The late Sister Mary honored for keeping a statue a part of local hospitals history

PITTSBURG — She had the faith to move it. 

Many years ago the late Sister Mary Immaculate Healy was adamant about having the statue of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. The statue sat in a pond called “Mt. Carmel Lake” at the original location of Mt. Carmel Hospital. 

In the 1970s Sister Mary orchestrated the moving of the statue to the new Mt. Carmel Hospital, now known as Ascension Via Christi.

Because of her efforts a special celebration was hosted in her honor years later on Tuesday at the hospital. Tuesday was also feastday of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. 

Mt. Carmel Hospital was opened in 1903 on the north side of Pittsburg, and was operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Wichita. The statue was at this location in 1903 until it was moved. 

In 1968 there was a fundraiser to locate the new hospital, which is reportedly one of the “shortest fund drives on record in Pittsburg.” That same year, ground was broken for the new hospital which was relocated to Centennial and Rouse and renamed Mt. Carmel Medical Center.  

Sister Dolora May said Sister Mary thought the statue should continue to be part of the hospital.

Sister Dolora, who co-founded the St. Joseph Adoption Agency with Sister Mary, said the statue is now “at the proper place, here at the entrance of Mt. Carmel or as we know Mt. Carmel today.”

“The statue was very precarious to move,” Sister Dolora said, “first of all its size, and secondly, it had been in this pond for years and years.” 

A moving crew looked at the statue and decided they could move it, but it was dangerous feat because it could have broken, Sister Dolora said. 

“She had the faith to move it and of course the gentleman who helped her had the ability to move it,” she said.

Hospital maintenance staff sandblasted the statue to get it the way it looks today because it was in a poor state from being left at the pond, Sister Dolora said. 

During the ceremony two white rose bushes were placed around the statue, they represent “a sign of life” Sister Dolora said.  A crystal plaque was placed in the chapel in the hospital in honor of Sister Mary. 

Sister Mary’s nieces Veronica M. Gittrich and Barbara Mies, and great niece Leslianne Craft, along with many others attended the ceremony. The nieces reminisced about visiting their aunt, who died in August of 2018.

“It [moving the statue] shows her perseverance to get the job done, when she puts her mind to something she did everything she could to make it happen,” Gittrich said. “She knew how to work with people and she loved our blessed mother.

“I think that is why it was so important to her.”

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.