MAY 2005: SISTER MARY IMMACULATE CREEDON
Story begins in Chicago, Illinois
On Sunday, April 1, 1934, a baby girl was born in Chicago who 20 years later would answer her calling for religious life as a Hospital Sister and then work as a nurse in the United States, Japan, and Haiti. She became Sister Mary Immaculate Creedon, OSF and now is fondly referred to as Sister Mary Mac by those who know and love her.
"The Holy Spirit planted the idea in my mind of becoming a Sister when I was about ten years old," Sister Mary Mac said. "In 1954 I became acquainted with the Hospital Sisters through a friend who found it in a book of 100 Communities of American Sisters. The attraction for us was that it was a Nursing Community that worked in the Missions and so we entered and both received our postulant veils together in our Sister’s chapel in Chicago," she explained.
She graduated from St. John’s School of Nursing and later received a BSN from St. Louis University. Since that time she has served in several of the Sisters’ sponsored hospitals including St. Joseph’s (Highland, IL), St. Mary’s (Decatur, IL), Sacred Heart (Eau Claire, WI), St. Elizabeth’s (Belleville, IL), and St. Anthony’s Memorial (Effingham, IL).
In 1974, she traveled to Himeji, Japan and worked at St. Francis Hospital in the Japanese Province. "While I was in preparation for my first trip to Japan one of our employees was teaching me some simple Japanese and she invited me to go ice skating. I hated to say no, even though I wasn't very good on ice and sure enough I fell and broke my arm. So I went to Japan a few days later with my arm in a sling," Sister Mary Mac recalled.
She returned to Himeji in 1987 and did not know what surprises the Lord had in store for her. "I never dreamed I would be helping the Sisters open an ICU nor did I feel prepared to teach electrocardiography in Japanese but somehow, one step at a time, we did it," she said. Not only one ICU, but two: one in Himeji and the other in Nagasaki.
Sister Angelista Miosga, OSF, worked with Sister Mary Mac in Japan. "In addition to opening two ICUs, she taught the Japanese nurses First Aid Procedures," Sister Angelista recalled.
Journey to Haiti
"When I returned from Japan in April 1990 and had a visitation with Sister Mary Ann Minor I asked if there was anything she wanted me to do. She had three places to fill and Haiti was one of them. We decided I would try Haiti for three months and so I arrived in June 1990," Sister Mary Mac said.
As Clinic Director at the mission in Jeremie, Haiti, Sister Mary Mac’s work includes overseeing laboratory, x-ray, the eye clinic, cervical cancer screening program, helping new diabetics, assisting patients with surgery preparation, and helping patients receive the Sacrament of the Sick.
For a time in Haiti, Ham Radio was an important means of communication. "One time I was calling for Terry McCoy, a man from Decatur who taught me Ham Radio, and he wasn’t answering. Then I heard the man who was running the Network for that hour asking someone else to take over for him. After a bit the original man returned and told me to wait a few more minutes, that Terry would be calling me back. I realized later that the man in Florida had called Terry on the phone in Illinois and told him to get on his radio that I was calling him. This gives just a little notion of how kind and generous Ham Radio Operators are," Sister Mary Mac explained.
Friends share tributes
Sister Mary Mac has worked with countless people in Haiti including the following individuals:
"It’s been my pleasure to work with Sister Mary Mac for the past 15 years. She is one of the hardest working people that I have ever met and I will give a prize for anyone who has ever seen her sitting down and doing nothing." Jeremiah J. Lowney, Jr., DDS, President, Haitian Health Foundation.
"I’m very impressed with Sister Mary Mac’s deep dedication and her beautiful dry sense of humor. I love it! She is a great lady and may God bless her with good health and many more years of working with God’s beautiful people," said Sister Ernestine Krupa, Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception.
Chickens, rabbits, and oxtail
Similar to the ways the founding Sisters accepted food for the healthcare services, so too is the case sometimes in Haiti. "Recently I noticed a man standing in our Clinic with a live chicken under his arm. I was telling him that people usually don't bring animals into the clinic when he presented me with it as a way of saying thank you for helping his five year old son get a hernia operation done. I quickly called Marty, our American volunteer, and she received the chicken and added it to our now growing collection," Sister Mary Mac explained. "We now have five adult and 16 younger chickens," she added.
Sister Mary Mac also has a fondness for rabbits. One time when she was at the Motherhouse so too was Sister Stefanie Koester, who was trying to get information on raising rabbits. "I had had some experience so I shared all that but wanted to take her to see a place where rabbits were raised. We found a place 15 minutes from the Motherhouse where a man had 200 rabbits," Sister Mary Mac said. The man was generous in showing the Sisters around and explained how he had lights and music on at all time.
On another occasion, when she was working in Eau Claire, the wife of a patient was so grateful that the staff had resuscitated her husband after he had a cardiac arrest. "It seems that one time I was just making conversation and mentioned how I loved ox tail soup (although I had no recollection of having done so) but it was true and so this woman arrived with some ox tails for me," she said.
Days in Page, Arizona
One summer Sister Mary Mac worked in a 26 bed government hospital in Page, Arizona with several of the Hospital Sisters who, as part of their work, traveled on the hospital ambulance rides. Sister Mary Mac recalled that on one occasion there was a bad accident and the ambulance team had to go quite a distance to meet it. "On the way back we got delayed by a herd of sheep crossing the road and then shortly after that the motor gave out on our new ambulance and we had to be towed back to town," she added. "Some other fun things in Arizona were the river boat rides and airplane rides to pick up patients in Utah and also taking visitors to see the Grand Canyon and teaching Sister Kenneth to drive," she said.
Reflections on her life
"My failure to be accepted by the Maryknolls Congregation was, I think, God’s way of leading me where He wanted me," she said. "Twice he led me to Highland, twice to Japan, and three times to Decatur and although most of my religious life has been involved in nursing, there has been a lot of variety and I'm grateful for the people who have touched my life," she said.
"I don’t recall worrying too much over learning a foreign language and both Japanese and Creole were enjoyable to study. In fact, when some of us were invited back to Japan for an anniversary, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I still had a grasp of the language," she added.
Her life continues to be exciting and rewarding as she ministers to the people of Haiti. "My sister, Sister Mary Ellen, who is officially retired but still very active in the Chicago area, asks me yearly when I will retire from Haiti. My response is: when I’m no longer part of the solution, but rather part of the problem," Sister Mary Mac added.
"I’m especially grateful for the support of our Community and all the volunteers (and we have lots of our American Hospital staff) who support us in carrying on the work here. They are the ones who make it possible for us to touch the poor of Haiti," she said.