Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth
Maureen Craig had a plan to go to Paris and write the great American novel and be like Zelda Fitzgerald, minus all the mental problems, and then come back to America to be a nun. She went to talk to Mother Mary Ancilla, the brilliant leader of S.C.L., who suggested she be more realistic. Maureen decided she would “give up on Paris and get started on saving the world.”
She had always thought nuns were “kind of weird. But my college teachers, all nuns, were bright, articulate, and committed to service. I so admired them. I wanted to be like them.”
Sister Maureen taught elementary and high school. One year, the star of the first grade creation play, who was supposed to play God, got sick. His substitute, and please remember that first graders are very truthful, faced the audience bravely and said, “I am not the real God, the real God got sick and threw up and went home.” Sister says that’s a story she often tells.
“I had been teaching for 35 years and was diagnosed with MS and teaching was getting harder. Sister Marie Madeline invited me to Saint Johns to write the history of the hospital, which I did. The Golden Promise was published in 1992 in honor of the golden jubilee of Saint John’s Hospital.
“Now, at 76, I’m not afraid of much. I’m not afraid of illness. I’ve been there and done that. I’ve had MS for a long time and I’m doing that and I’m not afraid of death.
“I think we need a national health care plan. It is a disgrace that, in America, we have anyone without health care. Congress has great health care for themselves. Why aren’t they making sure we all have the same?
“I teach new employees at the hospital, and the center of my teaching is that respecting the dignity of each person is the core of care at St. Johns. Respect the dignity of each patient and each family and all who work here.
“It’s an honor to be brought into people’s lives in a time of crisis. My title is, Chaplain to the Foundation, but I introduce myself as Sister Maureen, and say I’m here to help and I ask if there is anything they need.
“My father was an Irish immigrant who was put on the boat by the British police after the 1916 Easter Monday Rebellion and exiled to Canada. Father then walked across the border at Niagara Falls with a group of America tourists. He was an illegal immigrant with a PH.D in political science from Magdalen College at Oxford. He and my mother met when he was giving a speech about Free Ireland. They married and had ten children.
“We children were wild and happy. We played outside until dark when our daddy whistled for us to come home. Every father had a whistle that his children recognized. I think all children, by law, should have at least two hours a day to be free outside, to just look at the world and to play.
“I came to St. Johns in 1987, joining the nuns living and working at the hospital. There had been as many as 25 nuns at St. Johns in the early years. Now there are 5 nuns and we all live in the same apartment house right across the street from the new hospital.
“Every day I get up early, say my prayers, visit with patients and with the new babies and their families. It’s a privilege to be with people at profound moments. Then I go to mass and have lunch in the hospital cafeteria. After lunch I need to rest because of the MS. Around 4:00 the other nuns come back from work, we say our prayers, eat dinner together and spend the evening talking. It’s been a great life to live in community with women who are so smart, are wonderful leaders and care for one another and for the world.
“I love this City and I love my work and I love my life. I try to be a good citizen. I don’t litter and I vote.”