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Thanks and Farewell to Sr Helen Archer

20 April, 2023
Catholic Education – Diocese of Rockhampton Assistant Director: Schools – Western Region Tim Collins and Diocesan Director Leesa Jeffcoat with Sr Helen Archer and Principal St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Clermont, Sheila Challacombe attend school farewell function.

The St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School community in Clermont hosted special celebrations for Sr Helen Archer rsj recently, as she bid farewell to her beloved St Mary’s Parish after more than 30 years of service. Inspirational service of dedication and compassion has characterized Sr Helen’s commitment to the school, parish and Clermont community delivered with endless energy and enthusiasm.

Sisters of St Joseph gather for Sr Helen’s farewell in Clermont (l-r) Sr Irene Harrison, Sr Helen Archer, Sr Annette Arnold and Sr Sandra Hopkins.

Parishioners, students and their families, current and past staff and members of the wider Clermont community filled St Mary’s Church to gather with Sr Helen for Sunday Mass celebrated by Parish Priest, Fr Jayanthi Maddala, followed by morning tea and a time of storytelling, recognition and honouring of Sr Helen.

Among those who travelled for the weekend celebrations were St Joseph’s former Principal, Wes Rose, former Assistant Principal Religious Education, April Roth and representatives of the Sisters of St Joseph, Sr Sandra Hopkins, Sr Annette Arnold and Sr Irene Harrison.

Sr Annette reflected on the wonderful tributes shared at the gathering. “Nearly every person who spoke noted Helen’s quiet and gentle ways, her deep faith, her living the Josephite Charism and her unconditional love and commitment,” she said.

A further highlight of the morning was the reading of a letter of acknowledgement and gratitude from Bishop Michael McCarthy which Fr Jayanthi shared with those gathered.

Celebrations continued during the week as the school community gathered for a special tribute to Sr Helen with Diocesan Director Leesa Jeffcoat and Assistant Director: Schools – Western Region Tim Collins present for an end of term Assembly with staff and students.

Miss Jeffcoat extended a sincere vote of thanks to Sr Helen for her over two decades of dedicated and selfless service to the school community. “Thank you, Sr Helen, for your remarkable service, for showing us the way to follow Mary MacKillop’s ‘rule of life’ and how to trust in God’s divine providence,” she said. She continued that Sr Helen had been a great friend and supporter to all at St Joseph’s particularly to those who have served in leadership roles. “Our communities have treasured the great gift of your presence and we wish you every one of God’s many blessings as you continue your life of service,” Miss Jeffcoat said.

St Joseph’s Clermont, Principal, Sheila Challacombe spoke of Sr Helen’s great impact on her since moving to Clermont. “Personally, I consider myself very fortunate and blessed to have met and spent time with Sr Helen. She has been an inspiration to me and I will miss her immensely. St Joseph’s School and St Mary’s Parish will have a big hole left behind that could never be filled with as much love, care and passion that Sister has provided during her time with us,” Mrs Challacombe said.

Sr Helen first came to Clermont in 1971 until the end of 1972. Over the following two decades she served communities in Julia Creek, Augathella, Dimbulah, Townsville, Melbourne and Woodridge returning to Clermont in 1992 as Assistant Principal Religious Education at St Joseph’s.

During 1998 Sr Helen moved to England for six months to study and was to return to Clermont for six months, which ended up being 23 years.
Sr Helen’s departure marks the end of an era. For 123 years St Joseph’s has been blessed with the presence of the Sisters of St Joseph who founded the school in 1900.