For 44 years at Trinity Hospital, Sister Clara Vincent bandaged the wounds and let God do the healing.
A gentle and saintly caregiver, Vincent served countless patients, doctors and families at Augusta’s only faith-based hospital. She leaves this month for retirement at her religious order’s headquarters in St. Louis.
“She’s been doing what she felt was the work of the Lord,” said Dr. Bill Neumann, a physician with close ties to Trinity Hospital, formerly known as St. Joseph Hospital.
As a nurse and then a hospital chaplain, Vincent comforted the sick and dying. She loved popping into the facility’s chapel, administering Holy Communion to Catholic patients and visiting newborn babies. Leaving won’t be easy.
“The employees have become part of my family. It’s so hard to leave – you just have no idea,” said the 85-year-old Catholic nun. “It’s time for me to take care of myself.”
Vincent started at St. Joseph Hospital in 1969, joining about 20 other Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet nuns working in the hospital. She was the last one at the facility.
“I never dreamed I was going to stay here all these years,” she said.
With her departure, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet’s history at the hospital becomes a legacy entrusted to others. The faith-based mission and emphasis on prayer will continue, said Frankie May, the director of pastoral care.
“We continue with extending the work of Christ through health care services,” May said. “What the sisters started here so many years ago, that legacy will continue.”
Vincent was the voice that helped the hospital start each day. Everyone stopped in their tracks at 7:30 a.m. when she led prayer over the facility’s loudspeaker system.
For many, she was also the face at the end of the day. As chaplain, she prayed at the bedside of dying patients and grieved with their families.
The hospital’s chapel, which has been renamed in honor of her, was the quiet place where she often sat with families.
“I think they find a great solace just being in that presence. That to me is very comforting,” the nun said.
Sister Clara Vincent helped carry on the mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph after all the other nuns had left, Neumann said. She was unassuming but a “go-to person” that took care of business. Patients of all faiths asked for her.
“She has always been there and always a part of us,” Neumann said.