By Amy Schutte, St. Luke’s Health Foundation Major Gifts Officer
When the Benedictine Sisters first set foot in the Northwest in 1882, they realized very quickly their lives would be different from the cloistered community they had left behind in the Swiss Alps; there were many needs in America and the sisters wanted to help as many people as possible.
Their journey started in Oregon and Washington, leaving a trail of schools in their wake as they moved from town to town. Eventually they landed in Cottonwood, Idaho where a home and chapel were framed with a view of the Seven Devils mountain range in the distance and the smell of pine trees lingered in the air, reminding the sisters of their homeland.
With education as their prime ministry, the sisters opened schools throughout Idaho and started dabbling in healthcare, opening a hospital in Cottonwood and eventually buying land from Carl Valentine in Wendell, Idaho during 1923 to operate St. Valentine’s Hospital.
In 1952, the sisters established St. Benedicts Hospital in Jerome and on a balmy May day, the staff moved patients from St. Valentine’s to the new hospital in a one day trip using four ambulances and several cars. Sister Cornelia, RN held a newborn baby in her arms the entire way to the hospital and the National Guard helped transfer equipment and furnishings.
St. Benedicts is where Marjorie Mason, a beloved RN, made her way into the hearts of patients and staff alike in her 19 years of skilled, compassionate care and kindness. She saw the integration of St. Benedicts and St. Luke’s Health System in 2011 and received the St. Luke’s President’s Award in 2012.
After a battle with cancer, Marj passed away in 2013 but her legacy is continuing on in the friends she left behind. “She was able to work all nursing areas and had a can-do attitude and would help anyone complete a task. If Environmental Services needed help cleaning a room in order to get a patient in quickly, Marj would jump in,” Howell said. “She was a voice for nursing with physicians and administration and she was willing to come in on her days off with a smile on her face.”
Marj often called her nursing career the “chocolate of her life” and played an integral role in the hospital as a teacher, mentor and caregiver. Sister Barbara Glodowski oversaw her memorial service and spoke about her love for helping people.
“Each time I visited Marj, I was introduced to many women and men in her life who referred to her as their best friend. Some drove or flew from distances to tell her goodbye,” Glodowski said. “Most of the friendships spanned 20 to 30 years, what a legacy!”
In honor of these incredible women, a bridge has been built in the St. Luke’s Jerome Park, located on the Northside of the hospital. The park has been used for more than 60 years for celebrations of all kinds, acting as a gathering place for graduations, birthdays, picnics, and even weddings.
Previously, there was an old wooden bridge in the park which is now replaced with the new St. Luke’s Jerome Memorial Bridge. This bridge has been funded solely by donations from the community and St. Luke’s employees and will be a lasting legacy for generations to come.
The bridge will be dedicated in a public ceremony on August 2 at 12:15 p.m. and many of the St. Gertrude’s sisters will be in attendance.
“St. Luke’s Jerome has such a powerful story to tell with the past and present represented by this bridge. Our past is symbolized by St. Benedicts and the vision of the Benedictine Sisters and our present through the integration with St. Luke’s Health System, which has brought a new level of healthcare to our community,” Curtis Maier, St. Luke’s Jerome Administrator said.
Sister Barbara Jean Glodowski, who is the mission and spiritual care director at the hospital, said, “It really brings me to tears — this organization appreciates the sisters so much and the kind of work and legacy we have brought about in the last 60 years.”