May They Rest in Peace: Sr. Helen Marie (Rosalea) Strawa, CSSF

Sr. Helen Marie (Rosalea) Strawa, CSSF, of Hamtramck, MI, age 90, religious life 72 years, entered eternal life on the Feast of the Ascension, Sunday, May 12, 2024, in Livonia.

Born Aug. 1, 1933, Helen was baptized at Our Lady Queen of Apostles Church, Hamtramck, MI on November 12, 1933, the second of three girls born to Anthony and Mary (Komza): Alfreda, Helen, and Christine (Dzon). Helen made her First Communion and was confirmed the same day, May 21, 1942, at Our Lady Help of Christians, Detroit.

Sr. Helen Marie (Rosalea) Strawa, CSSF
Sr. Helen Marie (Rosalea) Strawa, CSSF

Helen attended Elementary Schools at Our Lady Queen of Apostles, Hamtramck, and Our Lady Help of Christians, Detroit. High School was completed at St. Ladislaus in Hamtramck. She recalled the traditions of holidays and holydays of years gone by when palms were carried for 40-hour Devotions and fresh flowers filled the Church, and when sacristy work included sewing lace on the two-part albs.

As a young woman, Helen worked as a dental receptionist. With an interest in shorthand and typing, the thought of becoming a stenographer or a private secretary ranked high on the list. She passed the Civil Service Exam and was to report for work as a stenographer. God had other plans. After receiving advice from her confessor and praying to the Holy Spirit for enlightenment, Helen decided to refuse the Civil Service job and joined the ARMY of CHRIST. On August 15, 1951 she arrived at the convent of the Felician Sisters in Livonia, MI. Following a year of postulancy, Helen was invested with the Felician habit and received the name Sister Mary Rosalea, later changed to Sister Helen Marie. Sister pronounced first Vows in 1953 and Final Vows in 1959.

Sister Helen Marie earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Madonna University and a Masters in Religious Education from Aquinas College. The ministry of teaching began at St. Stephen School in Detroit, MI in 1953 and continued through the following schools for 19 years: Holy Family, South Bend, Indiana; St. Valentine, Kawkawlin (Beaver); Holy Ghost, Detroit; Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Wyandotte; St. Hedwig, Bay City; St. Thecla, Mt. Clemens; Holy Family, South Bend, IN; St. Genevieve, Livonia; St. Adalbert, Toledo, OH (teacher-principal) St. Damian, Westland.

The missionary spirit was alive in the heart of Sister Helen, and in 1972, she joined Sister Mary Therese Sonnenfeld in pastoral and youth ministry that would span another 40 years in upper and lower Michigan at Holy Family, Ontonagon; Resurrection in Hancock; Maryville Retreat Center, Holly; St. Valentine, Redford; St. Andrew, Detroit; and St. Michael, Livonia.

In October 2004, the sisters ventured up to North Branch, MI and through 2010 ministered at SS. Peter and Paul, St. Mary and St. Patrick in Burnside where they set up a Catechetical Resource Program. Often referred to as the “dynamic duo”,” they provided religious education, pastoral ministry, adult teaching, summer bible schools, missions, and facilitated “day retreats” for students. While in upper Michigan, on First Fridays they would don snowshoes and trek to the town and neighborhood in Ontonagon or Hancock to distribute Holy communion to the homebound. A final move to St. Joseph Care Center in Livonia, in 2011 completed the pastoral work of the sisters covering many years and many miles.

Deeply prayerful and generous in sharing her gifts, Sister Helen was totally committed to the young and elderly with selfless energy. She displayed a great love for children and was an expert in teaching and directing others in catechetical work and other ministry work as conducting adult bible study programs, attending parish councils or Vicariate meetings, acting as a Catechetical Resource - all to give witness to living the Gospel of Jesus.

Medical complications resulted in the permanent transfer to Blessed Mary Angela Infirmary in March 2011. Over the years her life slowly ebbed away, and on May 12, 2024, at 7:46 a.m. Sister Helen Marie peacefully returned her soul to the Lord she so faithfully served on this earth. She is survived by her sister, Christine.

Morning Prayer Service began at 10:30 a.m. in Presentation Chapel of the Felician Sisters in Livonia, MI on Thursday, May 16, 2024. Rev. Gary Michalik, resident of the Senior Clergy Village, Livonia was the main celebrant and homilist at the 11:00 a.m. Mass of Resurrection. Rev. Craig Marion from St. Daniel Parish, Clarkson, and Rev. Timothy Pelc from St. Ambrose Parish, Detroit assisted. Burial was in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Southfield, MI.

Obituaries for clergy and religious who have lived or served in the Archdiocese of Detroit may be emailed to [email protected]. Obituaries are printed as they are submitted, but may be edited for grammar and style. Detroit Catholic reserves the right to refuse or edit any submissions.


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