Our Mission, Our Legacy
Catholic healthcare is essentially a Catholic story. A story based in the Scriptures informed by the teachings of the Catholic Church and throughout history lived out in the lives of founders of religious congregations. Our story of involvement in healthcare begins with a flu epidemic. It continues with an invitation by doctors to come to Brenham, then to Bryan, Texas. Beginning with our founding sisters our story in healthcare is purposefully connected to a commitment to mission. The living of that mission and the continuing legacy has always been a priority.
At CHI St Joseph a significant way of telling the story of the Sisters of St Francis is providing leadership with an experience of our Sylvania campus. Board Members and Administrators have this opportunity. Providing the experience for other team members has always been a goal which became a reality when the Director of the Foundation acknowledged that funds would be available through the Foundation for interested employees to visit Sylvania. Employees were invited to write a brief essay explaining why they wanted to come to Sylvania, how the experience would enhance their commitment to living the Mission in the tradition of Francis and Clare, and how they would share their experience with their team members. Reading each of the essays was both inspiring and humbling. Each one spoke of how they had been and are inspired by the sisters and wanted to know more about those who for more than 80 years have served in the healthcare ministry in Bryan. They wanted to experience where the sisters came from and to meet other sisters. From the 13 essays that were submitted six employees were selected on St Francis Day 2016 to participate in a pilgrimage to Sylvania in May 2017. Participants were from various departments of St. Joseph Hospital: Purchasing, Therapy, Nursing, Information Services, Administration, and Physician Recruitment, and represented more than 100 years of service to CHI St Joseph.
On May 6 the six eager team members began their pilgrimage, excited about the journey, but concerned about issues they were leaving behind: recent lay-offs, restructuring, which for some meant taking on additional responsibilities, and the loss of long-term team members who took positions in other organizations because of the uncertainties about their future.
The three day schedule included a campus tour with Sister Joan Jurski, a visit to Alverno Studio with Sister Jane Mary and a tour of Rosary Care Center with Sister Nora Klewicki. The tour of Our Lady of Grace with Sister Geraldine Paluszak included visits with Sister Ruth Marie Kachelek, Sister Marie Andre and Sister Ann Francis.
Not even the rains could dampen the spirits or the enthusiasm of the pilgrims as they walked, umbrellas in hand, for lunch and a tour of the University, then to the Portiuncula. Once inside the Portiuncula each one was struck by its beauty and simplicity. The setting was perfect for some quiet prayer and reflection, and an opportunity to absorb all that they were experiencing.
A visit to the cemetery was a must, especially for those who had ministered at St Joseph with Sisters Gregory, Gretchen and Alice. The visit gave an opportunity to spend time at the sisters’ grave sites and the burial site of Mother Adelaide.
Throughout the visit cameras were busy capturing the beauty, the experience and the memory of the moment.
The pilgrims were warmly welcomed by each sister they met. The hospitality of the sisters and their joyful spirit touched each of the pilgrims. The sisters who had served in Texas were eager to share their story and memories. The sisters who had traveled to Bryan in December to attend the 80th and 100th celebration spoke passionately of their experience.
Saturday evening the pilgrims gathered in the attractively decorated Regina Conference room for conversation with the sisters, another opportunity to come to know who we are and for the sisters to experience the dedication and commitment of our partners in ministry. Sister Diana Lynn told the pilgrims they always have a home in Sylvania.
The pilgrims continue to live in the afterglow of their Sylvania experience. The work situation to which they returned has not changed, but they admit that they are changed, seeing things with new eyes. They continue to express their gratitude for the opportunity that they received. That gratitude is probably best summarized in a Thank You note from one of the participants
“I have dreamed of being able to see these sacred grounds since first seeing them in pictures and videos. It was more than I could have imagined and I will forever hold this experience dear to my heart. I believe in the Mission of the Sisters of St Francis of Sylvania and this pilgrimage helped me to see it more clearly. We all have been through very stressful times lately and having this opportunity to leave that behind and spend time with women of God that have such joy, faith, hope, peace and love, really helped me to refocus on what is most important in our ministry. Again thank you so much for taking the time to share this holy place with us and making us feel as though we have a home there.”
In her reflection in the recent Leadership Update, Sister Mary Jon stated that these are “exciting times that call for new vision and new relationships.” Our new vision and new relationships are built on our legacy and our mission as Sylvania Franciscans: Women of Peace, Seekers of Justice. A legacy and mission we share with so many in ways we often do not realize.