MAY 2006: SISTER HELEN MARIE PLUMMER
Throughout the life of Sister Helen Marie Plummer as a Franciscan Sister runs the thread of the influence of other Hospital Sisters. The mentoring and role-modeling of these Sisters causes Sister Helen Marie to state that “I would never have dreamed of all that I have been privileged to experience. My life has been deeply enriched.”
The story begins
Sister Helen Marie grew up in Decatur, IL in a close knit small family. Her parents, Chet and Helen Friel Plummer, and a sister, Nancy made up the household. Mr. Plummer was a “good father, husband, and had a calming influence on the family.” Nancy later joined the Dominican Sisters of Springfield and, in the later years of their parent’s lives, she and Sister Helen Marie jointly cared for their elderly parents.
In Decatur, the Plummers were members of St. James Parish and lived near the church. They were faithful Catholics of the 1950’s style and Mrs. Plummer often attended daily Mass - returning from Mass to awaken her daughters for school.
Meeting the Sisters
During her childhood, Sister Helen Marie experienced her first meeting with the Hospital Sisters. While her mother was a patient at St. Mary’s Hospital (Decatur), Sister Alverna Rochelli was her mother’s nurse. Sister Alverna was kind and caring and arranged for the young girls to visit with their mother.
Sister Helen Marie finished high school in Decatur and then enrolled in St John’s School of Nursing, Springfield, IL with three friends. After graduation they worked for six months at St John’s as RNs. Again the influence of Sister Alverna entered the life of Sister Helen Marie as she offered her a position as a lay nurse. While working with Sister Alverna, she met Sister George who invited Sister Helen Marie to the Motherhouse for a visit. The atmosphere of the Motherhouse sold her on this vocation.
Another Sister who was a part of this story was Sister Canisia – who was the Provincial Superior at the time. Her gentle approach to Helen and Chet Plummer eased the way for their daughter to enter the Community on February 11, 1957.
During the Novitiate, Sister Helen Marie learned a lot about herself and was happy to make vows in 1959. Soon after she earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Marillac College, St Louis, MO. Then it was on to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Belleville, IL. While she was working there that another Sister mentor, Sister Clarine Schmit, entered the life of Sister Helen Marie.
Sister Clarine was known as a “letter of the law administrator” with an eye for Sisters in need of a challenge. Sister Clarine encouraged Sister Helen Marie to enter the field of Nursing Administration and further urged her on to a master’s degree from DePaul University, Chicago, IL.
Nursing experience over the years
For over 30 years, Sister Helen Marie’s hospital assignments have included St. John’s (Springfield, IL), St Nicholas (Sheboygan, WI), St Elizabeth (Belleville, IL), St Vincent (Green Bay, WI), and St Anthony’s Memorial Hospital (Effingham, IL). Through these assignments she grew very close to her patients and also to hundreds of coworkers. “I have fond memories of good people that I worked with and together as a team we tried to bring comfort to those in need.”
Sister’s ministry in management was “fulfilling as we can influence the staff and at times serve as a support person to those who work with us.”
Current service with St. Anthony's Memorial Hospital
“One of the bright spots of Board of Directors meetings at St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital is the presence of Sister Helen Marie,” said Dan Woods, Executive Vice President. “She has had a long and wonderful ministry here, serving as a Social Worker and since 1992 as a member of our Board. Thanks to this, she has befriended many employees, physicians, and community leaders with her cheerful spirit. These relationships, her knowledge of the community, and the focus of this ministry have served her and St. Anthony’s well,” he added.
Throughout her professional life, Sister Helen Marie has enjoyed working with non-profit groups outside the hospital and shares her talents with them by serving on their Boards. These included the YWCA and Altrusa in Green Bay, WI and currently at the Care Center, Springfield. In addition she volunteers at Catholic Charities, Springfield.
Sister Helen Marie also enjoys sports, especially March Madness, and attending professional sporting events.
Answering the Call in a variety of ways
In 1991, Sister was asked to accept the position of secretary/treasurer on the boards of our eight hospitals in Illinois. She accepted this position and served in this capacity for 13 years.
In 2004, the call to serve the Community of Sisters arrived. She then worked directly with the Sisters in the Community at the Motherhouse. Due to recent changes, this position is now called “Community Life Leader.
“My work these past two years has deeply enriched my knowedge of and love for my Sisters. It is spiritually rewarding.”
“Ministry takes may forms and the Holy Spirit has guided me through these many years, and I hope to do my part for God, day by day.”