Sister Edward Thomas Griffin, a member of the Sisters of St. Francis whose nursing and pastoral career at St. Joseph Medical Center spanned five decades, died of heart failure Friday at her order's retirement home in Aston, Pa. She was 89.
Julia Lucy Griffin was born and raised in Moycullen, County Cork, Ireland. In 1935, she entered the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia and professed her vows in 1938.
Sister Edward Thomas began working in 1938 at the old St. Joseph Hospital on Caroline Street and graduated in 1943 from its nursing school.
In 1946, she was one of three sisters from her order who went to Pensacola, Fla., to help establish Our Lady of the Angels Maternity Hospital.
"The Franciscan Sisters accepted the request to staff the hospital after more than 80 other congregations had declined," said Sister Ann Marie Slavin, the order's assistant director of communications.
"The hospital, which was the first of its kind in the South, was for African-American women because it was during the time of segregation and they couldn't go to regular hospitals," Sister Ann Marie said. "Sister Edward Thomas recalled that, the day after the hospital opened, the first baby was born." By the time the hospital closed in 1964, 11,016 babies had been born there, Sister Ann Marie said.
In 1948, Sister Edward Thomas returned to St. Joseph in Baltimore but left again in 1952 for a nursing position at St. Agnes Hospital in Philadelphia.
In 1953, she returned to Ireland, where she worked at St. Patrick Hospital in Mallow, County Cork, for three years before returning to St. Joseph in 1956. From then on, except for another two-year stint nursing at St. Francis Hospital in Trenton, N.J., Sister Edward Thomas worked at St. Joseph in Baltimore - 54 years in all.
During her career there, she was nursing supervisor, director of outpatient services and a pastoral associate at her retirement in 1999.
"She was a great and wonderful lady who was both humble and gentle, and she taught me many things," said Sister Evelyn Grudza, chaplain at St. Joseph's.
"She was a very prayerful woman, and when we asked what we should do, she'd say, 'God will tell you what to do and who you will see today.' It was one of her favorite sayings," she said.
Colleagues said that Sister Edward Thomas brought a bit of a soft-spoken Irish brogue and lots of sensitivity to her work as a pastoral counselor comforting the ill.
"She had a special gift, and she took the time to work with patients and their families who were in crisis. She would sit quietly and listen and always knew what to say," said Rosemarie E. "Libby" Liberatore, retired chief nurse at St. Joseph's who worked with Sister Edward Thomas for years.
Even after Sister Edward Thomas moved to her order's retirement home in 1999, she remained close to the staff at St. Joseph's.
"She maintained her relationships with physicians, nurses and administrators, and they'll be going to her funeral tomorrow," said Ms. Liberatore, who lives in Timonium.
Sister Edward Thomas enjoyed crafts.
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. today at Assisi House, 600 Red Hill Road, Aston, Pa.
Sister Edward Thomas is survived by her brother, the Rev. Patrick Griffin of Ireland; and several nieces and nephews.