May 6-12 was Catholic Nurses week. Although nursing is now largely done by the laity, orders like the Sisters of Mercy continue to operate many healthcare facilities, engaging in healthcare ranging from “scrub nurses and doctors to CEOs, CFOs, and trustees in hospitals and health system.” Here’s a link roundup to a few stories on sisters in healthcare:
The Sisters of Mercy profile Sr. Consuela White, RSM: “Few people compare to this woman of Mercy,” says Joseph Gallagher. She was an advocate for nursing, and believed in treating the whole person: “Love is the most healing thing of all.”
America Magazine has a story on the work women religious (often as MDs) are doing to combat COVID-19 during the brutal second wave of infections in India. It profiles Sr. Beema Madhavath, UMI, an OB-GYN at Holy Family Hospital in Mumbai. The 270 bed hospital has been full since March.
“We had a very, very terrible time in the month of April in Mumbai,” Sister Beena says. “The demand was too much, but we continued somehow.”
Global Sisters Report, without prejudice to these recent stories, examines the way women religious have often been at the forefront of medical care.
What’s perhaps less known is that, for centuries, nuns both in Europe and as immigrants to the United States have been ahead of their time, bringing volunteering fervor and entrepreneurial skill to their mission of tending the sick and preventing illnesses from spreading.
Women religious such as Hildegard of Bingen wrote medical texts, for instance, while others operated apothecaries and pharmacies in late Renaissance Italy. An older story in America also outlines the way nurse sisters responded to the 1918 flu pandemic as a model for today, noting that women religious emerged as unexpected heroes of the 1918 pandemic, often making evangelical inroads by caring for people who had never encountered Catholics before.
Photo: Catholic Historical Research Center, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, via Global Sisters Report