Sister Cathy’s Story: Footwear and Faith

As a Franciscan Sister of Allegany, Sister Catherine Cahill is part of the order’s long and rich history with St. Joseph’s Hospitals that began in 1934.

During the height of the depression, that was the year a small group of nuns who knew more about spiritual healing than physical healing purchased the “mostly finished” hospital building. Operating a medical institution as the country was struggling was economically challenging, but the Sisters felt this was the time of greatest need.

Guided by the Franciscan philosophy of respect, hospitality, and compassion to all regardless of faith, the Sisters did everything they could to ensure the hospital would thrive. They oversaw the completion of construction, et up the administration, acquired the necessary equipment and supplies, and hired doctors, nurses and other medical professionals.

“They really did extraordinary things,” shares Sr. Cathy. “And I believe they’d be proud of what’s going on at St. Joe’s today.”

That single 40-bed hospital has grown to include multiple specialized hospitals and locations which serve tens of thousands of patients each year.

For the last 34 years, Sr. Cathy has been part of it all, first as a hospital board member and now as a Foundation board member.

Her involvement really opened her eyes as to how committed the local community has been in their support of the mission of St. Joseph’s. As someone who has spent 60 years in the service of others, seeing that was especially rewarding for Sr. Cathy.

She remembers attending the first luncheon of the Philanthropic Women of St. Joseph’s, which was created as a leadership network of community-minded women whose goal was to invest annual membership gifts to support the health of women, children, and families at St. Joseph’s Hospitals.

As she looked around the room, it occurred to her that here, once again, was a small group of intelligent, outgoing women who wanted to do extraordinary things.

“Just like their counterparts in 1934, they possessed a can-do attitude to use whatever resources were at hand to make things happen. I like to say that the biggest difference between the two groups of women was probably their shoes.”

Something that brings her particular joy is seeing how far the St. Joseph’s Hospital Foundation has come since she joined its board.

“I am consistently amazed at the dedication of the staff and the women and men who lead the Foundation. Nothing is too much. They find ways to make things happen, to provide the hospital with some of the things they couldn’t obtain otherwise. I am genuinely in awe of the work they do. The impact they’ve made on the health of our community is immeasurable.”

Before coming to St. Joseph’s, Sr. Cathy’s work took her all over the country and the world in service of the poor and marginalized. Now as she enters her 60th year as a Franciscan Sister, she feels blessed to be part of a place that exemplifies the Franciscan tradition of offering hope and compassion, and ensuring each individual’s medical, spiritual and emotional needs are met regardless of faith.

“My faith has been the cornerstone of my life. Seeing the mission of the Franciscans so beautifully continued here at St. Joseph’s, with the help of the Foundation, is so inspiring. Countless lives have been touched as a result of the unwavering vision and faith of that first group of women, and many more now have access to the same exceptional care because of all those who have followed in their determined footsteps – even if their footwear is not quite as sensible!”