Sister Helen Garvey, former LCWR president, dies at 82


DUBUQUE, Iowa (CNS) — Sister Helen Maher Garvey, former president of both the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and of her order, the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, died Aug. 6. She was 82.

Sr. Garvey

Sr. Garvey, who entered religious life at age 17 and took the name Sister Robert Joseph, earned a doctorate in organizational development from Columbia University in New York City.

She taught elementary school at schools run by her order in Chicago and Antioch, Ill., and in Fort Dodge, Iowa. She later served as principal of elementary schools in Bellerose and Hempstead, N.Y., and was then elevated to leadership in the BVM order in 1976. She served 16 years as either president or vice president of the congregation.

During her tenure as president, the BVMs created the Heartland Housing Initiative in Dubuque, and renovated a stately old home into apartments for 22 families, naming it Helen Garvey Place.
In 1993, she began an 11-year ministry as director of pastoral services for the Diocese of Lexington, Ky. She developed lay leadership and worked with parish councils in a largely rural and unchurched area.


Sr. Garvey was elected to the three-year presidency of the LCWR in 1986. In this role, she addressed St. John Paul II on behalf of American women religious when he visited San Francisco in 1987.
At the LCWR’s 2009 convention, she was a recipient of one of its Outstanding Leadership Award, its highest honor.

Sr. Garvey was a consultant for the National Religious Retirement Office, assisting religious communities plan for their retirement needs, and worked with many individual religious communities as a meeting facilitator and speaker.

Her funeral was scheduled for Aug. 17 in the motherhouse chapel at Mount Carmel in Dubuque. Burial is in the Mount Carmel cemetery.

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