Sister Barbara Jean Glodowski
Sister Barbara Jean Glodowski retired to the motherhouse in Cottonwood from St. Luke’s Health System as director of mission and spiritual care in 2017. She did not leave without a grand celebration. Staff and city officials honored her and the overall Benedictine influence on healthcare in southern Idaho that began with the sisters founding St. Valentine’s Hospital in Wendell in 1923. The sisters learned healthcare on the job and often worked without pay to keep the hospital going.
The expanding need for healthcare in rural Idaho led the sisters to found St. Benedict’s Hospital in 1952 in Jerome that then became St. Luke’s in 2011. The healthcare system serves the Magic Valley, has over 14,000 employees, and has won the Truvan Award for healthcare excellence five years in a row. Sister Barbara Jean has been the last of the Benedictine sisters serving in healthcare in southern Idaho.
St. Luke’s Health System President and CEO Dr. David Pate recognized her with a special President’s Award. “Sister Barbara has provided powerful spiritual care,” he said (full speech below). “Her influence has radiated out across the community in countless ways……She has been a source of strength and support for St. Luke’s Jerome team members as well.”
The event took place outside the hospital near the bridge that was dedicated last year in honor of the Benedictine sisters’ legacy. [https://stgertrudes.org/st-lukes-medical-center-honors-sisters-legacy/] The mayor of Jerome declared it “Benedictine Day.”
“It really surprised me,” says Sister Barbara Jean. “It was an overwhelming day. I am so proud of our sisters and how we could serve southern Idaho.”
Building such a legacy of influence happens one day at at time. Sister Barbara Jean begins each day with prayer and sacred reading. Then, she says, “I set my dial to look for love. I find God — and God is with me all day long.”
Sister Barbara Jean has also worked in Lewiston where she recruited and trained volunteer ombudsmen for the Area Agency on Aging, an organization that sends volunteers into nursing homes to mediate for elders. But then the prioress asked her to become the mission and spiritual care director at St. Luke’s Jerome. After initial reluctance, she realized the move allowed her to be closer to her mother.
Sister Barbara Jean insists she has a history of resisting God’s call. At her birth, a Benedictine nun prayed Barbara Jean would become a religious. But as she grew, she felt drawn in other directions. “I wanted to grow up, be a nurse, and get married,” she says. But what she did not know is that her own mother had contemplated becoming a nun and after discerning a call to marriage and family, prayed that one of her children would have a vocation. When an invitation came to attend a Profession ceremony at St. Gertrude’s, the adolescent Barbara Jean found herself reluctantly in tow.
“Oh I was mad,” she recalls. “I didn’t want to go. But at the ceremony, I was awe-struck. All I could do was cry. When her priest poignantly asked her if she felt a calling, she affirmed her desire to be a nurse and get married. “Then he asked, ‘Have you ever thought of putting God first?’ That pierced my heart,” she recalls. After that, her life took on a movement toward entering St. Gertrude’s that she finally couldn’t deny. At the age of 18 Barbara Jean left her native Jerome. Two years later she made her first Profession on August 7, 1961.
Sister Barbara Jean became a teacher and eventually earned her master’s in education in 1975. “I was never afraid to try new things and see if the cutting edge ideas taught at the university actually worked.” She shared her innovative style at schools in Cottonwood, Greencreek, Pocatello, Nampa and Rupert. Eventually she became a reading specialist for the Idaho State Department of Education in Boise. After five years of working with remedial students, she was assigned to five schools a year as a consulting teacher, helping teachers improve at teaching.
In 1993 she was called home to be assistant prioress to Sister Mary Kay Henry. After four years, Sister Barbara Jean began a nationwide ministry leading workshops on second-half-of-life spirituality. During this time, she also continued her work as a reading specialist and consulting teacher. In 2003, she was called by community leadership to be the Mission/Pastoral Director at St. Mary’s Hospital and Clearwater Valley Hospital. When Spirit Center opened, she became the retreat center’s first director. Then several years later, she began working for the Area Agency on Aging in Lewiston and then St. Luke’s in Jerome. “I was born with my feet planted in mid-air,” says Sister Barbara Jean in describing her comfort with the many changes she has experienced through her career in education and human services.
“I love working with creativity, with what-ifs, what-could-be… ‘Status Quo’ is not in my vocabulary. I am future-oriented. In answering God’s call, I really don’t think I am a good example. I fought for so long but once I opened to new opportunites, life was amplified in unforeseen ways. Why not respond to the nudge? You can investigate and try it. Why fight it?”
“Healthcare Pioneers Celebrated in Jerome, KTVB, August 1, 2017. http://www.ktvb.com/news/local/benedictine-sisters-health-care-pioneers-celebrated-in-jerome/461156139
“Benedictine Presence in Southern Idaho Comes to an End,” St. Luke’s, August 2, 2017. https://www.stlukesonline.org/blogs/st-lukes/news-and-community/2017/aug/sister-barbara-celebration
Speech on the Bestowing of the President’s Award to Sister Barbara Jean Glodowski
by Dr. David Pate, St. Luke’s Health System President and CEO, August 1, 2017
Thank you for including me in the celebration this afternoon. It’s a momentous day, and historic.
I had a chance to look over the program for the 1952 dedication of what was then St. Benedict’s Hospital and I was struck by the motto of the order of St. Benedict, “That in all things God may be glorified,” and the Benedictine slogan, “Work and Pray.”
I would be hard-pressed to think of any better example of these practices than Sister Barbara Jean Glodowski, glorifying God and blending prayer and work, and it is for those reasons and many, many more that I am delighted to recognize Sister with a special President’s Award today. Sister, will you join me?
Sister Barbara was raised here and graduated from Jerome High School in 1959. Her family farmed the land where Walmart is now and she worked on the farm with her family. She started with the hospital seven years ago, shortly after I became part of St. Luke’s, but she’d been an active contributor to what was then St. Benedict’s Hospital before that time, having served on the board and visiting regularly.
She jumped into projects from the very beginning and has left an indelible mark, on patients, their families, staff members, community programs and services, and St. Luke’s reputation, in Jerome and beyond.
Curtis has called Sister “incredibly thorough, determined, completely accountable.” Among her many endeavors, Sister Barbara has provided powerful spiritual care, coordinating a team of 10 volunteer interfaith pastoral care volunteers and ensuring their orientation and ongoing education. She and the team have been a compassionate presence in the ER, at bedsides and in hallways at all hours for many patients and families.
Patient experience teams led by Sister Barbara have improved the comfort and lives of dozens who have stayed with us here over the years, in big ways and small. She has spent countless hours reviewing patient satisfaction surveys and being a consistent voice for a quieter and more comfortable environment for our patients.
Her influence has radiated out across the community in countless ways. She has coordinated all St. Luke’s Jerome volunteers, organized efforts with the food bank and Christmas families and ensured that Jerome schoolchildren receive supplies as they head back to school each fall.
She has been a source of strength and support for St. Luke’s Jerome team members as well, supervising the orientation of new Jerome employees, serving as our in-house AIDET and “managing up” expert, collaborating in patient care conferences, joining in on the swing-bed program and becoming our Press-Ganey super-user. Periodically, she has administered an employee fund set up to see members of the St. Luke’s Jerome family through hard times.
Outspoken and passionate, a tireless advocate for patient satisfaction and a true champion of St. Luke’s iCARE values, Sister has stayed active in her role, rounding and talking to patients even as she has faced her health challenges. She has stayed every bit as active in the community and as a St. Luke’s ambassador, visiting our park and their commemorative bricks in the paving here with her 96-year-old mom, Clementine, every day until her mom passed away in the fall.
President’s Award recipients demonstrate excellence at every turn. They epitomize our mission and vision, every day, to improve the health of people in the communities we serve and to be the community’s trusted partner in providing exceptional, patient-centered care. Sister, thank you for everything you have done to reflect the spirit of both St. Benedict and St. Luke in your time with us, and for making such a meaningful contribution to a powerful legacy.