In 1812, the Sisters of Charity (SCN) began their works of education and health care in the wilderness of Kentucky. In 1952, a gentle legacy of caring was established when Memorial Hospital was founded in Chattanooga by the SCN.
Today, Memorial Health Care System, which includes Memorial North Park in Hixson, is Chattanooga’s only faith-based hospital system. Sister Celine Osbourn, is the remaining Sister of Charity of Nazareth in Chattanooga and serves as the Spiritual Care Representative at Memorial North Park. A unique figure and a vital part of Memorial Health Care System, Sister Celine is respected and admired for her servant leadership.
The Journey to Chattanooga
Sister Celine, the middle child of ten in a Catholic family, grew up in Springfield, Kentucky. At the age of 18, she joined the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and spent more than 35 years in education and principalship with a Master’s degree in educational administration. The journey to Chattanooga started with her roommate, Sister Thomas de Sales, SCN. “She was the last Sister of Charity of Nazareth to serve as Memorial Hospital’s chief executive officer,” Sister Celine, recalls. “I came to Chattanooga in 1993 to serve a ministry in the hospital that had meant so very much to her. Since the doors first opened we’ve had 101 sisters serving at Memorial. Our desire was to have people of all faiths feel comfortable and supported in their spiritual needs as well as their physical and emotional ones.”
“The day Sister Celine walked through the door our entire culture changed,” says Jerry McCrary, house administrator at North Park Hospital when Memorial bought it in 1998. “A new dimension was added, and it was faith.”
One of her first priorities was a chapel where people could go to meditate and pray. Built entirely with donations from friends and hospital employees, the Christ the Healer chapel is open to everyone and features beautiful stained glass windows depicting Biblical scenes of healing.
Patient Advocacy
“Sister Celine visits every single patient every day,” says Deb Moore, senior vice president and administrator for Memorial North Park Hospital. “Even if only for a few minutes, she is expressing care and compassion. Sometimes people just need to talk, and other times they might have a deeper concern like financial worries or end of life issues.”
Ms. Moore has seen Sister Celine play a critical role in representing the patient’s wishes when it is not their desire to continue with extreme measures to extend their life. She is able to convey the feelings of the patient and ease the family anxiety, bringing calm to an emotional situation.
As Mr. McCrary starts his evening as house administrator, he values the feedback she provides about patients like those newly diagnosed with cancer or families with special needs.
“Recently we had a family so poor that they had no financial means to feed themselves, and they were determined to be here for their acutely ill family member,” Jerry recalls. “Sister Celine arranged for their meals to be provided by the hospital.”
A Healing Mission
“Sister Celine is an integral part of who we are, and she helps us remember our roots,” says Sister Eileen Wrobleski, CSC, senior vice president of Mission Integration for Memorial Health Care System and a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross. “She not only attends to the spiritual needs of the patients and their families but also participates in meetings and activities to help maintain an awareness of the organization’s mission and values.”
As the top executive for Memorial North Park, Deb Moore describes Sister Celine as a prayer partner and a spiritual mentor. “I always discuss with her the strategic steps for the hospital to be sure that the way we are making progress is measured against our values and that our mission is reflected in how we are making those decisions.”
The expressions of those core values – Reverence, Integrity, Compassion and Excellence – are seen and heard throughout the hospital in many of the works of Sister Celine, including the Healing Garden, the artwork in the patient rooms, the music in the hallways before Christmas provided by local church choirs, the donation of medications, equipment and supplies to Belize, the participation of department employees in delivering the noon prayer over the public address system and the annual Blessing of the Hands.
Executive Assistant Cindy Carroll says, “Sister Celine’s work extends to the support staff too. She gives me a special blessing as she touches my hands, and this reminds me why I am here.”
A Love For Life
“People often have an image of nuns that evolves as they get to know us and discover that we like to have fun like anybody else,” says Sister Eileen. “For example, Sister [Celine] and I both like football.”
An avid fan of Notre Dame football and Kentucky Wildcats basketball, Sister Celine has been known to host a Kentucky Derby party complete with a fancy hat contest.
“She knows her jockeys!” laughs Betsy Kammerdiener, Memorial Hospital chaplain and Baptist ordained minister. “I’ve worked with Sisters from many different congregations, and she is a wonderful example of their spirit. At Memorial North Park she has set the tone for what good ministry looks like, embracing people from all races and denominations.”
The Future With Sister Celine
At 82, Sister Celine has no thoughts of retiring, and she is leading a new program for SCN Associates to carry on their legacy and history. Betsy Kammerdiener and Cindy Carroll are both participating in the two-year program of classes and retreats that give them the chance to connect with the spirit of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and continue their ministry at Memorial, in Chattanooga, and around the world – keeping a little piece of Sister Celine in their hearts forever.
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