A version of this article originally appeared in the Jan. 17, 2010, issue of The Witness. Sister Helen died on Jan. 11.
By Sr. Carol Hoverman, OSF
Editor, The Witness
DUBUQUE — Retirement just meant a refocusing of energy for Dubuque Franciscan Sister Helen Huewe, who 12 years ago left her post as president and chief executive officer of Dubuque Mercy Medical Center.
Sister Helen has been involved in health care for 40 years, mostly in the Archdiocese of Dubuque. She had long been aware of the number of area women, including some with children, who were living in their cars and were in desperate need. She also was keenly aware of the unmet medical needs of poor, elderly and unemployed persons and the housing needs of persons with disabilities.
Based on her untiring efforts to gather the resources of the civic community to meet these needs, Sister Helen is the recipient of this year’s Dubuque Telegraph Herald’s First Citizen Award. This is the 40th year the award has been given to a person who has shown outstanding leadership and commitment to the tri-state community.
Approximately 250 friends and colleagues came to the reception at the Harbor Room in the Diamond Jo Casino on Monday night, Jan. 11, to join in the celebration of her achievements.
These achievements include her volunteer role as project initiator for Opening Doors, originally a collaborative corporation established by area communities of women religious. This is the umbrella organization for Maria House and Teresa Shelter, which offer transitional housing to women and children. It now is a collaborative effort among the religious organizations, the city and the private sector.
Sister Helen also served as board chairperson and assisted in the development of the Crescent Community Health Center, which serves individuals and their dependents on Medicaid and Medicare, as well as those who are uninsured and underinsured.
Another volunteer effort includes assisting in raising awareness and funds for the Dubuque Step by Step project, a nonprofit organization committed to fostering sustainable projects by and for people with disabilities.
Yet, Sister Helen is the first to say these are not her accomplishments alone. “It is really about the gifts God gave me, and I did what I could along with many others doing what they could,” she says.
Before introducing Sister Helen, Jim Normandin, publisher of the Telegraph Herald, noted that 10 years ago these facilities did not exist. Since Maria House opened in 2000, almost 400 women have found the bridge from homelessness to self sufficiency. Teresa Shelter for women opened in 2006.
The Crescent Community Health Center opened in fall 2006 after several attempts to secure federal or state community health center grants. Now medical and dental services are available to hundreds of people who are uninsured or have little access to health care.
The Step by Step project now has its first residents in the rehabilitated, accessible and barrier-free home for persons with disabilities at 759 Bluff Street.
Sister Helen sees her involvement in all of these projects as more than just humanitarian, but an integral part of her vocation as a Franciscan sister. This outreach to the poor and marginalized of society “is grounded in God’s love for all of us,” she said in her acceptance remarks.
She said she is only a representative of the thousands of Catholic sisters who are leaders in similar efforts.
Sr. Helen Huewe, OSF
DUBUQUE — The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated for Sister Helen Huewe, OSF, 84, at 1 p.m., Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, in Francis Chapel. Reverend Robert Beck presided. Sister died Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, at Mercy Hospital, Dubuque, in the 64th year of her religious life.
Sister Helen, daughter of the late Gerland and Celeste (Freymann) Huewe, was born Oct. 1, 1935, in Remsen, Iowa. She was baptized and confirmed at St. Mary’s in Remsen. She entered the Sisters of St. Francis in Dubuque from St. Mary’s, Remsen, on Aug. 25, 1955. She was received with the name Sister Mary Gerland on Aug. 11, 1956, and made her final profession of vows on Aug. 12, 1961.
Sister received her master’s degree in hospital administration from St. Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri, and ministered in Aurora, Illinois; St. Louis, Missouri; and Ft. Worth, Texas. In Iowa, she was missioned at Davenport, Iowa City, and in Dubuque as administrator of Xavier Hospital, president of Mercy Health Center and as a member of the Congregational Leadership Team. Helen was currently serving on boards or committees of Steeple Square, Opening Doors, Crescent Community Health Center, Stonehill Benevolent Foundation, Loras College Columbia Housing, the Marshallese Church Renovation Project, Shalom Spirituality Center and the Sisters of St. Francis Long Range Planning.
Sister is survived by her brother, Phil Huewe; sister-in-law, Margy Huewe; nieces and nephews; and her Franciscan sisters.
Sister was preceded in death by her parents; her sister, Kathleen Huewe; her brother, Robert Huewe; and sister-in-law, Shirley Huewe.
Helen asked that memorial donations be directed to the Marshallese Church Renovation Fund at the Greater Dubuque Community Foundation.
Hoffmann Schneider & Kitchen Funeral Home and Cremation Service was in care of arrangements.