Niagara County's only Catholic hospital most appropriately began its year of centennial celebration with a Centennial Mass, celebrated by Bishop Edward U. Kmiec on Wednesday evening in the Fatima Shrine.
The lighted grounds of Fatima added to the festivities, while the dome-shaped shrine was filled with several hundred members of the hospital staff, volunteers, members of the community and a dozen parish priests who concelebrated the Mass with Kmiec.
Mount St. Mary's President Judith A. Maness erased the separation of hospital staff and community at the evening Mass saying, "We are all part of Mount St. Mary's Hospital."
The challenges of the past few months, as the hospital administration struggled with the state's health care recommendations and rejected calls to merge with Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, were all put on a back burner for the evening.
The theme for the Mass was a call to service and a call to share special gifts with the community.
Niagara University President Joseph L. Levesque gave the homily for the evening and praised Mount St. Mary's new logo, "A Century of Service, a Lifetime of Commitment," calling it a "noble phrase to live up to."
"Many of you could tell me what your [own] gifts are, but the gift given to Mount St. Mary's Hospital is the power of healing. A century of serving people by healing -- what a wonderful gift you have been given," said Levesque.
Levesque said the staff had done their work as a team, as one body working together and congratulated them on a job well done.
He also offered his own "creative plan" for the hospital future, suggesting that all staff, including doctors and board members, ask people who are coming into the lobby to sit and have their feet washed, just as Jesus did to show his humility and service to his disciples.
A parade of "gifts" commemorated the hospital's 100-year history through photos and documents presented to the altar, ranging from a photo of the original 30-bed hospital on Sixth Street in the City of Niagara Falls to photos of the current hospital, which opened in Lewiston in 1965.
Kmiec closed the evening with touching thoughts on the importance of hospitals and related how important a role a hospital played in his life when he lost his brother this past New Year's Day.
"It's not simply a job. It's a place of ministry and service to others. [When I was with my brother in New Jersey] I got a close look at critical care and was so impressed with the wonderful loving care. It's a place where love is given and shared. That's what we try to do with Catholic hospitals. People come with fear and it is dissipated with loving care," Kmiec said.
Centennial celebrations continue with a recognition of the Lewiston campus on Feb. 14; a celebration of 100 years of nursing during Nurses Week in May; a reunion of orthopedic patients who participated in Operation Joint on June 22; a 100th birthday and employee picnic on Aug. 28; and a Centennial Gala on Sept. 28.
Mount St. Mary's is a 179-bed hospital with 1,200 employees, 200 physicians and 250 volunteers.