Seven SCNs who have served at Memorial Health Care System: Betty Vannucci, Maria Cecelia Emmanuelli, Rita Spalding, Mary Susann Goebber, Therese Arru, William Ann Hayden, Judy Raley and Marie Celine Osbourn who is currently in ministry there attended the celebration of the 60 anniversary of Memorial which also honored the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth for their bicentennial.

Judy Raley, SCN, gave the following talk during the anniversary celebration.

I am delighted to be with you today along with seven other Sisters of Charity of Nazareth for this 60 anniversary celebration to bring you greetings from them and from all Sisters of Charity of Nazareth across the globe. Memorial holds a special place in our hearts.  

St. Vincent de Paul, patron of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth once said that “Grace has its moments.”  These 60 years of healing ministry at Memorial certainly gives us pause to recall the many moments of grace in its history and in the history of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth which goes back 200 years to a log cabin in Kentucky.  Here three women began a new community of women religious to meet the needs for education of girls on the Kentucky frontier.  Catherine Spalding, our first leader and a woman of deep faith and courage, chose as her motto and that of the community, “The love of Christ impels us.”

Being pioneer women our early Sisters were always ready to meet the needs which arose and called for their compassion and care.  When cholera raged in Kentucky in the 1830s, the Sisters closed their schools and instantly became nurses to care for those affected by this disease.  Our school at Nazareth was converted into a hospital. Several sisters died of cholera and the disease left others in frail health for the rest of their lives. They certainly lived what we heard in today’s Gospel “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”.  

The cholera epidemic left a number of orphans and the Sisters took them into their home.  We were gifted with a painting for our bicentennial by artist Bob Connell of Pittsburgh.  The painting shows Catherine Spalding on the wharf in Louisville with four orphan children.  Catherine’s face is radiant with loving compassion expressive of her motto, “The love of Christ impels us.

When the cholera subsided, our ministry in health care continued to expand. The Sisters began to use extra rooms in the orphanage in Louisville, Kentucky to care for the sick.  This became the first of many hospitals for us.

These early Sisters did not let circumstances keep them from their commitment to serve people in need. Little did they imagine that their beginning ministries would evolve into a worldwide mission. Moments of grace led us to India in 1947 to bring health care to the people of the state of Bihar, the poorest state in North India.  This was at the same time plans for Memorial were being developed. From India we went to Nepal in 1979, to Belize, Central America in 1975 and to Botswana in 2000.

A moment of grace for the Chattanooga community was the formation of the Hamilton County Memorial Hospital Association in the late 1940s to provide a faith based hospital for the people of this community.  The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth looked at the invitation to administer the new hospital as an opportunity to extend our mission in response to a need.  Some sixty years later we hold a precious legacy of caring shown by the first Sisters at Memorial with their excitement about opening the new hospital and meeting the challenges it involved.  They inspire us to meet the challenges of our time while remaining faithful to our mission.

The virtues of the Sisters of Charity humility, simplicity and charity are imprinted deep into the culture here at Memorial. We express these qualities today in our core values of reverence, integrity, compassion and excellence.  

Building relationships was a hallmark of Catherine Spalding’s leadership and inspires us to treat each person with respect and dignity.  Like Catherine we seek to see the face of God in each person.  Our work is holy because it is God’s work. 

Sister Marie Victoria, the first administrator always reminded the staff that they were there for one purpose to give good patient care. She lived by the words of St. Vincent de Paul: “May your presence and care to those most in need reflect the gentleness, esteem and dignity we see reflected in the life and work of Jesus.”

From its opening on January 2, 1952 until the present Memorial has stood as a beacon in the community of excellent and compassionate care based on Jesus’ call that, “Whatever you did to one of these least ones you did unto me.”

We, indeed, stand on the shoulders of giants who planted the seeds of caring, compassion, and excellence on the landscape of Memorial. We are reaping the harvest. What will our legacy be? The Gospel reading reminds us that God has chosen us and appointed us to bear fruit that will remain. Is our mission strengthened because each of us is here?  What will others say about us in the future?  May they find that we acted faithfully as “The love of Christ impelled us.”

As we look at the numerous projects that Memorial is now engaged in to meet both the present and future needs of this community, we can look to Catherine Spalding for inspiration.  Her skillin managing building and financial projects with prophetic foresight is evidenced in the Church and buildings we still use at Nazareth. She was a great collaborator who sought the advice and help of others. Yet whatever success was hers she attributed to prayer and the blessing of God. 

If Catherine Spalding was among us today I believe she would say to us what she wrote to Sister Claudia in 1848, “Pray to God that all will be done as will be for His glory, [and] the good of our neighbor.” May God continue to bless us with many moments of grace as we move into an exciting future for Memorial and the people of this community.  

I would now like to present Jim with a wood cutting that we had made for our bicentennial.  It shows the Church that Catherine built and the front of our Motherhouse. 

                                                     For additional photos, click here

Judy Raley, SCN

Provincial of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Western Province
Member of the Board of Directors of Memorial Health Care System
Memorial Health Care System 60thAnniversary
May 11, 2012

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