St. Mary's and BaptistThis isn't the most political of topics, but it is major news in hospital-rich East Tennessee that St. Mary's Health System and Baptist Health System are merging. The press is concentrating on the obvious community benefits to the merger. Baptist's tremendous cardiovascular research and health unit will likely combine with St. Mary's great rehab unit. One thing that is being mentioned only casually is the faith heritage of these two great institutions. St. Mary's is still a real Catholic hospital, not just one in name only (a rarity these days). Baptist is still controlled and overseen by Baptists.
That maynot seem like such a big deal to those who aren't from those faith traditions, especially it doesn't matter what your religious beliefs are when you are ill and need treatment-the hospitals are there to heal the sick regardless of their religious faith, but it does matter in ways you may not even think about. I refuse to be treated anywhere except St. Mary's, not only because I know it is the best hospital in East Tennessee (which it is), but because I know that if I have to stay in the hospital, they will offer Holy Mass in the hospital chapel on Saturdays and Sundays. If I am nearing the hour of death, and I beg to see a priest, they will not merely send me the closest available chaplain (that has happened), they will find me a priest come Hell or high water. If I just need someone to pray with me, it isn't uncommon to find a Sister of Mercy roaming the hallways at St, Mary's who knows how to pray the rosary. There are people at St. Mary's who know what a brown scapular is.
They may seem like silly things to some, but these are important things in a hospital if you are a person of faith. They are little things that have a big spiritual impact at a time when you really need a serious experience with God. These aren't the only reasons I choose St. Mary's, but I would be lying if I said they didn't play a role. I feel so strongly about St. Mary's that I have chosen to forgo closer hospitals in case of an emergency and would be going straight to St. Mary's in Knoxville.
I am also sure that many of our Baptist friends feel the same way about Baptist Hospital and for the same sorts of reasons. One of the things that has been announced is that the name of the system will change as a result of the merger. I sincerely hope that a name is not chosen that dilutes the spiritual heritage of either place.