Sister Mary Thecla Lancaster, 77, provided pastoral care

September 24, 1998|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Sister Mary Thecla Lancaster, R.S.M., who was a compassionate and ubiquitous presence in the hallways and patient rooms of Mercy Medical Center for more than 40 years, died there Saturday of leukemia. She was 77.

Assigned to the hospital's pastoral care department since 1976, she visited the sick and their families until several weeks ago when she was hospitalized, complaining that she was "being grounded."

It was not uncommon to see Sister Thecla visiting patients in the wee hours.

"She brought an extraordinary gift of being able to connect with the sick who so often feel vulnerable and alone," said Sister Helen Amos, R.S.M., president and CEO of Mercy Medical Center. "No matter how much time she spent with them, after she departed they knew they had made a special friend."

"The hardest thing for her to accept was being cared for instead of caring for others," said Sister Mary Thomas Zinkand, R.S.M., president emeritus of Mercy. "In all the years of her ministry, she always sought out those in need of a little extra help."

Born Flora Lancaster in Leonardtown, Sister Thecla entered Mercy's nursing school in 1939 and the Sisters of Mercy the next year. She professed her vows in 1943 and was a student nurse at the hospital from 1943 to 1945.

She earned her bachelor's degree in nursing from Mount St. Agnes College in 1948 and was superintendent of nursing at St. Joseph Hospital in Savannah, Ga., before returning to Mercy in 1952.

In 1956, she became a nursing instructor at Mercy and in 1963 earned a master's degree in nursing from the University of Maryland. She continued teaching until 1968, when she was assigned to Stella Maris. She returned to Mercy in 1976.

"She was always the epitome of what a nun and nurse should be," said Mary Fran McCardell, a former nursing student of Sister Thecla's and a nurse for 37 years at Mercy.

"She truly had the face of Christ, taking care of the rich or poor, old or young, and will be missed on the floors of the hospital. She was a true angel of Mercy," said Sister Helen Amos.

A Mass of Christian burial for Sister Thecla was offered yesterday.

She is survived by two brothers, Charles Lancaster of St. Inigoesand Harry Lancaster of Lexington Park; two sisters, Sister Mary of the Good Shepherd, R.G.S., of Memphis and Sister Mary Kristen, R.S.M., of Savannah, Ga.; and many nieces and nephews.

Pub Date: 9/24/98

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