By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer
YEADON – Whether she’s answering the telephone, greeting the needy at the rectory door or rescuing a youth accidently locked in the church, Helen Abram, an administrative assistant at St. Louis Parish in Yeadon, Delaware County, handles the routine and the unusual with a happy and humble heart.
“I enjoy interacting with the people and just taking care of the everyday things that go on in a parish, helping Father (Steven Harris, the pastor) wherever I’m needed,” said Abram, who has worked for the church at St. Louis Parish for 35 years.
“It’s not a 9-to-5-job for me,” she said. “If Father calls and says, ‘Helen, something broke, can you take care of it?’ I’ll call somebody. I don’t mind. Father is very kind.”
Abram’s secretarial career actually began 54 years ago at Northeast Catholic High School for Boys. She worked there from 1954 to 1958 and then at Bishop McDevitt High School in Wyncote from 1958 to 1961.
She also worked full-time as a homemaker before resuming her secretarial career in 1973 in the rectory of St. Louis Parish and later at St. Louis School. “I just enjoy my work,” Abram said.
She can also add “referee” to her resume. One situation involved a group of second-grade boys playing ball in the schoolyard years ago. “One little boy came crying to me in the school office, saying another boy called him a bad word,” Abram recalled. “The word the other little boy said was, ‘disqualified.’ He didn’t understand the word,” she said with a laugh.
An out-of-the-ordinary day was when Abram helped rescue a high school boy who was accidently locked inside the church after he fell asleep during an early-morning Mass before school.
“I could hear someone calling, ‘help, help,’ but didn’t know where it was coming from,” she said of the boy’s cries which traveled through the open rectory window. A little while later, Abram and another secretary found the boy.
The hardest part of her job, she said, is receiving the news that a parishioner has died. “You really feel compassion for the family and want to offer assistance in any way you can.”
The seventh of eight children of the late Ellsworth and Johanna Smith, Abram was raised in St. Leo Parish in the Tacony section of Philadelphia. She graduated from St. Leo School in 1947 and St. Hubert Catholic High School for Girls in 1951.
Appreciative of her Catholic education, Abram said working for the Church is a way she can give back.
She married Edward Abram in July 1960. They raised five children before his death this February. Abram is also a grandmother of 12 and a great-grandmother of one.
Along with dedicating her time to St. Louis Parish as an administrative assistant, she assists with the Catholic Charities Appeal and helps coordinate the parish’s Christmas collection for homeless children and women who temporarily live at Mercy Hospice in Philadelphia. In addition, Abram helps organize the parish’s annual tea for senior citizens and the wine-and-cheese social.
But she is quick to credit everyone at St. Louis Parish. “It’s a collaboration not only of Father and myself but also all the wonderful parishioners,” Abram said. “It’s just a combination of everybody pitching in.”
CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at (215) 587-2468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a time to build, CatholicPhilly.com connects people and communities
As society emerges from the loss and separation of the pandemic, CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you join in our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103