A hospital closes, but the mission endures.
That was the theme last month when St. Mary's Hospital in Galveston, Texas, closed after 129 years. Rather than mark its ending, the hospital's sponsor, Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word Health Care System, heralded the event as an evolution of spreading its ministry to other parts of the community.
"It is not the bricks and mortar but the compassion, the respect, and the love that have made this hospital special to Galvestonians for generations," said Sister Elizabeth Ann Hayes, general superior of the congregation. "We marvel at the advances of medical science and yet wonder why so many people don't have access to healthcare, or the ability to pay for it. So, we transition our ministry from the hospital to community-based initiatives."
In a ceremony attended by hundreds of hospital workers and former patients, the Roman Catholic system symbolically removed its ministry by taking symbols from the hospital to the site of a new primary-care clinic. The symbols included the "Eternal Mission" tapestry, which has hung in the hospital lobby since 1987. In addition, a quilt commissioned for the transferring of the ministry also was taken from the hospital to the new clinic site.
With a police escort, a motorcade proceeded to the site, where the 13,400-square-foot clinic will stand. The facility will be located at the Island Community Center, now operated by the city's housing authority.
Finally, two nuns from the Catholic congregation carried pots of soil from the hospital to the clinic site and distributed it around the area.
The clinic will open this summer.
The primary-care center is one of several initiatives that Sisters of Charity will finance in the community. Other ministries include Our Daily Bread, a day shelter for the homeless; and New Horizons Center, a facility for recovering alcoholics and drug addicts.
Meanwhile, St. Mary's Hospital has been purchased by the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Officials there declined to say how the property would be used. They also declined to reveal the value of the transaction, which has not been completed.