Sister Helen Amos likes to tell the story about the magnet on her refrigerator that instructs her to “do one thing today that scares you.” Her audience will laugh at the all-too-human insight, but perhaps it’s also reassuring to imagine that something of this world might scare her — few of the many challenges she has faced in her lifetime seem to have done that.
Surely no Baltimorean has demonstrated the combination of compassion and leadership that has defined Sister Helen’s career — both during her 57 years as a Sister of Mercy and the decades she has spent leading Mercy Medical Center. Since 1999, the Mobile, Ala., native has served as the executive chair of Mercy Health Services’ Board of Trustees and has been a member of the hospital’s governing body for 36 years. One moment she may be counseling a homeless person on the street; the next she might be meeting with the mayor to offer guidance on women’s health care issues.
“Sister Helen wields a unique blend of business acumen and moral authority, and that makes her a powerful voice for the poorest of the poor and for system change,” said Kevin Lindamood, president and CEO of Health Care for the Homeless. “Health Care for the Homeless wouldn’t be here if not for Mercy and Sister Helen. When Sister Helen asks you to do something, you don’t say no.”
She shows little sign of slowing down. Whether it’s soliciting major gifts, visiting patients or working to maintain the positive environment and quality of care at Mercy, Sister Helen is a constant and reassuring presence to staff and patients alike. Richard O. Berndt, a Mercy trustee who has known Sister Helen for decades, describes her as that rare executive who is a patient listener and a critical thinker, strong-willed enough to allow her to analyze problems and plot solutions that she will follow faithfully. “She does not mind difficult decisions,” says Mr. Berndt, longtime managing partner of Gallagher, Evelius & Jones, a Baltimore law firm.
Indeed, it is fair to say that Sister Helen isn’t just a woman of faith but one of science. She earned her Master of Science degree in mathematics from the University of Notre Dame and her Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics from Mount Saint Agnes College. She worked as a teacher and educator before she turned to hospital administration.
Baltimoreans are especially grateful for her tireless efforts to reduce homelessness, a chronic problem in major cities. For more than a decade, she has worked with her fellow civic leaders and stakeholders like the Weinberg Foundation and the Greater Baltimore Committee not just to create shelters or find temporary housing for those who need it but to prevent people from becoming homeless and to create more affordable housing in the first place.
To suggest that many in Central Maryland are grateful for her efforts would be a huge understatement. She has already collected a slew of awards over the years, from the Maryland Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame to Loyola University’s Business Leader of the Year, an honor she received just two years ago. The Daily Record has identified her as a “Top 50 Influential Marylander,” and the Central Maryland Ecumenical Council presented her with its Christian Life Award for her steadfast commitment to Christian faith.
She’s often said she perceives Mercy Medical Center not just as a business but as a ministry, and she sees no conflict there. “Commitment to good business practices is critical to sustaining us as a business,” she has said. “Yet the whole point of being sustained is fulfilling our mission — expressing by our actions that God’s healing love embraces all.”