Blessing and Opening of Palliative Care Room at St. Patrick’s Mercy Home

St. Patrick’s Mercy Home Opens Palliative Care Room                                                    

June 20, 2011: St. John’s, NL – St. Patrick’s Mercy Home today announced the official opening of its newly renovated palliative care space during a special Blessing and Celebration Ceremony. The two-year renovation project has been a priority of the Administration and Board of Directors of St. Patrick’s Mercy Home.
The Creedon Family Room is a space dedicated to the needs of a resident in the final stages of life, providing care that is both competent and compassionate. It will also provide a quiet space for family members to be present with their loved one in comfort and convenience.
“It is a privilege to be a part of this dedication,” said Joan Marie Aylward, Executive Director, St. Patrick’s Mercy Home. “This room will be a beautiful enhancement to the lives of families and residents at such an important time.” 
The room is named in memory of Sister Francis Creedon, founder of the Sisters of Mercy in Newfoundland. Sister Francis came to St. John’s with two other companions from Dublin, Ireland on June 3, 1842 and established the first Mercy foundation in the New World. Sister Francis visited the homes of the sick and dying of St. John’s and cared for victims of the cholera epidemic which occurred in 1854.
”The Sisters of Mercy have been committed to special space for palliative care services since they first established the Palliative Care Unit at St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital in 1979,” said Sr. Elizabeth Davis, Congregational Leader for the Sisters of Mercy. “We are delighted that St. Patrick’s Mercy Home has now found dedicated space for palliative care to continue the strong support the staff and volunteers have always given to dying residents and their families. May all residents who die in this space know dignity and peace as they spend their last days on this earth here with their loved ones.”
St. Patrick’s Mercy Home Foundation provided the funding for the furnishing of the room. A generous bequest was also made on behalf of Mary and Helen Flynn, two former residents of St. Patrick’s.

Celebration of Foundation at Sandy Point, 28 July 1893

On Friday, July 28, 1893, the SS Harlow docked in Sandy Point on Newfoundland’s west coast. On board were Bishop Michael Francis Howley, Vicar Apostolic of St. George’s, four Sisters of Mercy from Providence, Rhode Island – Sisters Mary Antonio Egan, Mary Corsini Dempsey, Mary Veronica Payne, Mary Sylvester Carver – and Mrs. Henrietta Brownell, their friend and sponsor. Bishop Howley must have been beaming with delight as he escorted his missionary band down the gangplank to the crowds of people waiting on the dock. His dream and that of his predecessors was finally being realized. The west coast of Newfoundland had its first community of nuns.

Sisters with Mrs Brownell

The Evening Telegram of August 13, 1893 describes in glowing terms their arrival at “the beautiful and picturesque settlement of Sandy Point”. An excited and enthusiastic crowd, salvoes of guns, arches, wreaths and flags and addresses of salutation made the event lively, colourful and welcoming. This was obviously an occasion of great joy, anticipation and celebration for the people of Sandy Point.

What must the new Mercy community have been feeling as they landed in this strange, new place? The excitement of a new venture – most likely; the sense of being welcomed into people’s hearts – surely; the shiver of anxiety in the face of the unknown – perhaps; the shock of reality as they looked around them – likely.

Though Sandy Point was at this time a bustling port, it lacked any of the amenities to which the sisters had been accustomed in Providence, Rhode Island. The political and economic difficulties associated with the French Shore kept this area largely undeveloped until the early part of the twentieth century. When the sisters had time to look around, they would have seen rough paths instead of roads, crude shelters for most of the homes and many other signs of poverty and neglect. But they did not seem to be dismayed, and from the very beginning they set about meeting the people, visiting the sick and preparing for the opening of school. They had come to help effect change, and they kept looking forward, seeing what could be done and taking steps, however small, towards making it happen.

The school at Sandy Point was small and roughly built, vastly different from the stately, well-equipped academies the sisters had left behind in Rhode Island.

When school opened in September, about fifty children came, most of whom were poorly fed and poorly clad, and lacking in any basic knowledge of the faith.

From the beginning there was a language barrier that made instruction difficult on both sides – the sisters’ strange accent and the patois used by the children.

What must it have been like for these sisters to try to cultivate a love of learning in children who were hungry, tired and listless? Can we imagine what they were faced with as they trudged through mud-paths, braving the sharp winds of Bay St. George to visit the sick and poor in their homes? Did they ever long for the conveniences they once took for granted – things that would make life so much easier.

This new set of circumstances in which the sisters now found themselves must have called forth from each of them great compassion, generous flexibility, a keen sense of humour and a deep commitment to the call to mission. What stories they must have shared as they gathered at nightfall in the lamplight – or were they too tired to share at all? Did the glorious sunsets so characteristic of the West, lift their hearts? What were their thoughts as they watched the ebb and flow of the tides on the Sandy Point sandspit? Did they speak to one another about who and what they missed, what they loved, what they hoped for, what they feared …

Henrietta Brownell and Sr Antonio

The leader of this pioneer missionary group was Sister Mary Antonio Egan, a woman of culture and refinement and an excellent educator, described in the Annals of St. George’s as “one of the ablest teachers in the country.” As early as April of 1894, the convent school treated the people of Sandy Point to a concert, which The Evening Telegram described as being “of superior quality” and in which the musical portion of the program was managed by Mrs. Brownell. Indeed because of the sisters’ concern for an all-round education for the children and the generous sharing of Mrs. Brownell’s musical abilities, music became the hallmark of the convent school.

In 1899, with the coming of the railway the Sisters moved to St. George’s, and the new St. Michael’s Academy opened. Under the wise and efficient leadership of Sister Mary Antonio and her competent and dedicated staff, the school flourished, and before long St. Michael’s became known for its broad-based curriculum and innovative teaching practices. In 1900 St. Michael’s welcomed its first two resident students, and the fledgling community also began to attract new members. Drawn to the flame of Mercy, these young women brought generous hearts and ready hands to expand and enrich the mission entrusted to the pioneer sisters.

The story of the St. George’ s foundation is the story of courageous women, women grounded in faith, steeped in a sense of mission, committed to bringing about God’s reign wherever and however they could, all the while strengthened by the mission itself and by the love and support of the people they had come to serve. This, of course, did not mean that the difficulties of daily life in their new homeland did not affect them, discourage them at times or cause them to question their choices. They were human and, like us, had to deal with life as it unfolded each day, both with its predictabilities and its surprises. Sister Mary Antonio and her sisters have left us a rich heritage, a heritage shaped by vision, passion, compassion and dedication. We are immeasurably blessed by the life and ministry of these great women of Mercy, who illuminate the pages of our Mercy story.

by Charlotte Fitzpatrick,rsm

El viernes 28 de julio de 1893, el SS Harlow atracó en Sandy Point, en la costa oeste de Terranova. A bordo iban el Obispo Michael Francis Howley, Vicario Apostólico de St. George’s, cuatro Hermanas de la Misericordia de Providence, Rhode Island – las Hermanas Mary Antonio Egan, Mary Corsini Dempsey, Mary Veronica Payne, Mary Sylvester Carver – y la Sra. Henrietta Brownell, su amiga y madrina. El obispo Howley debía de estar radiante de alegría mientras escoltaba a su banda misionera por la pasarela hasta la multitud que esperaba en el muelle. Su sueño y el de sus predecesores por fin se estaba haciendo realidad. La costa oeste de Terranova tenía su primera comunidad de monjas.

El Evening Telegram del 13 de agosto de 1893 describe en términos elogiosos su llegada al “hermoso y pintoresco asentamiento de Sandy Point”. Una multitud excitada y entusiasta, salvas de cañones, arcos, coronas y banderas y discursos de saludo hicieron que el acontecimiento fuera animado, colorido y acogedor. Evidentemente, fue una ocasión de gran alegría, expectación y celebración para los habitantes de Sandy Point.

¿Qué debió de sentir la nueva comunidad de la Misericordia al aterrizar en este extraño y nuevo lugar? La emoción de una nueva aventura, seguramente; la sensación de ser acogidos en el corazón de la gente, seguramente; un escalofrío de ansiedad ante lo desconocido, tal vez; la conmoción de la realidad al mirar a su alrededor, probablemente.

Aunque Sandy Point era entonces un puerto bullicioso, carecía de todas las comodidades a las que las hermanas estaban acostumbradas en Providence, Rhode Island. Las dificultades políticas y económicas asociadas a la Costa Francesa mantuvieron esta zona en gran parte sin desarrollar hasta principios del siglo XX. Cuando las hermanas tuvieron tiempo de mirar a su alrededor, habrían visto senderos escabrosos en lugar de carreteras, toscos refugios para la mayoría de los hogares y muchos otros signos de pobreza y abandono. Pero no se amilanaron y desde el principio se dedicaron a conocer a la gente, visitar a los enfermos y preparar la apertura de la escuela. Habían venido para contribuir al cambio y seguían mirando hacia delante, viendo lo que se podía hacer y dando pasos, por pequeños que fueran, para conseguirlo.

La escuela de Sandy Point era pequeña y de construcción tosca, muy diferente de las majestuosas y bien equipadas academias que las hermanas habían dejado atrás en Rhode Island.

Cuando la escuela abrió sus puertas en septiembre, acudieron unos cincuenta niños, la mayoría mal alimentados y mal vestidos, y carentes de cualquier conocimiento básico de la fe.

Desde el principio hubo una barrera lingüística que dificultaba la instrucción por ambas partes: el extraño acento de las hermanas y el patois utilizado por los niños.

¿Cómo debió de ser para estas hermanas intentar cultivar el amor por el aprendizaje en niños hambrientos, cansados y apáticos? ¿Podemos imaginar a qué se enfrentaban cuando caminaban por senderos de barro, desafiando los fuertes vientos de la bahía de San Jorge, para visitar a los enfermos y a los pobres en sus casas? ¿Alguna vez anhelaron las comodidades que antes daban por sentadas, cosas que les harían la vida mucho más fácil?

Las nuevas circunstancias en las que se encontraban las hermanas debieron de suscitar en cada una de ellas una gran compasión, una generosa flexibilidad, un agudo sentido del humor y un profundo compromiso con la llamada a la misión. ¿Qué historias habrán compartido cuando se reunían al anochecer a la luz de la lámpara, o estaban demasiado cansadas para compartirlas? ¿Las gloriosas puestas de sol, tan características del Oeste, elevaban sus corazones? ¿Qué pensaban mientras observaban el flujo y reflujo de las mareas en el arenal de Sandy Point? ¿Hablaron de lo que echaban de menos, de lo que amaban, de lo que esperaban, de lo que temían?…

La líder de este grupo misionero pionero era la hermana Mary Antonio Egan, una mujer de cultura y refinamiento y una excelente educadora, descrita en los Annals of St. George’s como “una de las profesoras más hábiles del país”. Ya en abril de 1894, el colegio del convento obsequió a los habitantes de Sandy Point con un concierto, que El Evening Telegram describió como “de calidad superior” y en el que la parte musical del programa fue dirigida por la señora Brownell. De hecho, gracias a la preocupación de las hermanas por la educación integral de los niños y a la generosa aportación de las habilidades musicales de la Sra. Brownell, la música se convirtió en el sello distintivo de la escuela del convento.

En 1899, con la llegada del ferrocarril, las hermanas se trasladaron a St. George’s, y se abrió la nueva Academia de St. Bajo la sabia y eficiente dirección de la hermana Mary Antonio y su competente y dedicado personal, la escuela floreció, y en poco tiempo St. Michael’s se hizo famosa por su amplio plan de estudios y sus innovadoras prácticas docentes. En 1900 St. Michael dio la bienvenida a sus dos primeras estudiantes residentes, y la incipiente comunidad también comenzó a atraer a nuevos miembros. Atraídas por la llama de la Misericordia, estas jóvenes aportaron corazones generosos y manos dispuestas a ampliar y enriquecer la misión confiada a las hermanas pioneras.

La historia de la fundación de San Jorge es la historia de mujeres valientes, mujeres cimentadas en la fe, impregnadas de un sentido de la misión, comprometidas a llevar el reino de Dios dondequiera y comoquiera que pudieran, siempre fortalecidas por la propia misión y por el amor y el apoyo de la gente a la que habían venido a servir. Esto, por supuesto, no significaba que las dificultades de la vida cotidiana en su nueva patria no les afectaran, les desanimaran a veces o les hicieran cuestionarse sus decisiones. Eran humanas y, como nosotros, tenían que enfrentarse a la vida tal y como se desarrollaba cada día, tanto con sus previsiones como con sus sorpresas. La Hermana Mary Antonio y sus hermanas nos han dejado una rica herencia, una herencia forjada por la visión, la pasión, la compasión y la dedicación. Somos inconmensurablemente bendecidas por la vida y el ministerio de estas grandes mujeres de la Misericordia, que iluminan las páginas de nuestra historia de la Misericordia.