Sr. Helen Rita Lane’s call to serve has taken her from the wilds of Alaska to Toronto and the Daughters of St. Paul Photo by Marlena Loughheed

Called from the wild to serve

By  Catholic Register Special
  • October 11, 2015

Eagle River, Alaska, is a wilderness paradise with a backdrop of snow-capped mountains and clear rivers. In the 1970s it was a remote town where the closest grocery store was an hour’s drive on a partially paved road. It was the ideal location to inspire a young woman to pursue a career in wildlife biology.

But in spite of a scholarship and a plane ticket to Wisconsin to study science, 18-year-old Helen Lane couldn’t shake the feeling that this was not the path her life was supposed to take. And so, her first trip away from her Alaskan home and her seven siblings ended up being to Boston instead of Wisconsin. Thirty-seven years later, she is still glad she changed her ticket and landed at the motherhouse of the Daughters of St. Paul where she entered as a young novice in 1978.

Fittingly, Sr. Helen Rita Lane, fsp eventually ended up in Canada, which is culturally closer to her Alaskan sensibilities than other places she lived in the United States during her various assignments as a Daughter of St. Paul.

Based in Toronto at Pauline Books and Media, Lane’s current assignment is evangelization and outreach, a role that takes her to parishes, schools and conferences all across the country. She plans events and determines what catechetical materials are appropriate for each gathering.

The charism of the Daughters of St. Paul is to communicate Christ to the world through social communications in the spirit of St. Paul the Apostle.

Or simply put by Lane: “living Christ, giving Christ.” The order is active in all forms of media, including publishing, television, social media, screenwriting, broadcasting and more, and operates 14 Pauline Books and Media Centres throughout Canada and the United States. These sisters are almost as likely to pull a smartphone from their habits as they are a rosary.

In the Archdiocese of Toronto, their ministry is based out of a modest yet cheerful facility at Dufferin and Lawrence which serves as a bookstore as well as the Canadian distribution centre for their materials. When she is not on the road, Lane assists at the centre.

For the past seven years, her role in evangelization and outreach has allowed her to work as a missionary for her order, a desire that was in her heart from a young age. Lane was deeply affected by the witness of a catechist at her parish who became Catholic as a result of missionaries. She realized the power missionary outreach can have, even in the hearts of those who have had no previous encounters with religion.

A desire to be of service to others was born. As a girl, she dreamed of marriage and having a family. But the more she learned about religious life, the more she heard the missionary call.

“Being concerned with everyone that comes in your way and bringing them to God and being able to totally dedicate yourself in a way that you wouldn’t be able to do otherwise — I thank God for the ability to do that.”

As a teenager, Lane and three of her sisters were brought along on an errand that changed her life. It was their mother’s turn to drive to a Catholic book shop in Anchorage to pick up some supplies for their parish’s leaflet stand. That’s where Lane met the Daughters of St. Paul for the first time. These sisters were different from those she had encountered in the past, who worked in behind-the-scenes ministries. These sisters were eager. They had been sent to Alaska to found a book centre and share the Gospel through their materials. They were missionary to the core.

As can be expected of any nuns faced with four young, single women, the sisters quickly extended an invitation to a day of recollection for young women. A few years later, Lane answered God’s call to join the Pauline family, as did her older sister.

Editor’s note: this story by Marlena Loughheed, communications co-ordinator for the Archdiocese of Toronto, is one of a monthly series during the Year of Consecrated Life on a religious order present in the archdiocese. To see more of these stories, visit archtoronto. org/media-centre/news-archive/ chancery-news/consecrated-life-profiles.

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