STAFF at one of Cork's busiest hospitals marked the end of an era today with a farewell gesture for the last Mercy nuns working there.
Doctors, nurses, patients and friends gathered at the Mercy University Hospital chapel in honour of Sister Laurentia and Sr Concepta who served in the hospital for several decades before retiring today.
Bishop John Buckley, who celebrated the mass, paid tribute to the women he described as hardworking and dedicated.
"Modern society needs people like Sister Laurentia and Sister Concepta who are dedicated to helping others," he said.
"They undertook their work with great diligence and without accolades. It was an overflow of their life of prayer. They are deserving of all our admiration and gratitude."
Mercy CEO, Sandra Daly also paid tribute to the order's legacy. "Mercy is not only the name of this hospital; it is its chief characteristic," she said.
"We know that physical care without compassion is not Mercy. In the midst of modern technology and globalisation of healthcare it is the individual – the person- that must remain at the centre of the hospital's attention."That is not without its challenges in an environment of high demand, limited resources and rapidly changing work practices,"
She highlighted the challenges of modern healthcare.
"The crisis relating to a lack of compassion in medicine is real and there is certainly a suggestion over the last number of decades that patient experience, individual values and compassionate care have become secondary to targets, and clinical outcomes and guidelines.
"The Sisters have demonstrated to us that we must sustain a culture which provides a compassionate and dignified place where our collective values and respect prevail. This is a key strength of this hospital, as we continue to strive to create the space in which, to nurture the skills that keep core values at the centre of all evidence-based medicine."
Provincial Leader, Sr Miriam Kerrisk addressed the crowd with a fitting tribute to the nuns before their return to St Maries of the Isle Mercy Convent.
"I know you will receive the same warmth, love and care that you got there in your beginning days," she said. "I know there will be an open door and an open heart for all your Mercy friends in St Marie's.
Laurentia and Concepta never lost their connection with that sense of Mercy. It is unseen and yet it is part of the fabric of this hospital."
She anticipated a bright future for the hospital. "We are trusting that we are marking another foundation in our Mercy story as we embrace the future of healthcare with confidence, ease and hope in the hands and hearts of you, our colleagues and companions in Mercy."
Sr Kerrisk praised staff at the hospital. "We believe and trust in your capacity to be the hearts and hands of the Mercy for this present and emerging time," she said.
"You have the professionalism, the gifts and the spirit of Mercy within you. Keep trusting that as you continue to redefine Mercy for today. It is not the end, but a continuation of the search for how best Mercy can find a home of well-being- particularly for those who are ill or most in need."
The nuns were presented with parting gifts of lamps, a nod to the words of Mercy founder- The Venerable Mother Catherine Elizabeth McAuley-who once said; "may you be as shining lamps, giving light to all around."
Chairman of the Mercy Hospital Board; Mr Neil O'Carroll was in turn gifted with a symbolic keepsake.
"I now hand over with joy, gratitude and a sense of providence the key of the mansion house to Neil O'Carroll." Sr Kerrisk said.
The Venerable Mother Catherine Elizabeth McAuley was an Irish religious sister who founded the Sisters of Mercy in 1831.
The oldest part of the Mercy Hospital was built between 1764 and 1767, originally as the Mansion House for the Mayor of Cork. It later became an educational establishment before evolving into the Mercy Hospital on March 17, 1857 when the Sisters of Mercy established a hospital for the sick and poor of the city.