Ghosts of the Prairie


St. Joseph Hospital
Mishawaka, Indiana

Haunted hospitals are a rare sort of thing. Itís not so much that they donít exist (because they most assuredly do), but itís more the fact that itís rare to find anyone to talk about them. As you can imagine, those who run such ďspiritedĒ places are not eager to advertise that former patients and staff members are still lingering behind. But when such a story does come around, like the one that follows, the reader is not horrified, but is actually touched by the fact that a person would care so much that they would continue their work from the other side!

St. Joseph Community Hospital in Mishawaka is a small but excellent hospital that offers patients the sort of personal care that most can only wish for in the medical centers of the big cities. It dates back to 1878 when three Sisters from the Order of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ came to northern Indiana to care for the sick. The order, which had started in 1851, specialized in bringing nursing care to unsettled areas and especially in treating the poor and indigent. The sisters established the St. Agnes Convent in the area and began their ministry.

The Sister mostly served as home health care workers until Mishawaka began to grow and a real hospital was needed. Ground was broken in June 1909 for the St. Joseph Community Hospital and less than tem months later was opened with forty beds and five nuns serving as nurses.

As the city grew, the hospital grew as well and as of 1993, eight major renovations and additions took place. The passing years have brought new staff members and programs to the hospital and yet the emphasis on personal care, started in the 1800ís, has remained. As author Mark Marimen once stated ďThe spirits of the nuns who gave their lives to the ministry of the hospital lives on thereĒ... and in one case, such a statement can be taken quite literally!

Throughout the existence of the hospital, it has remained under the ownership and care of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ. While today, the active role of the Sisters is in administrative positions, in years past, they served as nurses and chaplains and some actually lived on the wards just in case a patient needed them. The women gave their lives to the sick and to the families who depended on them and for years, stories have persisted that one of these nuns has continued her work from the other side!

Mark Marimen interviewed a man named Kevin Geisel who had been admitted to the hospital for abdominal surgery in 1993. During his recovery, he suffered greatly from boredom, not being used to being copped up with nothing to do. One night, he looked into the doorway of his room and saw an older nun in old-fashioned clothing looking in on him. He thought little of it and the woman left.

A short time later, a nurse came into his room and asked if he needed anything. He didnít but he did ask who the nun had been who had come in to check on him. Geisel said that the nurse got a funny look on her face and then sat down to tell him about a nun who had lived in the hospital many years before. She had attended to surgical patients for decades and ever since her death, both patients and staff members had reported seeing her walking about the fifth floor surgical wing, checking on the patients.

While Geisel did not see the nun again during his stay, others reported her presence for years and many patients, including one man who nearly didnít survive his emergency surgery, often fondly recall late night visitations from the silent but kind Sister.

But the story would not last forever. Eventually, the fifth floor of the hospital was changed from a surgical floor to the offices for the hospitalís administration. No further reports of the phantom nun have been passed on and most believe that she no longer walks here... as time has finally erased the need for her caring assistance. Maybe, just maybe, as Mark Marimen wrote, ďafter all of those years, maybe she has gone off duty.Ē


© Copyright 2001 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.

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