Our Lady of the Lake’s Growth Through a Sister’s Eyes

Oct 27, 2023 | Mission

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Sister Helen Cahill, FMOL, has been part of our ministry for more than 50 years.

As you can tell from her family name, she emigrated from County Cork, Ireland, to the U.S in 1962. Growing up there she was exposed to many missionaries, who inspired her, making a commitment to join the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Congregation in 1959.

In 1970, Sr. Helen attended nursing school in Monroe and later graduated from Our Lady of the Lake School of Nursing. She did additional study earning a master’s degree in pastoral studies from Loyola University, followed by a bachelor of science in professional arts from St. Joseph’s College, a certificate in gerontology from Northeast Louisiana University, and chaplain certification from the National Catholic Chaplains Association.

What Sets Us Apart

Sr. Helen says there are many aspects that make Our Lady of the Lake special, including a dedicated medical staff and team members who care for patients. Working side by side with folks who have generous hearts and joyful spirits has made her journey special.

Our ongoing commitment to innovation in healthcare is very important to the hospital’s ministry. She feels privileged to serve on Our Lady of the Lake’s Board with many dedicated people from the community and hospital who share their time and talents. 

In this administrative role, she learned of Our Lady of the Lake’s partnership to develop an innovative test to help identify sepsis in patients. Sepsis is the No. 1 killer of hospital patients and is often difficult to diagnose. The team of researchers and quality improvement specialists, led by Dr. Hollis O’Neal and Dr. Christopher Thomas, worked for years to develop the IntelliSep test. And now as the first hospital in the world to implement it, Our Lady of the Lake stands out as a place dedicated to improving care for everyone who enters its doors.

“The Lake has physically changed over the past 100 years, from the old hospital, literally on the Capitol Lake, to its current home on Essen Lane,” Sr. Helen says. “What hasn’t changed is the fact that we can pray at work and that our faith and beliefs are part of how we care for patients, fellow team members and the community we serve.” 

Sr. Helen has witnessed immense growth and change over her decades of service.

“It is our commitment to mental health, trauma, children’s health and other specialty services that make us stand out,” she says. “We are physically more present to our communities and our Spirit of Healing makes Our Lady of the Lake different.”

Healing Bodies and Minds

While Sr. Helen worked as a nurse for many years, the profession was a bit different during her time. All patient information was handwritten, and cards were made for all medication. 

She fondly recalls her time with oncology patients. She had the privilege of being on the journey with many patients, some with good health and others who were very ill. She remembers many faces and special events.

Sr Helen then became a member of the pastoral care department at Our Lady of the Lake. She journeyed with many patients in the TAU Center who were dealing with mental and behavioral issues. She was touched with their vulnerability, honesty and courage as they dealt with their issues. 

Another part of her ministry includes visiting the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women for the past 20 years. She has met some wonderful people there. 

“My visit is not to judge but to listen and share,” she says. For the past few years, she was invited to be Mrs. Claus for the children who come to celebrate Christmas with their incarcerated mothers. She enjoys bringing Christmas cheer to families.

Reflecting On Her Journey

When she isn’t acting as the Sisters’ liaison to Our Lady of the Lake, Sr. Helen enjoys reading, walks, visits with friends and some hot tea. She is deeply grateful for her life and vocation. “I thank God for the support and the support I receive from my Franciscan Sisters, friends and wonderful people on my journey who help sustain me.”

Sr. Helen says, “As I look at each new day, I see a new beginningwith its challenges and opportunities, to live our Mission. I ask God to give me the strength I need to do what I am called to do.”

Commitment to the community remains our driving force as we look to the future of healthcare. Learn more about Our Lady of the Lake’s first 100 years.

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