Sister Mary Jacinta Robson

Sister Mary Jacinta Robson ( )

The Baltimore Sun

Sister Mary Jacinta Robson, a retired medical technologist who spent six decades at Mercy Medical Center, died there of congestive heart failure Feb. 7. She was 88.

"She had been a beloved presence at the hospital for over 60 years and worked in the microbiology department for decades, and in later years was a hospital volunteer," said Sister Irene Callahan, a fellow member of Sisters of Mercy.

Born Clara Jane Robson in Baltimore and raised on Ridgewood Avenue, she was the daughter of Alonzo Robson, a clerk, and Goldie Updegraff Robson, a homemaker. She was a 1946 Eastern High School graduate.

She enrolled at the old Mount St. Agnes College in Mount Washington, a school run by the Sisters of Mercy and the site of the order's novitiate.

She was not born a Roman Catholic. She recalled that her mother credited a neighbor's prayers for saving her life during a serious childhood illness. During her years at the Mount studying medical technology, she developed strong friendships with her peers and teachers, almost all of whom were Catholic.

Her colleagues said she was influenced by two Baltimoreans who later headed Mercy Medical Center — Sisters Mary Veronica Daily and Mary Thomas Zinkand.

She converted to Catholicism and entered the Sisters of Mercy in 1951, taking the name Jacinta, the name of one of the Portuguese children associated with the shrine of Fatima. She chose the words "Thy will be done" to be engraved on her profession ring.

After receiving her degree in medical technology from Mount St. Agnes, she joined the staff at Mercy in downtown Baltimore.

"She had a well-honed scientific mind," said Sister Augusta Reilly, also a Sister of Mercy. "She looked at things seriously."

She then began working in the hospital's labs.

"She soon became an expert in her field and taught at the Mercy School of Medical Technology," said Sister Irene. "She was a founding member of Mercy's IV team. She said she regarded the establishment and success of this team as her most important accomplishment."

She spent 38 years working at the hospital, then remained at the Sisters of Mercy convent, becoming a hospital volunteer.

"From the early days when snowy white full habits were worn by hospital sisters to the first years of the 21st century, Sister Jacinta was a familiar and admired presence at Mercy," said Sister Irene.

Sister Elizabeth Anne Corcoran, her friend for five decades, recalled her as "the only sister here I ever knew who never moved."

She recalled her as the hospital's unofficial historian.

"She seemed to remember everything about Mercy and its people," said Sister Elizabeth Anne. "She was quiet and tougher than most people thought."

She also liked animals but never owned one, Sister Elizabeth Anne said. She often befriended security guards who patrolled the hospital with German shepherds.

"Sister Jacinta was a quiet, thoughtful person whose deep intelligence was much admired, but those who knew her well also enjoyed her lack of pretense and her wry wit," said Sister Irene. "She enjoyed telling stories about her early years at Mercy, when she and her companion sister, both in full habit, traveled from Mount St. Agnes to Mercy Hospital and back by bus. No matter the weather, the sisters had to walk to and from the bus stop, on bad days lifting their skirts as decorously as possible to avoid dragging the hems in mud or snow."

Sister Jacinta recounted that on their daily walk, she and a fellow sister passed a tavern where a gentleman always seemed to be present.

"As they passed the doorway of the bar, he would pop out onto the sidewalk and, without speaking, genuflect to the sisters, leaving them shocked, amused and speechless," said Sister Irene. "Because of their late-afternoon bus ride, they missed dinner almost daily, subsisting, Sister Jacinta said, on peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches."

Another close friend, Sister Paula Marie Phelan, who lived and worked with Sister Jacinta for more than a half-century, said of her, "She was a completely genuine person. You always knew where you stood with her. There were no pretenses. She was real."

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Thursday at Mercy Villa, 6806 Bellona Ave., where she lived for the past two years.

Survivors include a sister, Gertrude "Jeffie" Langston of Baltimore; and a niece.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com