In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

People of Mercy

In their administration of Queen’s and then Mercy Hospital, the Sisters of Mercy fostered a culture of loyalty and service to the institution. The stories of the women here highlight not only their contributions to Mercy, but also the ties that the hospital has to communities across the region.

Sister Mary Annunciata Quigley

Sister Mary Annunciata Quigley, R.N. looms large in any history of Mercy. Sister Annunciata became the first Administrator of Queen’s Hospital in 1930, serving 37 years to 1967. A graduate of the School of Nursing in Lewiston in 1918, she took vows as a Sister of Mercy in 1922, and in 1926 was appointed superintendent of the Queen’s nurses’ training school.

Sister Annunciata began the practice of facilitating training and continuing education for the Sisters and lay staff at other institutions. Sister Annunciata garnered a reputation as a skilled administrator across the health care industry. She was a Fellow of the American College of Hospital Administrators (ACHA) and Maine Regent to the ACHA Council of Regents. Sister Annunciata served as board chair of the Maine Hospital Association from 1951 to 1953. Aside from her professional attributes, Sister Annunciata was known for her contagious laugh and warm presence, which, combined with her mentorship, influenced countless Sisters, colleagues, students, and patients.

Sister Annunciata left another tangible legacy in the form of her diaries, which she kept ever year of her 37-year administration of Mercy Hospital. In it, she recorded day-to day details of running a hospital, but also of all other facets of her life. For example, on November 11, 1938, “Everyone who could went to Deering to a movie, ‘Captains Courageous’ and cried all afternoon.” Sister Annunciata also recorded being treated to a movie in 1957 for “Feast of Sister Annunciata (me) celebrated today…Movie ‘The Story of Jackie Robinson.’ Negro player for Dodgers…very good.”

Her diaries concluded with the notation for July 28, 1969: “Sister Annunciata died at 9:15 a.m. today. Sister Mary Johnette Sullivan with her at time of death. All meetings cancelled.” Perhaps the best encapsulation of her tenure can be found in the diary entry for October 2, 1965. Commenting on new educational programs in the works, Sister Annunciata noted that “Today we should be going forward—if we stand still we shall slip.” Her diaries are a treasured aspect of the Sisters of Mercy archive.

Sister Mary Consuela White

Sister Mary Consuela White was another major figure in Mercy history. A native of New Brunswick, she enrolled in Madigan Memorial School of Nursing in Houlton in 1937 before taking vows in the Sisters of Mercy in 1944. As a Sister, Mary Consuela studied at St. Joseph’s College, Catholic University in Washington D.C., and earned both a B.S. and M.S. in nursing at Boston College. Sister Mary Consuela was Director of Nursing at Mercy from 1952 until 1974, and named Acting Director of the hospital in 1972 for a short time. After 22 years with the dual responsibility for both hospital nursing service and nursing education, she assumed chairmanship at Saint Joseph’s College to establish their nursing department. She received many honors in her lifetime, including Outstanding Nurse Educator of the Year in 1986. In 2000, she received the Papal Award Pro Ecclesia et Pontiface Medal. Since 2002, Mercy Hospital has created the Sister Mary Consuela White Award, given each year to an exceptional nurse.

Sister Mary Consuela named Florence Nightingale as an inspiration to her, as well as Catherine McAuley, who she believed was “a wonderful example of a nurse leader,” even though she was not herself a nurse. Sister Consuela died in 2011 in the Frances Warde Convent in Portland. Interviewed towards the end of her career, Sister Mary Consuela voiced her belief that “love is the most healing thing of all…If [people] love themselves, they’ll love their neighbor. It’s as simple as that. Life is simple. We complicate it.”

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.”