OSF Saint Francis thanks staffers home from Haiti mission
OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria paused last Friday to thank God for the safe return of seven staff members and two of their spouses who were part of a medical mission team serving in Haiti in the days after the devastating earthquake.
“We are truly overwhelmed by what you have done,” said Sister Mary John Harvey, OSF, moments before a photo slideshow and the sharing of stories brought the reality of the effort home to a packed auditorium.
The staffers were part of a medical mission team of more than two dozen that served at a clinic in Cyvadier, south of Port-au-Prince, operated by the Friends of the Children of Haiti. The team treated 2,334 patients in seven clinical days.
“Our Sisters prayed for you each day,” said Sister Mary John, who serves on the OSF Healthcare System board of directors. “God bless you and thank you.”
That the OSF employees extended the mission of the medical center — “To serve with the greatest care and love” — to those in desperate need in another country was no surprise to Keith Steffen, CEO.
“We see you living the mission every day here,” he told the group.
Msgr. Michael Bliss, director of pastoral care at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, prayed over the returning team and blessed them with holy water.
While being honored for their efforts is likely “the last thing you want,” Msgr. Bliss told the staffers “it’s important for us to affirm you and gives us who were not there the opportunity to share what you did.”
The OSF employees who were part of the medical mission included Dr. Bill Edwards, who serves as the medical director for FOTCOH; Dr. Beth Kramer; Marge Repasz, wellness education, and her husband Jerry; Kay Shank, RN; nurse recruiter, and her husband Larry; Troy Erbentraut, manager, disaster preparedness; Suzie Pilon, RN; and Sue Behrens, RN, director of the emergency department and trauma services who served as co-leader of the team.
Dr. Edwards, a pediatrician, told colleagues that in addition to seeing earthquake victims the FOTCOH clinic was one of the few to “continue to do primary care in the face of the disaster.” He thanked OSF for “allowing us to do what we did.”
The returning team emphasized the faith and goodness of the Haitian people.
“Their faith is what gets them through,” said Marge Repasz. She and her husband, Jerry — members of St. Ann’s Parish in Peoria — recently went through the JustFaith program emphasizing extending Christ’s love and justice to those in need. Sponsored in the Diocese of Peoria by Catholic Charities, JustFaith, encourages direct contacts with the poor in our communities through experiences called “border crossings.”
“This was a true border crossing,” said Marge, who said the Haiti experience left her “more grounded in faith” and “aware of what’s important in life.”
While he does not have a medical background, Jerry was kept busy at the clinic.
“I counted tens of thousands of pills,” he told The Catholic Post.
Suzie Pilon, a cardiac rehab nurse and member of St. Thomas Parish in Peoria Heights making her second trip to Haiti, called the mission trips (there are six each year) an opportunity to respond to God’s call to utilize all three aspects of stewardship: time, talent and treasure. She said she used her vacation time, her talent as a nurse, and paid her own way.
Last Friday’s gathering was also an opportunity to pray for two OSF nurses preparing to leave for Haiti in the coming weeks: Cyndi Read and Kim Turner.
Sister Mary John said that while the continued suffering in Haiti is very sad, she was grateful to the medical team for bringing “the gifts of life and happiness to many.”
Editor’s note: More information on The Friends of the Children of Haiti is found on the organization’s Web site, www.fotcoh.org. the Catholic Post will continue to spotlight diocesan connections to haiti and the need for continuing prayer and releif efforts. Contact our newsroom to suggest story ideas, email@example.com.