Sister Stella Maris Bergin: Pastoral Minister
Aug. 28, 2015
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Mary Beth Spence
Senior Manager, Media Relations
Sister Mary Stella Maris Bergin was a Sister of Mercy for 65 years and served at Saint Joseph’s Hospital as a pastoral minister from 1975 until her death in 1987. One of the most visible reminders of her service to the hospital is the Stella Maris Tower, which houses two floors of critical care units.
Sister Stella Maris was born Kathleen Bergin in Errill, County Laois, Ireland in 1906, and entered the Sisters of Mercy in Savannah in 1922 just before the age of 16. She served as a Sister of Mercy in a variety of educational, health care and administrative roles in Atlanta, Macon and Savannah, GA, Baltimore and Bethesda, MD; and Cumberland, RI.
Most notably, Sister Stella Maris was Major Superior of the Sisters of Mercy, Province of Baltimore, from 1953 to 1959. Then, from 1959 to 1971, she was Mother Vicar General of the Sisters of Mercy of the Union, a congregation of 4,000 women religious.
Sister Stella Maris spent most of her life working in hospitals; Sister began her service in local Savannah hospitals when she joined the Sisters of Mercy, regularly visiting sick patients and accompanying patients who were dying.
During Sister Stella Maris’ years at Saint Joseph’s Hospital she was renowned for spiritual care, comforting the sick and the elderly and providing support to families.
Sister Stella Maris often said she was led to work with the terminally ill, because she held the belief that dying patients often had a great need to be comforted. While she was there to help a patient die peacefully, Sister Stella Maris was present to assist the families as well. She frequently told families, “Sometimes we don’t always know what is best, but the Lord does.”
At Saint Joseph’s Hospital, Sister Stella Maris was a familiar presence, on call 24 hours a day, readily helping doctors and patients in any capacity she could. A strong and determined individual whom many patients and their families depended upon, Sister Stella Maris was dedicated to championing patients’ rights. She believed strongly that a person’s dignity should never be violated, especially ill patients.
Sister Stella Maris’ dedication to others and the recognition of her leadership by the larger community earned her the honor of Woman of the Year from the DeKalb Neighbor Newspapers in 1982.