Sister Mary Pierre O'Regan, 93, helped save St. Joseph Hospital

November 20, 1996|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Sister Mary Pierre O'Regan, O.S.F., who was sent to Baltimore to close St. Joseph Hospital and wound up leading the effort to save it and build a new one in Towson, died Nov. 8 of heart failure at Assisi House, the Aston, Pa., retirement home of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia.

Sister Pierre, who was 93, was administrator of the Towson facility for 10 years. She retired in 1975.

She served her first term as administrator of St. Joseph Hospital from 1939 to 1947, when the hospital was in the 1400 block of N. Caroline St. in East Baltimore.

After an assignment at St. Francis Hospital in Trenton, N.J., where she led the effort to build a new wing, she returned in 1956 to St. Joseph, which dated to the Civil War, to oversee its closing.

The city had condemned the old buildings and the Fire Department did not renew the hospital's license.

Urged by the medical staff and community leaders to save the hospital, Sister Pierre appealed to her Franciscan superiors and they told her that if she wanted to keep it open, she had permission to do so.

Sister Pierre kept the old hospital operating while she helped to raise millions of dollars for a new one.

A registered nurse who had worked as an operating room supervisor, she canvassed the staff, talked with doctors and visited other hospitals with architects. She had a hand in every aspect of the 450-bed hospital, which opened in 1965.

"That was a pretty unique role for a woman in that day and age," said Rosemarie Liberatore, a friend for more than 40 years and retired vice president of nursing and patient services at St. Joseph.

Sister Pierre had her bedroom at the Towson hospital placed above the ambulance entrance to the emergency room so that she could keep an eye on things. Wearing her rimless eyeglasses, the 5-foot, 6-inch nun appeared to be everywhere.

"She was all over the place and you never knew when or where you'd see her. It could be 3 a.m. and there she would be checking on patients or the staff," said Ms. Liberatore with a laugh.

Staff members remembered her as firm but also as kind and charitable, ordering them to care for patients who could not pay.

"She was good to the poor and never let anyone with need go by," said Sister Madeleine Francis, O.S.F., a former co-worker.

"Sister was certainly the key to the whole operation and she had tremendous knowledge about what it takes to run a hospital. Today's St. Joe is a living monument to her good work," said Gil Kunz, who served as president and vice president of the hospital's advisory board and chaired the first fund-raising campaign for the Towson facility.

"Sister Pierre was an integral part in the development and success of St. Joseph, providing us a legacy of loving service and compassionate care," said John Prout, president and chief executive officer of what now is St. Joseph Medical Center. "She was, is and always will be with us in spirit."

Sister Pierre was named Woman of the Year by the Towsontown Business and Professional Women's Clubs in 1972 and the Archbishop Keough Council of the Knights of Columbus named her Citizen of the Year in 1975.

The next year, a street at the hospital was named for her.

Of her life and work, she told The Sun in a 1972 interview, "I can take no credit for this. God performs miracles all the time and He had this plan for me to carry out. He gave me the people to help. I simply worked through God and people."

Born in Limerick City, Ireland, on the Feast of St. Joseph, she left home in 1920 and entered the Franciscan Novitiate at St. Joseph Academy in Pendelton, Ore., where she professed her vows in 1923.

A Mass of Christian burial was offered Nov. 13.

A memorial Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Dec. 2 in the chapel of St. Joseph Medical Center, 7620 York Road.

There are no survivors.

Pub Date: 11/20/96

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