I just returned home from St. Joseph’s Hospital in Elmira. It was my privilege this evening to preside and preach at a Eucharistic Liturgy celebrating the 100th anniversary of the establishment of that noble institution. The liturgy was one of several events scheduled to commemorate the medical care, compassion and service to the community that have been hallmarks of St. Joseph’s since its earliest days.
The large turnout at Ss. Peter and Paul Church was a great tribute to the history of the hospital and an expression of gratitude to the Sisters of St. Joseph, the current administration of the hospital and to all of the benefactors and volunteers who support the mission of the hospital.
This great enterprise began when Dr. David Murphy and John Hassett, a local attorney, saw the need for a hospital in Elmira. When a suitable building became available, these two gentlemen approached Bishop Bernard McQuaid, the founding bishop of our diocese. Bishop McQuaid approved the project in 1907 and, for $10,000, the title to the available building was transferred to the Sisters of St. Joseph. Seven sisters were assigned to what would become St. Joseph’s Hospital.
The beginning was difficult. At the time that the hospital was opened, medical care was delivered in the home to those who could afford it. Hospitals were seen as places where the indigent went for medical care. The sisters were committed to serving those in need. As a result, they had trouble attracting physicians and the funding needed for the operation of the hospital. But they persevered and, with growing support from people in the community, became more and more stable.
The early days were not the only difficult times St. Joseph’s experienced. Through the years the sisters and their collaborators and supporters in the Elmira area have kept St. Joseph’s healing ministry alive through two world wars, the Great Depression and at least two catastrophic floods.
In recent years St. Joseph’s, along with many hospitals in upstate New York, have coped with a health-care environment which is extremely complex and seems ever to be in flux. It is much to the credit of the Sisters of St. Joseph and the leadership and supporters of St. Joseph’s that they have been able to make the adjustments necessary to maintain the healing mission begun a century ago.
Those who founded the hospital in 1908 did so with a commitment to heal in body, mind and spirit as Jesus did for all who came to him.
Tonight at Ss. Peter and Paul, I think we were all grateful that our mothers and fathers in faith have been faithful to that mission; and, we were aware that those now responsible for the hospital continue that tradition.
The road has never been easy. It requires sacrifice and a willingness to put others first. But, the women and men who have made St. Joseph’s Hospital what it is have always done that in a remarkable way. On the road home this evening, I thanked the Lord for all those great people and asked for God’s blessing on them as they meet the challenges of tomorrow.
Peace to all.