Benedictine Sisters Thanked for Long Health Care Service in Kingston

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Sister Dorothy Huggard, O.S.B., and Sister Gabrielle Keenen, O.S.B., both used “lovely” to describe a Mass celebrated Dec. 15 at St. Mary’s Church in Kingston to recognize and thank the Benedictine Sisters of Elizabeth, N.J., for their 118 years of health care service in Kingston.

Sister Dorothy and Sister Gabrielle are the last two Benedictine Sisters at HealthAlliance Hospital: Mary’s Avenue Campus, formerly Benedictine Hospital, where the sisters once served as teachers, nurses and administrators.

Sister Dorothy, 78, served in Kingston for 22 years and told CNY her last workday was Jan. 1 before relocating to the monastery in Elizabeth, N.J.

“Father (William) Scafidi was very kind to initiate the Mass to acknowledge our 118 years in the area and providing our type of ministry,” Sister Dorothy said of Father Scafidi, pastor of St. Mary’s-St. Peter’s parish who served as Mass celebrant.

“It was such a nice tone. Father Scafidi is a very gentle soul. He articulated the value of our presence over the years and thanked us.”

Sister Gabrielle, 87, was a nursing student at Benedictine before serving as a teacher, administrator and pastoral care work at Kingston.

“Father Scafidi did such a nice job pulling that together. I could tell from his facial expressions how much he meant what he was saying,” said Sister Gabrielle, a Poughkeepsie native who served in Kingston for 60 years.

The Benedictine Sisters began their health care mission in Kingston at Our Lady of Victory Sanitarium in 1901. Three years later, Benedictine Hospital opened. In 2009, Benedictine and Kingston hospitals merged to form HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley, and Benedictine Hospital became HealthAlliance Hospital: Mary’s Avenue Campus in 2013. Even after the hospital was no longer a Catholic facility, the Benedictine Sisters were welcomed to continue their service.

HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley is a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network, which operates Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla and Mid-Hudson Regional Hospital, formerly St. Francis Hospital, in Poughkeepsie.

The Benedictine Sisters are leaving weeks after ground was broken for a two-story, 79,000-square-foot, $92 million hospital expansion at the Mary’s Avenue Campus that will include a new 175-bed facility, 25,000 square-foot emergency care center and a 10-bed intensive care unit. The existing 48,000-square-foot hospital also will be renovated.

“It’s bittersweet for Sister Gabrielle and I, and the sisters as well,” Sister Dorothy said. “We’ve been a part of a great community. Pastoral care has taken its place in all hospitals faith-based or not faith-based. Pastoral care is a value and is seen as a value. It’s what I appreciated about the staff here.

“We’ve ministered to everyone. It’s not a matter of religion. Everyone is a child of God and should receive compassionate care.”

A reception followed the Mass, which offered everyone a chance to express their appreciation to the Benedictine Sisters.

“I’m grateful we did this. The parish opened its door to them and a number of graduating classes (from their nursing school at Benedictine) had their graduation ceremony at St. Mary’s,” Father Scafidi said.

“I gave a thank you to them (during Mass) for everything they were able to accomplish and for all they did in the 118 years they were here. They will be missed.”

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