The feast of St. Vincent de Paul, patron saint of St. Vincent de Paul Medical Center in Cleveland, was a bittersweet occasion this year.
Last month, the Sisters of Charity Health System, which operates the medical center, announced it would transition the facility beginning next month from an inpatient medical center to a health campus offering a variety of outpatient and other services. The hospital, in downtown Cleveland, was founded in 1865 by the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine.
Bishop Edward Malesic visited the medical center on Sept. 27 to celebrate Mass and to observe the operation of the Refresh Food Pantry, a monthly program that operates during lunchtime from June through September. It welcomes those in need to register and receive a hot lunch, food, produce, blood pressure and other checkups and more. Often there is music, as well. Unfortunately, the day of the bishop’s visit, which was the final pantry day for the season, rain forced a reduction in operations.
SVCMC officials said the pantry, which began in 2021, has been well received and is another way the facility provides outreach services to the neighborhood.
In his homily at the feast day Mass, the bishop said with the inspiration and intercession of St. Vincent de Paul, “so much goodness has flowed from this great oasis of healing in our community for 157 years.” He said the hospital built an enduring legacy of medical innovation and outstanding, high-quality compassionate care for all who need help. In addition, he thanked the sisters for all they have done and what they will continue to do.
Among its achievements, he said the hospital was Cleveland’s first surgical pavilion and amphitheater. It housed the city’s first Catholic school of nursing, it was one of the first hospitals in the country to offer special help for those suffering from alcohol addiction at Rosary Hall, and it was where the first open-heart surgical procedure was performed in the Midwest.
However, Bishop Malesic said the “shifting sands of the health care landscape now lead to a new vision for the future of St. Vincent Charity Health Campus. Thank you for not simply packing up and leaving the community. People need the vision of health care you will bring about in this hub of holistic health and wellness. I know this is not an easy transition,” he said.
Referring to the facility’s patron saint, the bishop noted he encourages us with his word, telling us, “We should take as a maxim never to be surprised at current difficulties, no more than at a passing breeze, because with a little patience, we shall see them disappear. Time changes everything.”
What has been done at the medical center and what is hoped will continue in the future “is to have the eyes of God to see those who are in need and provide for them what others cannot or will not. I want to thank Jan Murphy (president and CEO, Sisters of Charity Health System) and her team for keeping this place as the heartbeat of Catholic health care for our community,” the bishop said.
Adding a final thought about St. Vincent de Paul, the bishop said the saint was deeply touched by meeting the gaze of a man pleading for mercy and by the faces of a destitute family. “In them, he saw Jesus looking at him, unsettling his heart and asking him to serve Jesus without reservation in the poor. Vincent would later call the poor ‘our lords and masters,’” he added.
“My friend, you are living out the legacy of St. Vincent de Paul in the work you do. In our professional and personal lives, may St. Vincent de Paul continue to be the inspiration to see the eyes of Jesus in any person who is in need,” he added. “In the end, they will know we are Christians by our love and Jesus will know that we are his followers by our love for one another, too.”
Sister Miriam Erb, CSA, vice president of mission and ministry, Sister Judith Ann Karam, CSA, congregational leader, and Dr. Adnan Tahir, hospital president and CEO, also made brief remarks.
Plans call for the hospital to phase out inpatient services by mid-November as it transitions to a health campus model offering community-based health services.