BY: JULIE TROCCHIO, RN, MS
Most merciful God, You have entrusted your healing ministry of service to us
as workers, leaders, and trustees of Catholic health care. Let us be mindful
of the sacrifices of those who began the Catholic health ministry in America’s
communities. Give us the courage, vision, creativity, perseverance, and compassion
to continue that ministry as they would if they were here today.
"In 1866, diphtheria, yellow fever, and typhoid were rampant in Texas.
In May, the second bishop of Galveston—a diocese that encompassed the entire
state—set out for his native France to seek help. In Lyons, he asked the
Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament to help him found a new
congregation to respond to the health needs of the people in Texas.
"On October 24, Srs. M. Blandine, Joseph, and Ange arrived in Galveston.
They were the first three women religious in a new congregation, the Sisters
of Charity of the Incarnate Word. A small building served as both hospital and
"Charity Hospital opened on April 1. Its mission: to care for the sick
and for orphans. A mere three months later, Galveston experienced the worst
yellow fever epidemic in its history. Two of the sisters fell ill. Mother Blandine
died, and Sr. Ange eventually recovered. . . .
"In the days before antibiotics many of the people admitted to a hospital
died there. It was not uncommon for both parents in a family to be stricken
by a deadly disease, leaving their children orphaned. It was to meet the needs
of these times that the sisters housed orphans on a floor of the hospital. .
"Begging was a daily activity. The sisters in charge of the kitchen often
had to wait for the other sisters to return from begging at the market before
preparing dinner. When sisters went to beg in distant parts of the state, they
often brought back so many orphans that the money they had collected was immediately
—Suzy Farren, A Call to Care: The WomenWho Built
Catholic Healthcare in the United States
Catholic Health Association, St. Louis, 1996, pp. 105-106.
If those three sisters—or other founders of the Catholic health ministry
in this nation—were in our community today, what might they see that we
are not seeing? What services might they offer? How might they find the resources
needed to meet the serious challenges facing our communities?
"Make us worthy, Lord, to serve those people throughout the world who
live and die in poverty and hunger. Give them through our hands, this day, their
daily bread, and by our understanding love, give them peace and joy."
—Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Continuing Care Ministry
Catholic Health Association
Copyright © 2005 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.