Following the God of many surprises

Following the God of many surprises Sr Helen Freer
Personal Profile

When Sr Helen Freer made her first profession to the Redemptoristines in Dublin a few weeks ago, the celebrant said that “God is a God of surprises”. This is a truth that Sr Helen’s life testifies to – it was only in 2016 that she entered the Catholic Church, a journey sparked by a series of Divine ‘coincidences’.

Sr Helen was baptised into the Church of England, but grew up in a non-denominational family. Her parents were happy to go to a Methodist, Church of England or Catholic service, and she went to Catholic and Methodist schools.

“Probably after I went to college and went to work, church and God weren’t part of my life,” Sr Helen explains. “The 10 Commandments, yes, the way of life. But not the sacramental and the relationship wasn’t. And that progressed and sadly I lost my mum and 16 years later my dad. It wasn’t until we were on holiday – I’ve got friends who are Catholic – and we got talking. It obviously was the right moment, because it piqued my interest. And I started investigating.”

One of Sr Helen’s friends told her about an online Mass that she could watch. She decided to watch “out of nosiness”, Sr Helen says, hoping to spot her friend in the pews.

“And then it became a regular occurrence that I started watching and listening to the Mass and the readings and the homily. I missed it one day, and I thought I’d really like to hear Mass still. I came across the [Redemptoristine] sisters here online. It was I started joining them for evening prayer and Mass when I could.

“With work – I was self-employed – and so when I could I joined them. From that, I started reading books by [Bishop] Robert Barron, [Fr] James Martin, Scott Hahn and progressed from there to speak to what wasn’t my parish priest but the neighbouring parish priest to find out some more. He said to start an RCIA course. I started that in September and in the following April I came into the Church in 2016.”

It was a “total change of life”, Sr Helen says, and she continued to pray online with the sisters. Then she went on retreat to St Beunos, North Wales, a Jesuit retreat centre – this was to provide the next important step in her faith life.


“I had a wonderful retreat guide that time. I remember her final words before I was leaving, she said you need to speak to your spiritual director. I looked at her and I said I haven’t got one. She looked at me and said, find one.”

Sr Helen did as she was told, contacting a Jesuit centre just outside Manchester, who set her up with a spiritual director.

“We met up and we talked and we progressed from there. That December, there was an advert, the [Redemptoristine] sisters had put out for a monastic weekend for anybody who was interested. They had been up during my journey and the rest of the time. Something called to me, that I needed to investigate this more.

“I got in touch with Sr Lucy and she said yes I could come. I came for the weekend in February 2017. Then I came again for a week in the summer. But when I first arrived and I walked through the door, I just felt, I’m home. That’s all I could feel, I’m home.

“I came back again in the summer. That was full of joy because we had Sr Perpetua, who has sadly died since then, gone home to God, it was her jubilee. I was here for that, we had the celebrations, which was a wonderful occasion.”


After returning home, Sr Helen determined to make a decision, but not before she had been on retreat to St Beuno’s.

“I went to St Beuno’s and, it sounds really small, but my post never arrives until 12 o’clock and the day I left, the post arrived at 11, just as I was leaving. It was a card from the sisters with the calendar in. I put it on my desk and I got to Beuno’s and I was drawing.

“I looked at it and I thought, I must show the director my sisters. And I stopped, and I thought, I’ve never called them my sisters. I had such a joy in my heart. All I could think was singing the Lord’s Magnificat, and walking in the garden, and skipping.

Come back

“I knew at that moment that I was going to ask could I come back for longer. I asked to come back and I came in the summer for three weeks. In that time, I saw joy and mourning. Because a week into my arriving, Sr Patrick died. We had the sadness of her death, but the joy of her going home to God, and the working of the community to support each other with the grief and the joy and the mixture of emotions.”

When she went home, Sr Helen still wasn’t clear what she wanted to do. But as she prayed and reflected, it became clear to her – she was to join the Redemptoristines in Dublin.

“I thought, what am I worrying about, I know the path I’m to take, to step off a cliff into his hands. I don’t know how I’m going to do this, but I know it’s safe to do, it’s what he wants. I wrote to Sr Lucy and asked if I could enter and she said yes. That was 27 August, 2018. But it took me to December 28 to sort out everything and actually get over here. It’s been a journey of discovery to enter. To step off that cliff but knowing his hands are there, right beneath my feet.”