NEBRASKA CITY (SNR) - On Monday, Feb. 20, there will be a celebratory Mass and dinner marking the 85th anniversary of Saint Mary’s Community Hospital in Nebraska City.
Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz will be the main celebrant at the Mass, which will be held in the hospital’s third-floor chapel at 11 a.m. A luncheon will follow for the clergy, hospital staff and volunteers, nurses, doctors and other well-wishers.
"We’re very proud of our community hospital," said Father Michael McCabe, hospital chaplain and pastor of St. Mary Parish in Nebraska City.
Father McCabe – with the help of St. Mary’s assistant pastor Father Matthew Rolling and St. Benedict Parish pastor Father Mark Cyza – ministers at the hospital daily with visits to patients and Mass in the chapel.
The 6:20 a.m. Mass usually sees 30-35 faithful laity in attendance, a number that doubles during Lent and Advent. And it’s not just for hospital staff. Area workers also find it convenient to worship at Saint Mary Hospital before they start their day.
Father McCabe also helps coordinate hospital visits with other ministers in the area from Lutheran, Methodist or Baptist denominations and the like. They have a system to let area pastors know when a member of their congregation is being treated at Saint Mary.
Saint Mary’s Hospital has been a cornerstone of the community since it opened February 13, 1927. Originally a four-story building with 35 beds, an x-ray machine and $25,000 worth of state-of-the-art surgical and medical equipment, it was operated by the Sisters of St. Francis of Maryville, Mo.
Ten years later, the hospital had admitted almost 10,000 patients. It was time to expand.
The sisters were able to add a new 15-bed north wing and a beautiful chapel designed in the Roman Basilica style. On any weekday, Monday through Friday, visitors will find the faithful observing Perpetual Adoration in the chapel.
"We have most hours covered," said Father McCabe.
Outdoors, there is another place to pray and worship: the Grotto of Lourdes. It was erected and blessed by Bishop Louis B. Kucera on October 11, 1942.
By the late 1950s, the community had grown and with it, the need for another expansion at Saint Mary’s Hospital. Bishop James Casey dedicated the new South Wing on May 15, 1960.
Not only did the South Wing include additional beds, it was equipped with an obstetrics unit and nursery, an all-new surgical suite, a laboratory, and more advanced x-ray technology.
During a $1.85 million remodeling project in 1979, Saint Mary’s Hospital was outfitted with even more beds, a new emergency suite, an upgraded laboratory, and respiratory and physical therapy areas.
The hospital was renovated again in 2001 to improve patient comfort and energy conservation. New roofing, new windows, and a new heating/cooling system were added. The main entrance, lobby, and business office were renovated, and a new shrine was built where the old west entrance had been.
Following the trend toward more outpatient care, the hospital actually reduced its number of inpatient rooms, but made them more comfortable and more private than the older style. In the obstetrics department, remodeled labor-delivery-recovery rooms cater to mothers, their new babies and their families.
Renovations continue as needed.
"The surgery wing and ER were recently updated," Father McCabe said.
Meanwhile, ownership of the hospital changed hands a few times. The Sisters of Saint Francis in Colorado took over in 1983, and then transferred the hospital to Saint Elizabeth Health Systems five years later. In December 1997, St. Mary’s Hospital became affiliated with Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), which gives patients and their caregivers the support of a whole network of medical specialists and hospital care.
"Saint Mary’s Hospital is governed by CHI’s core values," noted Father McCabe. "Integrity, compassion, reverence and excellence."
These values are not restricted to the hospital itself. The staff and volunteers have reached out to the community as well. In recent years, Saint Mary’s Hospital has led businesses, schools and area towns in wellness programs. They also launched an anti-violence campaign in the schools.
Father McCabe mentioned that Saint Mary’s Hospital is important to the community in another way: "It’s one of the biggest employers in the area, too."
Above all, Saint Mary’s Hospital gives everyone who lives in and around Nebraska City the confidence of knowing that there’s a place they can go for compassionate, capable medical care.
"People know they’re being taken care of by nurses and doctors they know so well," said Father McCabe.
All are welcome to join in the festivities Feb. 20. No reservation is required. For more information, contact Saint Mary Hospital at (402) 873-3321.