First Steps West Chester
Before Mother M. Kostka became Mother Superior on March 31, 1935 (1935-1940), she had been local superior in Villa Maria for six years. There she had seen first-hand the need for a separate infirmary. But the imminence of war in Europe made for an uncertain financial future and a delay in building. However, during her five years in office, Mother Kostka, a woman of deep faith and prayer, made several landmark contributions that were to have lasting beneficial results for the sick.
Anna R. Moriarty, RN, was admitted to the Congregation as a postulant on September 8, 1928.During her twenty years in the Congregation, Sister M. St. Camillus (d) placed the nursing care of the sick on a firm, professional basis. Both in Villa Maria, West Chester, and later in Villa Maria, Wernersville, she gave fully of her expertise as a nurse and of her sunny disposition. Two Sisters were sent for nursing training to St. Joseph Hospital, Carbondale. Later seven more Sisters were trained in local area Catholic hospitals. The first two lay nurses were hired for night duty. One of them, Miss Catherine White, remained to give over forty-six years of devoted service to the sick.
In April 1940, ground for an infirmary annex at Villa Maria, West Chester, was broken and blessed by Rev. Henry Schuyler, pastor of St. Agnes Parish, West Chester. However, Divine Providence, in the form of the death of Mother Kostka on April 18, 1940, and the outbreak of World War II, intervened.
A Home at Wernersville
When Mother M. Francina (1940-1945) succeeded Mother M. Kostka, she also had experienced the crowded conditions for the sick in the Motherhouse. A deep faith strengthened her natural timidity, and she determined to take immediate action. Again, Divine Providence intervened. This time favorably.
Mother's request for a Congregation-wide campaign of prayer for this intention brought quick results. In a newspaper on her desk, she saw' a for-sale notice for a summer hotel, Sunset Hall, in Wernersville, Pennsylvania, overlooking Reading. Defense bonds were cashed, and negotiations for the purchase were completed in July 1943. After a year spent in needed renovations and repairs, Villa Maria, Wernersville, welcomed the first Sister patients and a small staff from West Chester in July 1944. The very sick remained in the Motherhouse infirmary.
During Mother Maria Alma's twelve years as Mother Superior (1945-1957), she knew that the spiritual and physical needs of the aging and sick were being cared for in two infirmaries. However, because she also foresaw that their numbers were growing, she continued sending Sisters for nursing training and built up an Infirmary Fund to total over a million dollars in anticipation of eventual building.
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