The following article appears in the spring 2018 issue of The Heart of Regina Health Center newsletter.
Regina Health Center welcomed its first residents in May 1993, but the seeds of meeting unmet community needs were planted more than 166 years earlier when the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine (CSA) came to Cleveland from France in 1851 to begin Catholic health care. They served as the city’s first public health nurses and opened its first hospital in 1852.
As the CSA Congregation grew, the Sisters continued to respond to unmet needs of the changing times. The Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine established hospitals, schools and dozens of health and social service programs in Ohio and South Carolina.
Mt. Augustine, which now houses Regina Health Center (RHC) and the Sisters of Charity Congregational offices, was built as the motherhouse for the CSA Congregation and openedin 1957. In the 1980s, the need to care for religious being discharged from hospitals was steadily increasing, which was becoming beyond the scope of most congregations to provide appropriate skilled care.
Laying the Foundation
Sister Rosemarie Robinson, OP, delegate for religious, and the Conference of Religious Leadership (CORL) began discussing the health care needs of religious communities. CORL includes representatives of the congregations of religious men and women serving in the Diocese of Cleveland. They brought in the Catholic Health Association to study the needs of the religious in the area. The study concluded that there should be a collaborative effort to provide long-term health care services for the aging religious in Northeast Ohio.
Having hospitals in the area and capacity at Mt. Augustine, the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine responded by agreeing to convert part of the Motherhouse into a state-ofthe-art nursing facility to serve the aging religious.
On behalf of CORL, Sister Mildred Baker, IHM, visited all congregations to speak to sisters about their health care needs. At the same time, the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine began evaluating the project to determine the feasibility of such a major ministry. With a team focused on fundraising, construction, staffing, clinical care and more, a detailed project plan was developed. The plan was presented to the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine General Chapter and it was approved.
“The demand was there to develop RHC and there was a desire of religious congregations to participate,” said Sister Judith Ann Karam, CSA, congregational leader of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine. “From the beginning, it has been a truly collaborative process. We formed an inter-congregational advisory group, even to the point of asking for input on selecting paint colors. We also looked at what each day would be like at this new facility to respect the needs of each congregation and found ways to incorporate the individual order’s community life priorities.”
After a previous ministry role was completed, and she took on as CSA Council member, Sr. Judith Ann worked full-time with the team in developing and implementing plans for RHC. Sr. Mildred also came on board as part of the planning team. Sr. Judith Ann and Sr. Mildred returned to the participating congregations to share the vision for RHC, even with Bishop Anthony Pilla joining them on a couple of visits.
Each member of the Inter-congregational group developed plans for their individual congregations around making decisions to participate and preparing for their members’ admission. These plans were then shared with the group. A group of physicians from Cleveland, Akron and Canton gave input into the clinical program of RHC and selection of a medical director.
As many as 22 orders within Northeast Ohio collaborated with the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine to ensure that their aging religious would receive the highest caliber health care services, along with supportive programs that would keep them spiritually, mentally and socially engaged.
Welcoming the First Residents
After working hard to raise more than $7.5 million to renovate and convert the facility, including more than $6 million from the Sisters of Charity Saint Ann Foundation, RHC opened its doors in 1993. The opening and energy of all involved made an impression on Sr. Judith Ann.
“I’ll never forget, the Sisters of St. Joseph had 16 sisters come to RHC. They did a marvelous job preparing their sisters to live here, putting quilts from congregational members in each one of their rooms to make them feel at home and connected,” she said.
Twenty-five years later and RHC is still thriving. Sr. Judith Ann attributes that to the staff, congregations, families, volunteers and supporters. “The heart and hand of this ministry are the staff and volunteers. We know how our own sisters are cared for, and we know that everyone here is treated with such respect. RHC is a 5-star facility because everybody is a part of this ministry,” she added.
In discussing this milestone year and looking ahead to the future, Sr. Judith Ann returned to the collaborative effort that has remained strong for so many years:
“The anniversary is a celebration of all the people who have made RHC work and made it what it is today. RHC will continue to respond to new needs and I know the mission will continue where we can still provide the highest quality, God-centered care and service to residents. We celebrate the past and look forward to the future, and truly thank God for everyone who has been a part of the RHC community.”