COLUMBIA — For 65 years the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine have been ministering to the people of South Carolina through their hospital, changing the landscape of health care for the state. Such a milestone is cause for celebration, so on June 3, a ceremony was held at Providence Hospital in Columbia with gratitude coming from the church and the community that the sisters have faithfully served.
“The story of Providence Hospital is a story of faith, the faith of the people at the time who launched this great venture 65 years ago,” said Bishop Robert J. Baker, who recapped the admirable collaboration between religious and laypeople who despite the harsh economy in 1938, were willing to make the personal sacrifices necessary to build the hospital. This collaboration exists today and is the reason for its extraordinary growth into three facilities, Providence Hospital, Providence Heart Institute and Providence Hospital Northeast.
The bishop directed special thanks to the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine who have been living the Gospel from the hospital’s inception by selfless act such as mortgaging their motherhouse in 1938 to make this dream a reality.
“Just as Jesus was here not to be served but to serve, you are here to serve unselfishly. Just as Jesus had no ulterior motives, you have none, and just as Jesus sought no profit or compensation, neither do you,” said Baker.
Sister Judith Ann Karam, CSA, who is the president and chief executive officer CSA Health Systems, recognized the sisters present at the ceremony and thanked them for their contribution to the hospital.
Karam also expressed gratitude to everyone who has helped the sisters carry out their mission of compassionate health care.
In recognition of the 65th anniversary, the hospital established the St. Luke’s Society honoring physicians who have “contributed significantly to the hospital with dedication, commitment and compassion in the care of patients.” The Providence Heritage Society was founded this year to honor community leaders who “have demonstrated unsurpassed dedication to the mission and values of Sisters of Charity Providence Hospitals.”
“This ministry is rightly named ‘Providence’ because God’s providential care has guided it from the beginning 65 years ago. Like a mother caring for her child, God has cared and nurtured this healing ministry and will continue to do so for the next 65 years,” Karam said.
Recognition also came from the community by representatives from state and city officials. In a proclamation signed by Governor Mark Sanford, June 3 has been officially proclaimed, “Sisters of Charity Providence Hospitals Day” in South Carolina. A city council member read a citation from Columbia Mayor Bob Coble where he also declared June 3 as “Providence Hospital Day” for the city.
Carol Tygrett a volunteer who attend the ceremony is part of the Mended Hearts program, where patients who were treated at Providence come back as volunteers. “My husband and I owe our lives to Providence. We were both heart patients here and want to give back something that was given us and that was hope and encouragement during our hospital stay,” said Tygrett.
One of the employees, Julie Giddens, a registered nurse, said the anniversary celebration gave her an opportunity to reflect how the hospital has been training people for so many years with the same mission. “Providence is a place where everyone is family and we want to pass that message on to each of our patients.”
When asked what the community would have done without Providence Hospital, Dr. Franklin Martin who has worked at the hospital for 40 years answered, “The community would have survived but it would not have the complete loving care that Providence Hospital has provided throughout the years.”
Martin, who was recently inducted into the St. Luke’s Society, remembered when he joined Providence and how he based his decision to be part of the team on the fact that the sisters would not turn anyone away for treatment. As a Christian physician who had done many free home visits prior to joining Providence, he agreed with that philosophy of care.
Steve Purves, president and chief executive officer of the Sisters of Charity Providence Hospitals, closed the ceremony by saying to all their supporters, employees and volunteers, “We feel your support every day. We owe a debt of gratitude to all those people who have been committed to our mission and made it a reality.”