by Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) — In preparation for Pope Francis’ historic Sept. 22-24 visit to Washington, Providence Health System has dedicated and named its hospital’s emergency care center in honor of the pontiff.
Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, in blessing the Pope Francis Emergency Care Center Sept. 18, noted that it was fitting to name the emergency facility after the pope because “Pope Francis reminds us to be present, especially to those in need.”
“Just as Pope Francis sees the inherent dignity in every person, Providence is here to serve those same individuals,” the cardinal said. “The Holy Father is symbolized by the work being done here.”
The emergency care center is at the Providence Health System’s hospital in northeast Washington. The 408-bed hospital was founded in 1861 by the Daughters of Charity and is a part of Ascension, this country’s largest nonprofit health system.
“As we prepare to welcome our Holy Father here in Washington next week, the Pope Francis Emergency Care Center stands as a symbol to all … that Providence Health System truly ‘walks with Francis’ through its dedication to mercy, service to all and quality care for our brothers and sisters in need, especially those on the margins of society,” Cardinal Wuerl said.
Pointing out that “there has been a lot of discussion about the so called ‘Francis effect,'” Cardinal Wuerl defined the effect as “recognition that we are supposed to be there for one another. We are supposed to reach out to one another.”
“The sisters who founded this hospital demonstrated the ‘Francis effect’ long before there was a Pope Francis,” the cardinal said.
Amy Freeman, president and CEO of Providence Health System, said it “is fitting naturally, beautifully and without any stretch of the imagination to dedicate (the emergency care center) to Pope Francis.”
“It is our belief that the pope’s message and the Providence mission are one and the same,” she said. “Those who are in pain physically, those who are in pain emotionally, those who have been hurt — they are our neighbors. When they walk in or are carried in, it is our promise to show respect to all, whatever their station in life.”
Dr. William Strudwick, medical director of the Pope Francis Emergency Care Center, said the work performed at the facility will be inspired by its “transformation, spiritual leader” namesake.
“Pope Francis wants to be in the trenches. His focus is on those who do not have power, those who are hurt … that sounds kind of like our patients,” Strudwick said. “We offer the highest quality care with the highest level of compassion — with the emphasis on compassion.”
Also during the dedication ceremony, Providence officials honored philanthropist Judi Teske, who through a legacy created by her and her late husband, Richard, provided the hospital with the largest donation it has received from a living person.
Teske said that she wanted the donation amount to remain private and offered prayers that “God bless those who serve and are being served” at the Pope Francis Emergency Care Center.”
The District of Columbia’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, said the newly named emergency care center “is a huge and important part of the hospital network in the city.”
Bowser, a graduate of Elizabeth Seton High School in Bladensburg, Maryland, noted that with the pope’s arrival to the district less than a week away, “I couldn’t be more happy that our city will be the first American city to host the pope” on his U.S. trip. Seton High School’s Honors Concert Choir sang during the dedication ceremony.
“I am looking forward to hosting the pope. It is a big thing and we are ready,” she said.
Cardinal Wuerl said the Washington visit of Pope Francis and his message of care for others, “will remind us why the sisters began this hospital and why the hospital continues its mission today.” He added that while in the city, the pope will bless a marble plaque commemorating the naming of the emergency care facility.
In his blessing of the facility, Cardinal Wuerl asked God that “those who come here sick are restored in spirit and body to ever praise your name.”
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