It's been 10 years since the last nuns left St. Mary's Regional Medical Center, but many in Enid still feel their impact on the community.
The nuns, members of the Catholic order of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, based in Wichita, Kan., purchased and ran the hospital beginning in 1937. They remained and served at St. Mary's after it sold in 1984, with the last two nuns, Sister (Sr.) Rosina Mies, now 88, and Sr. Florentia Riebel, known as "Sister Flo," now 102 years old, leaving in 2009.
Sr. Florentia was at St. Mary's for the entire term of the Adorers' presence there, from 1937 to 2009.
St. Mary's CEO Krista Roberts said the nuns' contributions still are remembered and celebrated at the hospital today.
“The sisters were both extremely hard-working and dedicated to the mission, which made a lasting impact on all those who worked with them," Roberts said. "There are still many of us working at St. Mary’s who had the pleasure and privilege of working with the sisters, and we continue to honor their legacy with all new employees, by talking about the Sisters of the Adorers of Blood of Christ in each new employee orientation session.”
Roberts said the nuns' knowledge and compassion had an impact on generations of Enid doctors, and that impact still is felt.
“They were excellent at taking new clinicians under their wing and helping them transfer their academic knowledge to the bedside,” Roberts said. “Both Sr. Florentia and Sr. Rosina, who had very different personalities, served as excellent mentors for many clinicians over their decades at St. Mary’s. They will always be an important part of the special culture we have maintained at the hospital.”
Sandy Howard, long-time director at the Our Daily Bread soup kitchen, said patients of all faiths knew they'd find compassionate care in the Adorers at St. Mary's.
"They were such a presence at St. Mary's, and everyone knew that," Howard said. "When people went there, they knew, Catholic or non-Catholic, they were going to be well taken care-of by the nuns. They were always so caring."
But, the sisters' presence wasn't just felt within the walls of the hospital. They served in pastoral care and with charitable endeavors throughout the community, and every morning "Sister Flo" could be seen getting her morning walk from St. Mary's to Van Buren and back.
"She could walk from St. Mary's to Van Buren faster than I could drive it," Howard said. "That little old lady ... it was like she was on a motorbike, and she was no spring chicken when she was doing that. She's an amazing lady.
"They were just super-good people," Howard said, "and you don't find them like that just anywhere."
Mae Becker said she got to know the sisters after moving to Enid in 1998 and joining the congregation at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church.
She said it was hard for both the community and the sisters when they left St. Mary's.
"They did a lot of good for the community, for the hospital and a lot for the church," Becker said. "They just hated to leave Enid."
But, it wasn't all business with the nuns. Becker still has fond memories of many pinochle games with Sr. Florentia.
Maxwell Meier, also a member and lay leader at St. Francis Xavier and volunteer with Knights of Columbus, said the sisters could be stern, but also were always ready for a fun social outing.
"Anytime you called the sisters, they were ready for a pizza party," he said with a laugh.
While Sr. Florentia and Sr. Rosina were the last to serve in Enid, Meier said the contributions of many of the nuns still are felt in the community.
He remembers Sr. Winnie, Sr. Florentia's younger sister, as someone who could be counted on to show up for any pastoral care need, anytime of day.
"It didn't matter, day or night, I don't know how many times day or night she'd be up making sure people were cared for," Meier said. "Anything they needed, she was there to make sure the needs of the elderly of the parishes were being taken care of."
If something needed to be done, Meier said it was pointless to say 'No' to Sr. Winnie.
"She could twist 'no' to 'yes ...'" Meier said. "I don't know how many times I told her 'No,' and it never worked."
He said Sr. Slyvanna Schulte was "very much instrumental" in reopening St. Joseph Catholic School in 2001. And, when his father was on his deathbed, Meier said it was Sr. Irmalinda who cared for him with compassion.
"The love in her face as she was ministering to my Dad was the most awesome witness," Meier said.
When it came to making the hospital run smoothly, Meier said Sr. Florentia "knew how to get things done."
"Sister Flo was the little, short nun with the big stick at St. Mary's," Meier said, "who knew how to get things done with the doctors and nurses."
Marge Gulick, of Stillwater, said she knew Sr. Florentia as "a task-master" who "ran a tight ship."
Gulick started out as an aide to Sr. Rosina after moving to Enid in the late 1970s.
"She always impressed me because she cared for her patients and she cared for her co-workers, and she never hesitated to help do something," Gulick said. "I just always felt like she was the perfect example of a nurse that's filled with the true compassion and feeling a nurse should have."
After completing her training to become a registered nurse, Gulick went to work with Sr. Florentia in the 1990s.
"I so admired Sr. Florentia and how she treated everyone," Gulick said. "She treated everyone equally — how God intends us to treat each other."
Nancy Presnall, of Enid, got to know the sisters while serving as a candy-striper at St. Mary's in the early 1960s.
She volunteered daily, helping Sr. Florentia move patients to and from physical therapy sessions.
"Sister Flo was just a tiny little lady, but she was powerful," Presnall said. "She was always very businesslike — not unkind, but very businesslike."
Now, whenever she goes back to St. Mary's, she said she still feels the nuns' absence.
"I just associate St. Mary's with the sisters," Presnall said. "It was their hospital. I go there now, and I don't see them there anymore, and I really miss the nuns. It seems like something's missing. They were sort of the heart of the hospital."
While the nuns have been gone a decade, a number of people from Enid's Catholic community still go to see them periodically at the convent in Wichita.
"They are members of our families," Meier said. "They are part of our extended family."
He said the nuns may be gone from Enid, but they continue to serve, now teaching and loving a group of refugee children in Wichita.
"Here they are, they served all their lives and they continue to serve," Meier said.
Sr. Florentia, who still leads an active religious life at the Adorers' convent, said that call to serve is reflected in what it means to be an Adorer of the Blood of Christ.
"The Blood of Christ is a precious thing," she said, "to remember and be comforted, and feel close to Christ, in that he shed his blood for your salvation."