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People of Mercy

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Sister Mary Michael Connelly

Sister Mary Michael Connelly followed a different path to service at Mercy Hospital. A Bangorian, she enrolled in Mercy Hospital’s first nursing class in 1943, acquiring her R.N. in 1946. Physical limitations prevented her from becoming a missionary as she had planned. She joined the Sisters of Mercy in 1955, later training at Connecticut School of Pharmacy as a registered hospital pharmacist. She served at Mercy Hospital until 1964.

During her ten years at Madigan Memorial Hospital in Houlton, Sister Mary Michael opened a pharmacy. When that hospital closed in 1974, she returned to Portland, and decided to become a chaplain. She studied Clinical Pastoral Education and returned to Mercy Hospital as chaplain, a position she cherished from 1980 – 2005.

According to Sister Mary Michael, the pastoral care department served to remind everyone of Mercy’s conviction that “anyone who receives care here must be understood and treated as a whole person.” She oversaw the expansion of the Pastoral Care department following the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), which emphasized more diverse Pastoral Care teams that would “promote the spiritual care of patients—Catholic and non-Catholic.” Sister Mary Michael approached her duties that, while grounded in her Catholic faith, embraced the universality of the spirit. “Too often we forget the dilemma of belief and unbelief in its various forms is a universal, human one,” she said. “Just as the believer is constantly threatened by unbelief, so is the unbeliever tempted to faith. So we all share in our own way our belief and unbelief. For good communication in Pastoral Care, one does not explicate or break down one’s particular “faith” but rather experiences with another their common doubt.”