By Sister Nancy Surma, OSF
“We were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the Gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.” (1Thess 2: 7b-8)
Each of us has been touched and cared for by nurses—at our birth and each time we visit the doctor’s office. Some of us have more extensive experience if we’ve had surgery or been hospitalized. And those of us who have had elderly parents or friends in nursing homes know how important nurses and nurse aides are in caring for our loved ones.
National Nurses Week starts each year on May 6 and ends on May 12th, which is Florence Nightingale’s birthday. This week makes me think of all the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania, Ohio, who have ministered as nurses. The connection is in our DNA, for we were begun as a province of the Sisters of St. Francis of Rochester, Minnesota. In 1883, the city of Rochester was hit by a devastating tornado, and the Franciscan Sisters provided care for the victims. Seeing the necessity for health care in the area, Mother Alfred Moes persuaded Dr. William Worrall Mayo to serve as director of St. Mary’s Hospital which the Sisters built. It served as the nucleus for what is now known as the Mayo Clinic.
While our Sisters came to the Toledo Diocese in 1916 to teach in parish grade schools, they found themselves entering health care because of the influenza pandemic, which was a worldwide plague by 1918. In the fall of that year, five Sisters volunteered to go to Gypsum, Ohio, a company town near Port Clinton where there were 98 sick residents with no access to care. Without formal training, the Sisters used common sense and compassion and everyone survived.
Our Foundress, Mother Adelaide, realized that good intentions would not be enough if the Sisters were to work in hospitals. So, by 1921, she sent four Sisters for hospital training—Sisters Wilfreda, Judith, Bernadine and Seraphia. Through the years, many of our Sisters became nurses and some taught in our two hospital Schools of Nursing.
How different nursing was in the early hospitals sponsored by the congregation. Advances in research and technology have increased survival rates and changed the way nursing is done. But the spirit that inspires nurses to tend to those under their care has not changed.
During Nurses Week, may each one of us remember all the Sylvania Franciscans who were nurses as well as women and men called to this noble profession and ask God’s blessing on them.
Hear us, O Divine Nurse, and answer our prayer, for you are all good and all kind and never tire of ministering to our needs. Amen.
– Catholic Health Association