Healing garden dedicated in ‘presence’ of past nuns
By Janelle Walker For The Courier-News September 20, 2013 10:50AM
Sisters Mary Claire Van Vooren and Marcellita Weller, both from the Franciscan order Sisters of the Sacred Heart, read a plaque installed at the new Healing Garden at Presence Saint Joseph Hospital. The plague names all 250 sisters that have worked at St. Joe's since its founding in 1902. | Submitted
Updated: October 23, 2013 6:31AM
ELGIN — Since her death on Aug. 3, 2012, Sister June Does’ presence can still be felt at Presence Saint Joseph Hospital, said CEO Eugene McMahon.
The nun’s presence will continue to be felt by patients and staff now that a new “healing garden” has been dedicated in her honor, hospital staff said.
Located near the Elgin hospital’s coffee shop, the garden includes two water features, a pergola, seating, a statue of St. Francis, plantings and plaques honoring both Does and the 250 sisters who have worked at the hospital in its 111 years at various locations.
The garden is designed to give patients a quiet place in nature to reflect and focus on healing, Presence Health officials said.
“Our gardens will provide guests with places to stretch their legs, breathe fresh air and feel the warmth of the sun. Varied landscaping creates seasonal changes in color, aroma and texture,” PSJ President and CEO Eugene McMahon said.
McMahon pointed out that one of the water features had a few coins in it.
Does always had a hand out to those she met, McMahon said — either to shake that hand or to take something from it for the hospital and community she loved.
“So feel free to throw some coins in the fountain. They will go to the Sister June Endowment,” McMahon said.
In her years at the hospital and working with its foundation, Does is credited with having raised $17 million: $3 million for the heart and vascular center and the hospital’s entire cardiac program; $6.6 million for the cancer center; and another $1.9 million for other expansion and modernization projects, among others.
At Does’ 85th birthday party, held at the hospital, three nurses received the first mini-grants from the Sister Does Endowment — grants to help pay for programs in their different areas to help patients.
Trained in radiologic technology, Does worked in hospitals from LaSalle, Ill. to Los Angeles before returning to Elgin in 1990. She retired — then came back working 20 hours a week at the hospital before finally retiring to the order’s mother house in Frankfort, Ill.
Even the idea for the healing garden came from Does before her death, said Rhonda Huber, vice president of the foundation.
Does, Huber, Lillian Pagni and Dorris Morency were sitting in the coffee shop after its dedication, talking about the open-air area next to them. The courtyard had been created after an addition to the hospital, but all that was in that space was a few small trees.
“Sister said it was a perfect place for a garden,” Huber said.
They began talking about raising money for the project, and Does volunteered those four women to become the committee, Huber said.
Pagni said she would help with the fundraising if a statue of St. Joseph was included in the project. “Sister June said, ‘I think you should buy the statue,’” Huber said.
That statue, made of Italian marble, is on its way to Elgin and will be installed in front of the facility once it arrives. It was held up in customs, Huber said, and didn’t arrive in time for Thursday’s garden dedication.
McMahon said that since the Sisters of the Sacred Heart chose Presence as the new health care system’s name when Provena and Resurrection Health merged in 2011, it is appropriate to note how Sister Does’ presence, and the presence of other nuns over the years, have impacted the hospital and the community.
“There is a presence here of the sisters that have given their lives to the comfort of others,” he said.