By Barb Arland-Fye
CENTERVILLE — One-hundred years after the Sisters of Mercy rescued a struggling hospital here, their successors participated in the re-dedication of the facility that has grown into the town’s third-largest employer.
Mercy Medical Center, formerly St. Joseph’s Mercy Hospital, celebrated its centennial and re-dedication with a votive Mass in honor of St. Joseph and a re-dedication ceremony Sept. 10 in Centerville. Bishop Martin Amos presided at the Mass at St. Mary Catholic Church with Precious Blood Fathers Dennis Schaab, (St. Mary’s pastor), Joe Miller, Mike Volkmer and Ron Will concelebrating.
In his homily, Bishop Amos noted that the Sisters of Mercy in Council Bluffs discerned God’s will and did as the Lord commanded by taking over a struggling medical facility in Centerville. The Sisters of Mercy had a new hospital built in 1916 and oversaw an addition to it in 1956. The existing, modern health center was erected north of Centerville in 1979. “Though the last Sister left in 1986, the hospital continues under the patronage of St. Joseph and continues to do as the Lord commands,” Bishop Amos said.
“The ecumenical spirit of the Sisters and their partnership with the community established a strong allegiance to the hospital which continues today,” said Ann Young, Mercy’s vice president.
Mercy Medical Center is a 25-bed, critical access, not-for-profit hospital owned by Catholic Health Initiatives in Denver, Colo. The medical center, which also has 20 beds for long-term care, employs 270 people. Its medical staff has eight family practice physicians, two general surgeons, one OB-GYN and one pediatrician.
One of those physicians and a nurse were among individuals who spoke eloquently about Mercy Medical Center and its mission during a re-dedication ceremony on the hospital campus.
Dr. J.B. McConville, a longtime family practitioner at Mercy, noted that the medical center faces challenges in the years ahead because of the declining number of medical school graduates entering family medicine. With more than half of the medical center’s current physicians over the age of 60, Dr. McConville said it is essential for Mercy to recruit young physicians and to convince them of the quality of the community and the people living here.
Nurse Jill Zintz, R.N., another longtime staffer, began working at the former St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in 1984 at age 18. “… While working the many different shifts, I began to realize I had become part of a much bigger family — its name was Mercy.”
Her father once told her that the hospital was one of the closest places on earth to heaven. She thinks about that observation daily. “Patients and family members who choose our hospital enter our doors with personal fears and anxieties related to their physical, emotional and spiritual health. However, when we are at our lowest point, we tend to look upward, towards God, for answers and comfort. As Mercy employees, we embrace the fact that we can practice our spirituality by praying with a patient or family and by offering chaplain services.”
While many things have changed — from buildings to medical technology to staff and physicians — the one constant has been the spirit of Mercy, said Clinton Christianson, president and CEO. Compassion and hospitality have passed from one generation to another. “It is as visible today in the hearts of our retirees as it is in the faces of our current Mercy family.”
Like Dr. McConville, Christianson stressed the importance of preparing for the future by finding “creative ways to meet the needs of our community and strengthen the foundations of our hospital so that 100 years from today another generation will look back with the same pride that we feel on this monumental occasion.”
Following Christianson’s remarks, Bishop Amos blessed the medical center campus and the several-hundred people who had come to celebrate.
A poetic tribute to Mercy
By Fr. Dennis Schaab, C.PP.S.
A hundred years of births and deaths
A hundred years of bated breath
Will she live or die or be the same?
The hurts and fears with many names
A hundred years of care with prayer.
Always there with prayer and care
The Mercy Sisters know how it is done
They saved this place when the rest had run
All are welcome. Scrub the germs and heal the soul
We pray and work with no mind the toll
We boast these past 100 years
When miner’s lung brought many tears
The Sisters came by train to help our town
To care for all when luck was down
By vow they live the life of the poor
And they never closed the door
The Sisters are gone I’m sad to say
The future’s embraced and we know the way
We follow their footsteps each night and day
All Sisters and Brothers like them we pray
Bishop Martin Amos with hands of faith
Has blessed our house that keeps us safe
May the home built with prayer
Be for us a sign of care