Mother Mary Francis, O.P., superior general of the Dominican Sisters, Congregation of St. Rose of Lima (Hawthorne Dominicans) offered the following remarks at a Mass of Thanksgiving celebrated Aug. 27 by Archbishop Charles Chaput at St. Christopher Church, Philadelphia. The Mass marked a farewell to Sacred Heart Home for Incurable Cancer, Philadelphia, which is run by the Dominican Sisters. The home closed Aug. 31. See a June 13 story on the home and the sisters’ ministry in CatholicPhilly.com.
Archbishop Chaput, Msgr. Garvin, our dear Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, our Dominican friars and all the priests of the archdiocese, our deacons, all the religious, our dear friends, family, employees, volunteers and benefactors: Thank you for taking time from your busy schedules to join in our Mass of thanksgiving.
I am honored to be among all of you here today. It is a day of thanksgiving and in reality a day of celebration for God’s gift to our community to have had the opportunity to bring care, compassion and love to those in need in the Philadelphia area for the past 88 years.
While Mother Mary Alphonsa had hoped to open a new home in Philadelphia, it was not until after her death that Mother Rose, continuing in the same spirit of loving service, opened Sacred Heart Home. The home was dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, just as Mother Alphonsa had dedicated our community to the Sacred Heart. They both knew by faith that God would take care of it all.
Today we can look back on the previous 88 years and thank God for the protection and care he has given us. God has helped us to create and build this home. It’s God’s house! We were happy to share in his service and bring him to those who came through our doors to spend their final days in comfort and peace.
Now we must pause and that is God’s will as well, and in a sense he has shown us that. Some decisions, regardless of the logic that is applied, remain difficult decisions to make. The plan is not well marked but we know what he is calling us to do.
When we left our home in Fall River, Massachusetts in August of 2002, one of our Dominican friars said to me, “Why are your sisters so sad? God gave you this home for 70 years and now he wants it for something else.” I believe this suspension is just the same case. For as we temporarily (please God) leave our beloved home in Hunting Park, someone else has a great need of this building for three to five years. A sign of hope? The hand of God? I truly believe so. After all, it’s God’s house, not ours.
So we give thanks to God for the last 88 years, for our vocation and our mission and all that he has planned for us in the future.
We could not celebrate today without recognizing the people that he has placed in our path to assist us, for we did not do this alone.
We thank you, Archbishop Chaput, for your graciousness. We are honored and especially grateful to you for adjusting your busy schedule to be here today to celebrate this Mass of thanksgiving for us. We thank you for the tremendous support and concern that you have shown us. Mother Rose commented on the kindness of Cardinal Dougherty when she opened the foundation and I have personally experienced great kindness and compassion from you as we prepare to leave.
A special note of gratitude to Msgr. Garvin for his many years of friendship and for allowing us to have this Mass in his parish. We thank all the priests who serve or have served at Sacred Heart Home. We thank you for all the assistance and the ministry that you have given us. You so willingly feed us at the table of the Lord with his Word and his Body, and this has sustained us in our mission.
Of course, we must recognize the long-standing dedication that the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales have shown us from the very beginning to this point and the courageous ministry that Father Kilty has given us until just recently when he was no longer able to say Mass.
And a special thanks to our Dominican friars, Father Carbonaro, Father Walsh, Msgr. Ricci and Father Kozac for providing Mass for us these last few weeks.
To our doctor and our employees, we thank you for your care and compassion and for the respect that you have shown to our patients. You are truly an incredible group of people … a true Sacred Heart family. I am convinced there are none like you!
We thank our volunteers for all the kind acts of charity that they have so faithfully shown our patients for so many years.
To our benefactors who have supported us and helped us to truly experience the Divine Providence of God — we could not do it as well without you.
To all our sisters who ever served in this home, we are grateful for your legacy of good works. To our sisters currently assigned to Sacred Heart Home who have shown heroic virtue during this entire process, I want them to hear the words of Mother Rose in her diary at the opening of Sacred Heart Home: “I think, will the sisters who are going on this foundation be brave and self-sacrificing?” I can say to Mother Rose, a resounding “yes!”
There is always a danger when you begin to thank people that you will forget someone so we must extend general thanks to all who have helped us in any way.
All those mentioned or unmentioned we now wish to say: From the bottom of our hearts to each one of you: Thank you, we will not forget you, God bless you! We will pray for you, please pray for us.
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My sister died at Sacred Heart Home in 1973. She was 7 months pregnant with her first child and the fact that she had just had brain surgery, she never saw her baby girl. My sister was born with cerebral palsy and married a man with a disability. They lived with his elderly mother and she could not take care of Jeanne so she was able to go to Sacred Home. My family loved the nuns who cared for her and my parents were there every day until she died. The Sisters gave wonderful physical and spiritual care. God Bless all of the sisters who took care of Jeanne and are no longer around and the ones that were presently caring for the dying.
How, where and when will such places stop being closed? So many wonderful parishes as well as other facilities no longer exist. I still have not received an answer to my post a few months back about what happened to St. Michael’s parish, 8 room school house, church, which rivaled almost all churches in PA. I attended mass Sunday in West Chester PA while I was visiting. St. Agnes church is dull in comparison to St. Michael’s church. From the stained glass windows to the organ fall behind the beauty and comfort of St. Michael’s church. I have often wondered where that magnificent organ which was so huge it took up the entire back wall of the upstairs. The bell ringing the call to mass has been done away with. SMH, I could continue to write until your head spins. Good night for now.
Dominicans are rendering enormous service to humanity. May their tribe increase.
A former neighbor of mine spent his final days at the home, and his family did not have enough good words to say about the care he received. I too hope that this move will be a temporary one. I will pray for the sisters.
What a loss to the Archdiocese and to the whole Church. I served Mass there every Sunday and Christmas Eves with the Oblates of Saint Francis DeSales from Northeast Catholic. Now the Sisters are gone as is Northeast Catholic. Philly will never be the same.We close such places so easily and report it without any sadness.