served in their town since 1993.

Alan Guilfoyle gave the following address.

Farewell to Sister Helen from St Mary’s Catholic Church

What we celebrate here today began back in 1866 when Mary MacKillop along with others established a school in an old stable in Penola bringing education to impoverished children. The same year she founded the sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart – the RSJ. Her missionary zeal took her and her sisters through the rugged outback of Australia even to visiting the then thriving mining town of Copperfield. A feat in the days of Cobb & Co.

As we see in the history books, Mary MacKillop’s life was certainly no bed of roses. She stood her ground against injustice and abuse of the vulnerable. She clashed with the church hierarchy and was excommunicated for her troubles.  When her excommunication was lifted and later with a complete exoneration, Mary was invited back to Queensland where the first school she established was Clermont in 1900.

Today we mark the end of an era, 123 years of continuous presence of the sisters of St Joseph in Clermont.

This privilege that has been generously afforded to us in recent years has been made possible by one wonderful lady, Helen Archer, who had vowed and has dedicated her life to God through the rule of Mary MacKillop and the sisters of St Joseph.

Sr Helen Archer has been in our community for the past 30 years, maintaining the presence of the RSJ in our school and church community. We all have our personal relationship with Sr Helen.  Teacher, mentor, spiritual guide, liturgist, sacramental preparer, lay leader, listening ear, support person, general behind the scenes dog’s body that got those things we take for granted, done. Most of all – a true blue mate.

Speaking personally but with sentiments felt by many others, Sr Helen has supported me in my many roles both within the church and in the wider community taking the Word of God whenever the opportunity arose. There is a saying that “The task ahead is not as great as the power behind us”. Sr Helen, you have been the power behind many of us.

St Thomas Aquinas defined love as “the willing and doing of good to another”.  Sr Helen, these words rest easily with you in your service to your God and all his people.  Today, no pages of words can express what you have done for us nor our thanks to you. The more we say, the more we leave out.

At the site of a WWII US military hospital in SE Queensland, all that remains is a plaque with the words, “They passed this way”.  Sr Helen, the extended community of Clermont, simply and sincerely says thank you for passing our way.

Most importantly, thank you on behalf of Bishop Michael for helping to make our church a vibrant, alive, and active spiritual community.

It’s my pleasure and the right thing to do. The Bible, (1 Thessalonians 5:18) tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Jesus”.

On the day of your farewell, we would like to congratulate on you on your retirement, and we wish you every blessing for the future.

May God bless you with much love, joy, and happiness in your life always.