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St. Mary’s community celebrates hospital’s 130th anniversary

Bishop Robert P. Deeley, with four members of the St. Mary’s community who received St. Marguerite d’Youville Awards for exemplifying the health system’s core values: pediatrics practice manager Ashley Goodwin, occupational therapist Laurie Russell, cultural broker and interpreter Asha Qanyare, and senior perianesthesia nurse Darlene Dennis

On the same patch of land where she lived as an orphan at age 5, Gabrielle De Moras of Lewiston, now in her 80s, is in awe as she looks at the sprawling St. Mary’s campus before her.

“It’s very different,” said De Moras, who now lives at the St. Mary’s Residences. “Sometimes things go and fade away after a while, but I guess God really wanted to keep St. Mary’s going because it’s still here after all these years!”

De Moras was one of many St. Mary’s residents, patients, and medical staff who gathered recently for a special Mass, celebrated by Bishop Robert P. Deeley, in the Marcotte Chapel at the St. Mary’s Residences.The Mass commemorated the 130th anniversary of the hospital, which has been serving anyone in need, regardless of religion, race, or ability to pay, since November of 1888.

“This is a tremendous institution whose commitment to the people of this community is well known,” said Bishop Deeley during his homily. “It has been, and is, and will continue to be, an impressive house of charity, not only as a hospital, but as a valued member of the community serving God’s people.”

The Mass was celebrated during St. Mary’s Mission Week, held annually during the week of October 16 to mark the week in 1738 when St. Marguerite d’Youville founded the Sisters of Charity of Saint-Hyacinthe (“the Grey Nuns”) who, in turn, eventually founded St. Mary’s.

“St. Marguerite’s vision, her mission, her charism, was that her own personal experience of the love of God was to be lived out in service to those who were her brothers and sisters in the relationship that God had wished when he created the human person,” said the bishop. “The vision and commitment of St. Marguerite continues to exist in those ministries and apostolates which carry on her mission. This is one of them. And today, we happily remember that it has been carrying out this mission for 130 years.”

In 1878, the Sisters arrived in Lewiston to start a French-speaking school and determined that the area needed a hospital. For $22,000, they purchased the 36-acre Golder Farm on Sabattus Street and opened the hospital in 1888 with 40 orphans, 30 beds for the sick, and six rooms for boarders. Within five months, the hospital was formally dedicated as the first Catholic hospital in Maine and, in 1908, it became known as St. Mary’s General Hospital.

“The Sisters spent time as nurses during a smallpox epidemic, cared for many patients at no charge and, eventually, saw a need for specialized care for children, the elderly, and those with mental health or substance abuse issues,” said Elizabeth Keene, vice president of mission integration for St. Mary’s.

Today, St. Mary’s is a member of Covenant Health and has expanded to include not only St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center, but also St. Mary’s d’Youville Pavilion, the State of Maine’s largest nursing home; St. Mary’s Residences, which includes 128 private, non-smoking apartments reserved exclusively for the independent elderly and handicapped; and Community Clinical Services, federally-qualified health centers affiliated with St. Mary’s Health System that provide primary, specialty, and dental services in the Lewison-Auburn area.

“We are continually looking to improve care and the way it is delivered while staying true to our Catholic legacy of providing compassionate care for anyone in need,” said Steve Jorgensen, president of St. Mary’s Health System and senior vice president of Covenant Health. “The care we provide is ever-evolving and improving in direct response to the needs of this great community. That increasingly means caring for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, addiction, plus providing preventive services to enable our neighbors to maintain health and wellness.”

At the end of the Mass, four St. Mary’s employees were honored with St. Marguerite d’Youville Awards. The awards are given annually to members of the St. Mary’s family who consistently exhibit the health system’s four core values of compassion, integrity, collaboration, and excellence in extraordinary ways. The 2018 honorees are Ashley Goodwin, a practice manager for pediatrics and for the pediatric dental programs, honored for compassion; Laurie Russell, an occupational therapist in the physical rehabilitation department, honored for integrity; Asha Qanyare, a cultural broker and interpreter for women and families at St. Mary’s, honored for collaboration; and Darlene Dennis, a senior perianesthesia nurse, honored for excellence.

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