A life of service, a life of true happiness

Francisco Javier Fernández ChentoDaughters of CharityLeave a Comment

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Author: Unknown · Year of first publication: 2011 · Source: Celebration magazine, volume 20, Winter 2011.
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“Well hello. I’m glad you al made it. Otherwise I’d be up here talking to myself.” —Sister Louise Grundish speaking to the Pittsburgh Hospital Nurses Alumnae Association

Sister Louise Grundish is not a stand-up comedian, but if she were, she would be one of the best. As a Sister of Charity of Seton Hill for 60 years, Sister Louise has joy­fully accomplished many things. She has a positive view about most everything, and her enthusiasm and natural talent have helped Sister Louise carry Christ to countless lives. While each life is comprised of multiple strands, Sister Louise has been adept in braiding the cords of community, nursing, and education into a generous life of fruitful ministry.

Sister Louise shows dolls that are part of the Sisters of Charity archives collection. The dolls are dressed in the white nursing habit and the traditional black habit that she wore until 1969. Sister Louise explained, “When I left the operating room floor to attend classes at Duquesne University, I could make the transition from white cape to black cape in 5 minutes flat!”

Sister Louise shows dolls that are part of the Sisters of Charity archives collection. The dolls are dressed in the white nursing habit and the traditional black habit that she wore until 1969. Sister Louise explained, “When I left the operating room floor to attend classes at Duquesne University, I could make the transition from white cape to black cape in 5 minutes flat!”

Sister Louise’s attraction to the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill began at Saint Philip School and Elizabeth Seton High School, in the Crafton and Brookline sections of Pittsburgh. The Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill who taught there fostered Sister Louise’s love for the faith and sacraments. Even though her love for the sisters grew, she was determined to chart her own course in life. Every morning at Mass she prayed, “Dear Lord, I will do anything for you, but please don’t ask me to be a sister.” The young girl loved babies and had aspirations of having a large family.

When Sister Louise finished high school, she began to feel her heart tugging her toward a life-long com­mitment as a sister. However, her strong will pushed her toward a career in nursing and away from becoming a sister, or so she thought. As a new Pittsburgh Hospital nursing student, she was required to spend the first three months of her studies learning the sciences at Seton Hill. She developed strong bonds with two junior professed sisters, Sisters Mary Seton Wacker and Beatrice McQuade. They spent many hours talking to her about religious life. She attended daily Mass and prayed the afternoon rosary with the sisters whom she observed to be very happy. Before the summer ended, Sister Louise let go of her dreams of children, quit nursing, and ac­cepted God’s call. She entered the Sisters of Charity on September 8, 1951.

During the first four years of her religious life, Sister Louise was sent to teach at several elementary schools. Although Sister Louise loved the young students, she knew that teaching elementary students was not her forte. In 1955, Mother Claudia asked her if she wanted to go back into nursing. Sister smiled, realizing that she could “have her cake and eat it too.” In 1958, her heart’s desire to be a sister and her will to be a nurse were both satisfied. She received a nursing diploma at Pittsburgh Hospital and was engaged in hands-on nursing for many years at every facility served by the Sisters of Charity.

Sister Louise began to share her passion for nursing with students early in her career as an instructor of nursing fundamentals and clinical instructor in the operating room. She was a beloved mentor to the Pittsburgh Hospital School of Nursing students she supervised and proctored in the dormitory.

[pullquote]Sister Louise reflects, “God knew better than I what would bring a life of true happiness.”[/pullquote]“Living with students can be a challenging experi­ence. Often I was awakened at night by the sound of laughter followed by whispers and giggling. I’d get angry but they knew me pretty well. With soft voices they would ask me a nursing question. I’d respond with an answer and the anger would be forgotten.” Sister Louise explained that when she had to get out of bed to deal with such frivolity, she would hear the students say, “Here comes the Grundish!” When she appeared in the hall in her comfortable, worn robe, the students took notice of her old night clothes. Every year she was presented with a new robe for Christmas.

Close interactions with the students in those years yielded enduring relationships. Sister Louise set high standards but was dedicated to helping students reach their fullest potential. While teaching, she continued her own studies and attained a bachelor’s degree in nursing science and a master’s degree in education at Duquesne University, as well as master’s degree in nurs­ing education at the University of Pittsburgh. Skilled as both instructor and administrator, she served as both Assistant Director and Director of Pittsburgh Hospital School of Nursing until it closed in 1976.

Pittsburgh Hospital School of Nursing Alumnae Association gathered at Caritas Christi on October 8, 2011 for the annual Mass for deceased members

Pittsburgh Hospital School of Nursing Alumnae Association gathered at Caritas Christi on October 8, 2011 for the annual Mass for deceased members

After four years as Vocation Director for the Sisters of Charity, where commitment and people skills were again prominent aids, it was back to nursing education. Hired at West Penn School of Nursing as coordinator of the early level courses in 1979, she remained for ten years.

During her tenure as a Provincial Councilor for the Sisters of Charity from 1989 to 1993, Sister Louise took no hiatus from nursing interests. In discussions with other leaders of religious congregations, she sought ways in which communities could help one another with geron­tology issues. Later, as Director of the Divine Providence Sisters’ Infirmary, she employed those methods to provide excellent nursing care and the highest quality of life for the sisters. Many individuals and organizations benefit to the present day from her foresight on these issues.

[pullquote]Today, the little girl who prayed that she would not become a sister is now the keeper of the congregation’s history, serving as archivist for the United States Province of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill.[/pullquote]A significant figure in the realm of Pittsburgh Hos­pital School of Nursing Alumnae relations, Sister Louise was the last elected president and remains active in the organization. The group remembers deceased members at an annual Mass, hosts an annual banquet to honor 50 year alumae and distinguished members. Alert to the mission “caught” in their student years and lived out in their lives, the Alumnae Association members have donated funds to Forbes Center for Gerontology for personal needs of poor patients and have been generous in their support the Sisters of Charity. Sister Louise is also active with the Duquesne University Alumni Associa­tion. Honored with numerous awards by students and colleagues, Sister Louise continues to stay current in the science of nursing through her own continuing education, and remains actively involved with the Pennsylvania Nurses Association.

Today, the little girl who prayed that she would not become a sister is now the keeper of the congrega­tion’s history, serving as archivist for the United States Province of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill. In this capacity, Sister Louise edifies and inspires others in preserving artifacts, researching historical details, and writing the stories of the ministries of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill. In reference to her vocation, Sister Louise reflects, “God knew better than I what would bring a life of true happiness.” It is clear that by entwining the passions of her life with simplic­ity, humility, and charity, Sister Louise Grundish has influenced countless lives with the Charity of Christ that urges her.

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