Written on: May 13, 2014
My first introduction to nuns occurred when I was just 4. I went to boarding school, along with my three sisters, after our mother’s death. I was really too little to be in school, so I just played in the convent and was quite the pet of the sisters. So, sisters are part of my earliest memories.
Over the years of growing up, I somehow always thought I would be a nun. After I graduated from high school, I went to nursing school at Champlain Valley Hospital Nursing School in Plattsburgh, New York. The hospital and the nursing school were run by the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart.
After graduation from nursing school, I went to work at St. Claire’s Hospital in Schenectady. They were paying $200 a month, which was more than they were paying anywhere else in the vicinity. I worked in the operating room and was on call three nights a week. I got an extra $10 a month for that. So, I was making $210 a month, which I thought was great! I worked there for two years and then decided to move back home. I lived at home and worked at Champlain Valley Hospital.
Working at the hospital, I really got to know and grew to love the Grey Nuns. I decided to enter the Grey Nun congregation the September before my twenty fifth birthday. I don’t have a dramatic story about my vocation: I am a “no frills” person and I just knew it was what I was meant to be.
After I made final profession of vows, I received my B.S. in nursing at D’Youville College in Buffalo. After that, I worked in the operating room at Hepburn Hospital in Ogdensburg, New York for almost ten years. It was busy! I liked O.R. nursing because every day was a new day and a new group of people. It was real life!
We sisters lived in our wing at the hospital. Sometimes, I would get called in the middle of the night and I would run over to the O.R., assist in an emergency surgery, clean up, go back to bed, and then get up at regular time in the morning. I am amazed when I think back on it but it was just life as I knew it then.
At night, after dinner and prayer, I would visit the patients who had been operated on to see how they were doing. I also visited patients who were scheduled to be operated on the next day. I thought it would ease their fears to see a friendly face—to see someone they already knew when they were brought into the Operating Room.
We were always compassionate to the people coming in for surgery. That’s when they needed compassion the most. We tried to assuage their fears and make them feel they were in good hands.
In the early 70s, I went to Kodiak, Alaska for five years, working at Kodiak Island Hospital. I finished my nursing career by serving for three years in the infirmary at our Motherhouse in Yardley, Pennsylvania. Nursing was a good life path for me.
At this point in my life, I was ready for a change. I went to Atlanta and found a new ministry at Catholic Social Services. I worked there in the business office for 10 years. From there, I worked in the admissions department for 15 years at St. Joseph’s Hospital.
Now I am retired. When I was younger and active in nursing, I was busy all of the time. As you get older, you get more reflective. Now, looking back, I see my years of nursing as very much a way of following in the footsteps of Marguerite D’Youville. Because we served everyone,rich and poor,no one was ever turned away from our hospitals.
Nursing—caring for others in any form—is a way of carrying on Marguerite’s mission. Marguerite nursed the sick and cared for the poor. In Grey Nun hospitals, there was always a strong sense of the good of the patient. The patients—and their welfare—came first. There was also a sense of being connected to something beyond the every day. I think that enhanced the hospital experience for patients and staff alike.
Even the work we do here at the Motherhouse, in retirement, looking after one another, is Marguerite’s work too. I am grateful to be here with the other sisters and to have more time to spend with them and more time for prayer. I have been blessed.