An amazing woman of service, strength and determination, a dear colleague, and your wonderful loving mother and grandmother.
We were assigned to the Washington, DC house about 1972. Bill and Helen and Lisa were continuing on another year there and greeted us with much fanfare and celebration. I can hear Helen and Bill’s great cheery chuckles as they showed us around assuring us that we were in a great place. The Religious House at that time was in the old Carmelite Monastery on Rhode Island Avenue. The damp cracked plaster in the basement was covered with burlap, creating a warm collegium space along with the colorful felt symbolic banners. We were in the middle of the Local Church Experiment then, and had lots of visitors who were always welcomed warmly and graciously.
I remember the wonderful homey meals that Helen oversaw for us. She was a marvelous cook whose cranberry meatloaf is a trade mark of her specialties of making even our simple fare look inviting and taste delicious. The Religious House was right next door to a big cemetery and in a rather run down part of town. One afternoon Lisa went up to their upstairs apartment to find a young man there going through things. My memory is that Lisa gave him a swift kick and grabbed her flute as he jumped out the window onto the porch. Many folks would have packed up and left after that kind of incident, but Helen and Bill took it right in stride as one of the kinds of things that could happen when one decided to live among the downtrodden. Lisa demonstrated her strength and courage there also.
The Religious House was packed with families and children which Helen with her great Motherhood experience, cheerfully and graciously understood. We spread out and opened the Richmond House and the Baltimore House with our gifted staff of persons who were great recruiters, cooks, enablers and teachers of RS-I and children’s RS-I. Helen and Bill’s gracious presence and standing in WDC always opened doors for the ICA in higher places, which was a great help as we began looking for a bigger and more suitable location for our Religious House in the nation’s capital. What a team they were. We are so grateful for the time we spent with them. They were truly the people of the Yes to the Way Life Is. With care and gratitude for our families’ journeys together.
~~ Lynda Cock and John Cock
Oh, my, the amazing memories we carry of Helen and Bill. Jack and I were a couple of young naive interns who showed up at the Decalceolate Carmelite Monastery at 4th and Rhode Island Ave. DC on January 1, 1971. How could we have been prepared for the likes of Helen Newkirk? She and Bill (and Linda who was attending U of MD) were priors and there was a youth component, including Larry Philbrook. Needless to say, it was a very lively place. Helen was the most irrepressible person I’d ever met. That is putting it mildly. Her question was always: Is it MISSIONAL? Will it get the MISSION accomplished? It was always about the mission. Her very favorite saying was “That’s no problem”. No matter how large or small the issue, to Helen it was simply “No problem.” I remember her telling the story that she and Bill never cancelled an event just because of the weather. You could always figure out a way to have a picnic! Do you remember the hours we spent in the Collegium Room (the large end of the basement) covering those damp and crumbling walls with burlap? Bill apparently had a contact through the Forest Sevice to get us burlap that is usually wrapped around the ball of trees. Days and days were spent stapling the walls with burlap and it worked well enough to keep the moisture out and the walls together. Many Odysseys and area events as well as daily life went on in that room. I think no one realized what hit them when they first encountered this truly spirit-filled woman. She seemed unflappable. We are always grateful that Bill and Helen were selected to stand for the order at our Chris’ baptism after he was born that year in DC.
Helen has always continued to be the one with the big smile, the sparkle in her eye, the one full of optimism.mOur love and prayers go to the family: Linda, Jim, Patricia, Lisa and David and all the family members.
~~ Louise and Jack Ballard