|Sister Helen Conway
Sister Helen Conway, daughter of the late James and Ina (Joyce) Conway, youngest of five siblings, was born in Tuam, Co. Galway, January 8, 1930. She received elementary education at the local National School. Her High School education was with the Dominican Sisters, Taylor's Hill, Galway and with the Sisters of Mercy, Castlebar, Co. Mayo. Her third level education at the University College, Galway, where she was awarded a Bachelor of Arts Degree. For Post Graduate courses she attended St. Mary's College of Education, Belfast, Fordham University and St. John's University, New York.
From an early age one of Sister Helen's primary interests was music. She studied piano and violin and was awarded a Diploma of the London College of Music at the age of sixteen. However, the pursuit of music as a career was discouraged by her father who advised her to gain a broader education and experience of life. For this purpose she took a sabbatical year after High School for further study and to discern her call in life. It was during this year that she was providentially invited by the Abbess of the Poor Clares, Mother Agnes O'Brien, to be a substitute teacher of Music and Gaelic in the Grammar School, Newry. This was her first contact with the Poor Clare Order. While Sister Helen had a deep desire to enter religious life from an early age - a desire that was undoubtedly nurtured by a faith filled family - her first encounter with the Poor Clares had a profound effect in making the final decision to dedicate her life to The Lord. The kindness of the sisters, their simplicity and prayerful presence was very striking. So with her father's blessing Sister Helen entered the Poor Clares in Newry on the feast of the Annunciation, 1949. This feast also coincided with Holy Thursday in that year and there was exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in the convent all dat. For a young idealistic lady there was a certain mystique about the strict enclosure of the Poor Clares, their silent lives and contemplative living had a lasting effect on her life, fro which she will be eternally grateful.
Formation in the Poor Clare religious life consisted of postulancy (six months), temporary vows (three years). At the end of that period Sister Helen took final vows on October 5, 1952. Immediately after taking final vows, she was assigned a Principal to St. Clare's School in Coalville, Leicestershire, England. It was a daunting but most fulfilling mission.