On Saturday last, the religious women and men of the diocese held their annual “Study Day” as guests of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa. There were about 100 religious present for the presentations and they enjoyed being together. This diocese has always been lucky to have a good number of religious women and men present and serving God’s people. While we are home to only two “motherhouses”, a wonderful number of religious have chosen “retirement” among us and still attempt to help in a variety of ministries. Rocky Creek Retirement Village used to be home to about 100 religious sisters and brothers when I came here but death has taken its toll on the occupants there and there are today only about forty still living at Rocky Creek. They are amazing people, these religious women and men.
At four o’clock on Saturday afternoon I joined the group and together we celebrated with the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany their sesquicentenntial of founding. These same sisters in the thirties came to St. Petersburg and Tampa, purchased failing hospitals and turned them into what we know today as St. Joseph’s in Tampa and St. Anthony in St. Petersburg. Founded by a Franciscan Friar with its first member a young lady from Ireland, the Allegany Franciscans are from upstate New York, near Buffalo. Their mission from their founding was education and hospitals and they were and some still are very good at it.
The Alleganys taught in a number of schools in this diocese and throughout Florida. Additionally, they once owned and operated St. Francis Hospital on Miami Beach and St. Mary’s Hospital in West Palm Beach. I consider our diocese lucky because outside of Allegany, New York, I suspect their second largest concentration of sisters is here in the Bay Area. Great women still doing great work. Amazing grace in our midst.