by Jessica Langdon
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Ebola ranked high on Americans’ list of health care concerns this fall, but not first.
Same story for obesity and cancer.
“Do you know what the biggest concern was?” asked Sister Maureen Hall, SCL, describing the news report she’d just heard on the radio while driving to a Mass celebrating 25 years of the Duchesne Clinic’s presence in Kansas City, Kansas.
The answer: “People who do not have access to health care,” said Sister Maureen, the community director for the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth.
Providing care for the poor, the uninsured, the most vulnerable — those who otherwise might not have access to health care — is what the Duchesne Clinic does every day, and has for a quarter of a century in Wyandotte County.
The Mass — celebrated at St. Mary-St. Anthony Church in Kansas City, Kansas, the evening of Nov. 18, the feast day of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, for whom the clinic is named — culminated a year marking this anniversary, or “jubilee,” as Sister Maureen likes to refer to it.
And it’s clear to all involved exactly why they do what they do, whether they’re staff or volunteers.
“When I was driving down, the temperature was 32,” said Sister Maureen. “It’s now below freezing. Perhaps one of the patients that will walk in tomorrow to Duchesne will have spent the night outside or in a shelter.”
It is a privilege, she said, to reveal God’s love.
The Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth and many others have, from the beginning, been a vital part of this clinic’s story.
25 years of service
This Mass — celebrated by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and concelebrated by Archbishop Emeritus James P. Keleher, Father Joseph Arsenault, SSA, Msgr. Michael Mullen, Father Gary Pennings and Father Anthony Ouellette, with Msgr. Gary Applegate serving as master of ceremonies — recognized all who have been part of the clinic’s journey thus far.
“We are absolutely humbled and honored by the privilege of just being able to serve the community and patients for 25 years,” said Amy Falk, executive director of Caritas Clinics, which encompasses the Duchesne Clinic in Kansas City, Kansas, and the Saint Vincent Clinic in Leavenworth. “The outpouring of support from the community continues to be overwhelming.”
Many people have come together over the years to make this happen.
In 1986, Sister Rosalie Mahoney, SCL, was concerned about the low- income people of Leavenworth County who did not have access to health care, and her drive paved the way for the opening of the Saint Vincent Clinic there.
A few years later, the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth and others in the community saw a need for affordable, accessible health care for those in need in Wyandotte County and worked to bring the Duchesne Clinic to life in the old St. Anthony School in 1989.
It has undergone significant expansions over the years and, in 2013, the clinic served 2,108 patients.
Much has changed in the 20 years since Stephen A. Ziller Jr. had seen the clinic.
He flew in from Ohio for the Mass and reception to honor his father. Stephen Ziller Sr., one of the early doctors of the Duchesne Clinic, died two years ago.
The younger Ziller toured the clinic on Nov. 18 and was impressed with what he saw. Just walking through the waiting area, he noticed how necessary this clinic is.
“It’s wonderful they can get services for people who don’t have insurance. It’s just heartwarming to see after so many years,” he said. “I know my father is looking down tonight.”
In his homily, Archbishop Naumann thanked all who have been a part of the clinic’s story, recognizing the many benefactors in attendance, including the Knights and Dames of Malta.
Although St. Rose Philippine Duchesne wasn’t directly involved in the medical profession, said Archbishop Naumann, she serves as an example of hope and heroism in the face of impossible odds.
‘Treated as Christ himself’
“We pray that Duchesne Clinic will be blessed through the years ahead,” said Archbishop Naumann, “and that what has happened in these past 25 years will continue.
“May the patients we’re privileged to serve in this clinic,” he continued, “go forth from the clinic feeling that they were treated as Christ himself.”
Finally, he prayed that those who are serving others through the clinic will recognize that in their service to the sick and the suffering they have the “opportunity to minister to the suffering Christ in our time.”
The health care world is constantly changing, admitted Sister Maureen, but the ministry of Caritas Clinics remains dedicated to the care of its patients as it enters into its next 25 years of service.
“God bless you all,” said Sister Maureen. “And let’s continue the story.”