Submitted by Jim Lambert
Ms. Jeanne Statile, a member of UC’s Class of 1968, dedicated a brick paver in honor of her friend, Sister Helen Francis. Ms. Jeanne Statile was 12 years old back in the early 1960’s when she delivered a homemade apple pie to the nuns who lived across the street from Union Catholic High School.
Ms. Statile’s act of kindness sparked the beginning of a lifelong friendship with Sister Helen Francis, one of the many nuns who lived in the house on Martine Avenue where Immaculate Heart of Mary now stands. The nuns all taught at Union Catholic High School, which opened indoors in September of 1962.
“We lived two houses down from Union Catholic,’’ said Ms. Statile, whose maiden name is Sienicki. “One day my father made an apple pie from our apple trees and had me bring it over to Sister Helen and the nuns. That’s how I first met Sister Helen. Ever since then she’s been like a surrogate mother to me, and I’m her surrogate daughter. We’ve been great friends ever since.’’
Ms. Statile attended Union Catholic where her bond with Sister Helen continued to strengthen. Sister Helen was the Head Librarian at Union Catholic from 1962-69, and the first Alumni Director for the school. Ms. Statile, who was a member of the Library Club at UC, graduated from Union Catholic in 1968. Ms. Statile then attended Caldwell College, where Sister Helen was transferred to in 1969.Ms. Statile, who lives in Farmingdale, NJ, and Sister Helen, who resides in Manasquan, NJ, remain very close to this day. As a token of their friendship and as a way to honor Sister Helen, Ms. Statile dedicated a brick paver in Sister Helen’s name, which has been placed on the Our Lady of Grace Walkway in front of Union Catholic High School.
In a ceremony held in June, Ms. Statile brought the 89-year-old Sister Helen to Union Catholic to see the brick paver.
Sister Helen was very touched by Ms. Statile’s gesture, and recalled the day they first met like it was yesterday
“I will never forget the day this beautiful little girl knocked on the back door and said she made a pie to welcome us to Scotch Plains, and it was Jeanne,’’ said Sister Helen. “Ever since then she’s always been like the daughter I never had. I can’t tell you how much she’s meant to me. I just love her so much. She keeps tabs on me and takes good care of me, and to do this for me means so much to me. Jeanne is such a great person.’’
Ms. Statile felt Sister Helen deserved to be honored.
“When I saw something in a Union Catholic newsletter about this (the brick pavers) I thought Sister Helen should be honored for all she’s done,’’ said Ms. Statile. “She’s a wonderful person and has done so much for so many people, so it was nice to do something like this for her.”
For 54 years, Union Catholic High School has earned its reputation as one of New Jersey’s foremost Catholic secondary schools. For information, visit unioncatholic.org.