Religious Formation Conference

The Religious Formation Conference (RFC) is a national Roman Catholic organization serving religious institutes of women and men with programs and services for those in the ministry of initial and lifelong formation, and general congregational membership.

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Helen Cahill, OP, to Receive Mary Emil Penet, IHM Award at 2019 RFC Congress

Helen Cahill, OP

The Religious Formation Conference (RFC) is happy to announce that Helen Cahill, OP will receive the Mary Emil Penet, IHM award at the upcoming 2019 Congress October 24-27 in Louisville, KY.

A Dominican Sister of Peace, Sister Helen began her religious life more than sixty years ago as a Dominican of St. Catharine, KY. Initially a teacher, she served in the leadership of her original congregation for some twenty years and for as many years has been engaged in the ministry of spiritual formation/direction and supervision, workshop and retreat facilitation.  

Pat Twohill, OP, Prioress of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, describes Sister Helen as “a natural leader who is resilient and generative. She has a knack for spotting potential in others before most people even catch a glimpse of it, and she has the confidence and creativity to call it forth. In true Dominican fashion, she places great emphasis on speaking the truth. Her personal gifts, and love of consecrated life, are soul-sized, and we thank God every day for the way she helps our institutes incorporate our newest members.”  

Sister Helen has been engaged in formation ministry, particularly in the professional preparation and supervision of formators and in the area of ongoing formation for many years. She has offered the RFC's Orientation to Formation workshop at several times: most recently at the National Congress in 2013 and as weekend workshops in 2015 and 2017, always to highly appreciative reviews.

“Helen has given generously and most competently to the RFC for many years. She is a skilled presenter, particularly in our Orientation to Formation workshop. Her advice is frequently sought by both participants and other formators,” notes RFC Executive Director Ellen Dauwer, SC.

Additionally, she has written about vocation discernment, the ministry of religious formation, and the transformation of religious life for RFC's InFormation, NRVC's Horizon, and the NCR's Global Sisters Report. Titles of Helen's workshops and articles give a sense of her range as well as her grounded and imaginative approach to the ministry of religious formation: "The Paradox of Formation: Who Is Being Formed?"; "What Fascinates You?"; "Supervision: Grace under Pressure".

Currently on staff at the Claret Center in Chicago, Sister Helen offers spiritual direction to both new and seasoned religious, fostering continuing formation in religious life. Especially significant have been the years of group supervision she has offered formation ministers from more than twenty congregations of men and women religious. This engagement gives witness to her commitment to collaboration and the fostering of religious life for the good of our church and world.

Sister Helen earned her Doctor of Ministry degree in Spirituality from Catholic Theological Union (CTU) where she has also served as adjunct faculty in the area of Spirituality. She is currently a presenter in CTU’s Reframing Retirement for Mission program.   

The Mary Emil Penet, IHM award recognizes those who have made a significant contribution to formation ministry. It honors one who demonstrates a substantial commitment to and investment of energy and insight into the formative journey of religious sisters and brothers. The award is presented at the biennial RFC National Congress.    

The RFC educates and strengthens formators in their ministry of formation. The RFC engages religious communities with timely resources, services, and experiences that support initial and ongoing formation, that are responsive to an emerging future, in prophetic witness to Gospel values through personal and communal transformation.


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Chicago, IL 60615
Phone: 773.675.8362
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