Mercy Health Saint Mary’s celebrated its 128th Anniversary, known as Founders Day, on Wednesday, August 18, 2021. Colleagues were invited to a walk-thru celebration and received a complimentary beverage and dessert. They also signed posters and recognized colleagues who have inspired and mentored their health care journey.
Saint Mary’s was born on August 18, 1893 when the Sisters of Mercy received the deed to Mary McNamara’s former home on Lafayette Avenue in Grand Rapids. The pioneering women transformed the residence into a 15-bed hospital: A temporary home for those in need of acute healing, no matter how they identified or what means they had. Fittingly, Saint Mary’s is still recognized in the community for its commitment to care for all.
“I relish the story of three Sisters of Mercy who answered the call and traveled from Big Rapids to begin their ministry here in Grand Rapids in the home of Mary McNamara,” saidMatt Biersack, MD, Chief Medical Officer and Interim President of Mercy Health Saint Mary’s.“Their call was to provide care for the least among us – the poor and the marginalized – and I can’t help but think we’re all called each day to continue to do the same. Now, 128 years later, we’re standing strong “on the shoulders of giants,” looking confidently forward together.”
A reflection for this year’s Founders Day was provided by Mission Leader Scott Opperman and focused on the resilience and grit of the colleagues who serve.
“I once suggested that if we made a Saint Mary’s playlist that represented us, Tom Petty’s I Won’t Back Down would be our number one song,” said Opperman. “When we read a sampling of the song’s lyrics below, we can hear our interdisciplinary care teams and all who support our healing mission singing this about the care we provide our patients and their loved ones no matter what, as well as – and as important – for one another. If we listen carefully, we can also hear the sisters and the colleagues who served before us.”
The lyrics to the popular Petty song fit the current culture as well as the past. Saint Mary’s early sisters and colleagues would have empathized with the challenges we face with the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the hospital’s first thirty years, Saint Mary’s led and cared for the community through polio, the Spanish Flu (1918-1920), and diphtheria (1920s). Staff also cared for veterans from several wars in Latin America and the Pacific and Caribbean islands, as well as World War I. They cared for a growing number of immigrants, moreover, who were poor and vulnerable—many of our ancestors.
The Tom Petty song played in the background Wednesday as colleagues enjoyed a snack and beverage. For 128 years, the Saint Mary’s team has been proud to serve, proud to have known what’s right, and they’ve stood their ground.
“Well, I won’t back down, No, I’ll stand my ground
Won’t be turned around
And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down
Gonna stand my ground”
- Tom Petty, I Won’t Back Down