By John Deinhart
Just over a year into its existence, the St. Mary’s Legacy Foundation of East Tennessee already is making a dramatic impact.
The foundation was formed in November 2011 to continue providing support for the ministry begun by the Sisters of Mercy with the opening of St. Mary’s Hospital in 1930. The foundation initially was made possible with funds provided through the sale of Mercy Health Partners to Health Management Associates in October 2011.
In keeping with the mission of the Sisters of Mercy and their founder, Mother Catherine McAuley, the St. Mary’s Legacy Foundation provides direct support for charity, health care and education through Catholic organizations serving those in need in East Tennessee.
While funded through Catholic organizations, the grants will ultimately serve people of all faiths.
“As part of our Christian identity, our faith calls us to attend to the needs of our entire community regardless of religious affiliation. The majority of these dollars will actually serve non-Catholics” Bishop Richard F. Stika said.
Following an extensive grant review process and board of directors recommendation, the foundation’s members met in late November and awarded more than $625,000 in grants in support of a dozen initiatives. The grants were broken down into areas supporting education, charity and health-care initiatives. Among the agencies receiving grant awards were Catholic Charities of East Tennessee, the Ladies of Charity, the Catholic Education Trust Fund, and the Alexian Brothers Senior Neighbors, a health and wellness program for seniors in Chattanooga. Grants also were also awarded to several more rural Catholic parishes, St. Anthony of Padua in Mountain City, Good Shepherd in Newport, and Blessed John Paul II in Rutledge, to initiate and expand community charity outreach through food pantries and a Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
Among the most noteworthy awards was a grant to initiate the diocesan Office of Health Services, headed by Sister Mariana Koonce, RSM, a family practice physician. The office, now beginning to take shape, seeks to extend the work of the Sisters of Mercy by continuing the ministry of healing and corporal and spiritual care to the needy throughout East Tennessee (more can be found on the Office of Health Services website at www.dioknox.org/office-of-health-services).
“As a Sister of Mercy and a spiritual daughter of Mother Catherine McAuley, I am profoundly grateful to the St. Mary’s Legacy Foundation for this grant to continue the works of mercy directed toward health care for the poor of East Tennessee. This grant will truly allow the legacy of St. Mary’s hospital to shape future health care initiatives in our diocese,” Sister Mariana said.
While grants will continue to be awarded to Catholic institutions, the services those agencies provide are not limited to serving only Catholics. In fact, as in the case of nearly all the grant recipients, including Catholic Charities, Ladies of Charity, various food pantry initiatives and even the Office of Health Services, the vast majority of all clients served are not Catholic.