By MARK RALSTON, Special to the Bulletin | Published October 16, 2015
LAVONIA—Asking for God’s blessings upon St. Mary’s Sacred Heart Hospital, its physicians and its staff, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory led more than 170 people in a blessing ceremony on Wednesday, Sept. 30, in a giant tent set up on the hospital’s front lawn.
“May all the members of this community know that when they come to this facility, they will find people filled with the same compassion as Christ had for the poor, the sick and the needy,” Archbishop Gregory said, continuing, “and that they, too, will experience, in your care for them, the care that Christ has for them.”
St. Mary’s Sacred Heart Hospital, located at 367 Clear Creek Parkway in Lavonia, became part of St. Mary’s Health Care System on June 1, when St. Mary’s purchased and renamed the struggling Ty Cobb Regional Medical Center. The purchase kept the hospital open. Now, St. Mary’s is working to reduce costs, improve quality and boost patient satisfaction.
“We are called to make this hospital stronger and more vibrant, and with your confidence, we will be able to do just that,” St. Mary’s president and CEO Don McKenna told those assembled. “We need to make this place essential in the community, essential to providing the compassion, the care and the healing that we are called to do, to make this a house of healing.”
McKenna noted that the name “Sacred Heart” has deep meaning for St. Mary’s.
“In 1938, when the Missionary Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus were called to St. Mary’s in Athens to reopen a hospital that had closed after the deaths of its founders, they answered that call,” McKenna said. “They entered an empty building and they inspired it and infused it with passion, love and hard work. And from that empty building, St. Mary’s became a transforming healing presence in northeast Georgia. We are here today to do the same.”
“Today is a special occasion in the life of St. Mary’s Sacred Heart Hospital,” said the hospital’s interim president, Jeff English. “This blessing ceremony is an important milestone as we strive to live our mission, which is to serve together in the spirit of the Gospel as a compassionate and transforming healing presence in our community.”
In his homily, Archbishop Gregory linked the healing mission of Sacred Heart Hospital to the healing mission of Jesus Christ.
“The Gospels reveal that Jesus was a man of deep feeling,” he said. “And today, in a special way, as we ask God’s blessing on St. Mary’s Sacred Heart Hospital, we ask the Lord to give us sensitive hearts as well, to make our hearts as compassionate as is the heart of Christ. We want our hearts to be like the heart of Christ: generous, giving, compassionate, tender, open.”
The archbishop also explained the meaning of blessing in the Catholic tradition, saying: “When Catholics bless things, we don’t pretend to make brick and mortar, glass and stone holy. We use the opportunity to bless something as a real opportunity to praise God for his generosity in giving us these things.”
In their comments, McKenna and English acknowledged the work of Ty Cobb Healthcare System to bring a modern hospital to the Lake Hartwell area and to take the measures needed to ensure it could survive in the fast-changing healthcare industry.
“Without their vision and dedication to making sure this community is served by a first-class hospital, we would not be here today,” English said of the Ty Cobb leadership. “Thank you for all you have done and continue to do for our community.”
Board chair Diane Toney closed the ceremony, which included musical presentations by the parish choir of Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Hartwell, as well as a reflection by Sister of Notre Dame de Namur Patricia Loome, St. Mary’s vice president of mission, and intercessions led by Marilyn Williams, St. Mary’s director of spiritual care.
“This blessing today invites the spirit of the Lord into this place that our community has created,” Toney said, crediting Ty Cobb Healthcare for managing the hospital through hard times. “Not only does it bless this space—the physical structure built by Ty Cobb Healthcare and now entrusted to St. Mary’s—it also blesses the bonds that connect St. Mary’s Sacred Heart Hospital to our community and our Creator.”