Is it possible to erase memory?
Carl Jung said, “History is not contained in thick books, but lives in our very blood.” If we wish to know the brokenness in our world, whether as individuals, communities or nations, we need to look at what we carry within us. Some of what is in us was already deeply present in the lives of our ancestors and those who precede us. The less we understand our father and mothers (ancestors and those who precede us), the less we will understand ourselves.
Of late discussions have emerged in our community about wiping away the display of faith-based symbols at St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital. As a member of St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital advisory council for the past eight years, I would like to provide a perspective that I have discerned since becoming a member of the council.
A major component of my reflection over that period of time is my internal desire to understand St. Clare’s hospital as an institution and its formation. I wanted to understand the intangible essence of this institution and what
it meant to the community of staff/patients and the larger community. This exploration, for me, could only be found if I understand the Sisters of Mercy, their progressive ways in the 1920s and the emerged St. Clare’s Hospital of today.
As a lay member of the advisory council, I chaired a small committee to decipher the values that the Sisters held and how these values filtered from the Mercy Sisters to the institution itself within all its components.
The work of this committee through the advisory council, with the support of Eastern Health, staff, patients, visitors, artist Gerry Squires, photographers Mannie Buchheit and Randy Dawe, explored the mission statement of the advisory council and the values reflected in that mission statement. We sought to find in a tangible way whether and subsequently, where these values were reflected at St. Clare’s. We found the
values of caring, compassion, healing, respect, integrity, collaboration and excellence in its spiritual essence and through medical science filtered throughout St. Clare’s Hospital.
If you visit St. Clare’s Hospital you will see, if you look attentively, story boards on the influence of the Sisters of Mercy throughout the institution.
This project allowed me to be more acutely aware of what the Sisters provided to the hospital. It also became clear to me that the Sisters’ works were informed by their founder, Catherine McAuley, St. Clare — the hospital’s namesake — as well as through their long-held faith. The symbols of the crosses, St. Clare’s statue, the multi-denomination faith-based chapel, represent the intangibles within the formation of St. Clare’s Hospital. This is the memory that some would like to remove.
As Jung noted, history is carried within us, individually and collectively. I have found that there are tangibles and intangibles, and each of us holds our own truths which we express and can express, as long, as I would suggest, that they are shared in a tolerant and respectful manner.
These are solely my truths. What is the lens through which you see?