Marie Agnes Berger, longtime nurse at Lourdes Medical Center, dies

Marie Agnes Berger, a registered nurse and much beloved member of the Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center family for 61 years, died at the hospital on Jan. 17.

A graduate of Camden Catholic High School, Berger attended Misericordia Nursing School in Philadelphia. Drawn to the mission of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany who were building South Jersey’s first (and only) Catholic hospital, she applied for and got a job as Lourdes’ first operating room nurse.

Berger began working at Lourdes weeks before the hospital opened for patients on July 1, 1950, ordering and stocking supplies, unpacking furniture with the nuns, establishing OR policies and procedures and hiring staff.

Promoted to a leadership position, Berger worked her entire career in the OR, planning and implementing the technological advancements in surgery that helped Our Lady of Lourdes grow from a community hospital into a major regional medical center.

Over six decades, Berger -who later earned her bachelor of science degree in healthcare administration from Stockton College-was instrumental in the start of the kidney transplant and open heart surgery programs in the 1970s, the introduction of laparoscopic techniques and the adoption of the da Vinci Robotic Surgical System.

Berger belonged to St. Charles Borromeo in Cinnaminson, serving in the bell choir and as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist.

“I think this hospital has something different that other hospitals don’t have,” Berger said at the hospital’s 60th anniversary celebration, shortly before her retirement in September 2010. “The spirit of St. Francis is here.”

Berger was known for her years of teaching and mentoring generations of surgical nurses. She served as a role model and inspiration for healthcare professionals throughout the health system.

“Agnes truly lived our mission of serving all with joy and hospitality. We applaud every moment of her hard work on our behalf,” Sister Rosemarie Kolmer, OSF, former director of pastoral care, said in a Burlington County Times profile of Agnes published last March.

In January 2011, the Catholic Health East (CHE) board of directors and Sponsors Council honored Berger for her years of dedicated service.

Agnes’ legacy will live on through a scholarship named in her honor for excellence in perioperative nursing at Our Lady of Lourdes School of Nursing.

A Mass of Christian Burial was held Jan. 21 at St. Charles Borromeo Church, Cinnaminson. Interment immediately followed at Calvary Cemetery Mausoleum, Cherry Hill.

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