SCARBOROUGH — I’m six years retired from Mercy Hospital, having worked 20 years in the addiction program.

Dr. Stanley J. Evans was invited by Mercy to bring his treatment program down from Bangor’s Eastern Maine Medical in 1983.

In the earlier years, the program was called The Alcohol Institute. It is now referred to as The Recovery Center.

As I recall, we considered the mission statement as the compass that kept employees true to the commitment to provide quality health care to all.

Let me share the exact wording of Mercy’s mission statement as written on the back of employee and volunteer badges. It reads, “Mercy Hospital carries out the healing work of Christ by providing clinically excellent compassionate health care for all, with special concern for the poor and disadvantaged.”

I appreciated those words mentioning we were doing the healing work of Christ. It put a strong emphasis on faith and the need to treat people, especially those considered “disadvantaged” with respect and dignity.

That leads me to mention the founder of The Sisters of Mercy, Catherine McAuley. As a young child in Ireland, she learned from her father the signifcance of sharing with those less fortuntate.

As an adult, when Catherine inherited a great deal of money, she chose to help young girls who, it was said, were being ill treated by employers.

Catherine gathered her good friends and opened a house in the center of Dublin.

She picked a part of the city where the wealthy resided, as she wanted them to see the young girls who came to live in her home. Her intent was that women of means would join in and help them.

The girls were taught to sew, cook and learn skills to help them live in the world, in order to care for themselves.

I expect Catherine had to deal with the finances, especially as more and more flocked to the home, but Catherine’s heart was focused on caring for them.

At some point, the Catholic Church stepped in and encouraged Catherine to become a nun so the church could protect and shelter her worthy project.

After much prayer, Catherine agreed and went away to learn studies to become a sister. She returned to Dublin and thus began the Order of the Sisters of Mercy.

My husband and I visited Ireland in 2002 and went through Catherine’s Dublin home, now referred to as Mercy International Center, located on Baggot Street.

It was a very powerful experience to learn details of her story in that setting and really see the impact this one woman made in the lives of so many.

My own experiences working with the Sisters of Mercy were meaningful.

They were always supportive of the community we worked with, the sick and suffering alcoholics and addicts.

As a counselor and manager of volunteers, I remember several times asking them for help; for instance, if a patient was ready to leave treatment and didn’t have funds to get home, I sometimes asked a sister if the order might be able to provide money for a bus ticket.

I was told, “Let me check – come back in an hour or so.” The money was always there.

I noticed one significant omission in the recent Mercy story in The Portland Press Herald showing a “timeline” of all the changes Mercy has gone through since its inception in 1918.

There was no mention of the premier treatment center that opened in 2001.

The Sisters of Mercy were instrumental in supporting the conversion from the old Westbrook Community Hospital to the new “behavioral health campus” housing both the inpatient and outpatient program for The Recovery Center.

Mercy Hospital has proven over and over that the mission statement is real, and Mercy truly is at the heart of healing.

The community knows it, Mercy’s patients know it and, of course, so do the hundreds of employees and volunteers.

I understand these are difficult times and wish Mercy’s leadership all the best in moving ahead with plans to join forces with Steward Health Care System.

I just hope the work with the poor and disadvantaged will not be pushed aside in the competitive world of business, whose bottom line is to make a profit.

I trust CEO Eileen Skinner’s remark will remain true when she says, “Mercy’s Catholic mission doesn’t conflict with the notion of a for-profit hospital,” and adds, “The things that are essential – our mission, our charity care, treating all patients with dignity – will not change.”

One can only hope that Catherine McAuley, if she were still alive, would not have any cause to be concerned about the ultimate fate of her mission.


– Special to the Press Herald