In photo: Sister M. Paracleta Fryer receives flowers from Fred Folks, a burn victim and the first patient at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, Camden.
Before 1950, there was not one Catholic hospital between Trenton and Cape May. Aware of the strong community need, Bishop Bartholomew J. Eustace, the first bishop of Camden, decided to build what would eventually be known as Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center.
Sister Paracleta Fryer, O.S.F., was chosen to supervise the construction and development of the new hospital.
She participated in the planning for three years, supervising construction and overseeing expenditures so that the project stayed within budget. When the hospital was completed, she was named its first administrator, a position she held from 1950 until 1969.
Sister Paracleta was also responsible for opening Our Lady of Lourdes School of Nursing. Due to the shortage of nurses in the area, she felt that the hospital had an obligation to do something about it. In the mid-1950s, Cooper, West Jersey and Lourdes formed a corporation called CHIEF (Camden Hospitals Improvement Enlargement Fund), a fundraising organization that would raise money for projects at each hospital. She decided that with this money, she would build a nursing school to help replenish the area’s supply of nurses.
“Sister Paracleta was a great lady,” said Sister M. Elizabeth Corry, former president and chief executive officer of Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center. “The contribution of her talents to the health care field and to the South Jersey community are immeasurable.”
After graduating from Marywood College in Scranton, Sister Paracleta taught shop mathematics in the general training program of the Scovill Manufacturing Company, one of the largest brass manufacturing companies in Waterbury, Conn, where she was born.
In 1938, Sister Paracleta entered the novitiate of the Sisters of St. Francis in Allegany, New York.
During her training in Allegany, it was determined that she could best serve the sisters and the community by attending nursing school. Thus, she went on to receive her nursing degree from Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica, New York.
After serving as a registered nurse for two and a half years, Sister Paracleta was sent to St. Louis University to study hospital administration. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in hospital administration and completed a residency program at the St. Louis University Group of Hospitals in St. Louis, Mo., in 1948. Sister Paracleta became only one of two people to graduate from the university with a degree in hospital administration, as it was a very young profession at the time.
After leaving Camden in 1969, Sister Paracleta was assigned to St. Mary’s Hospital in West Palm Beach, Fla. She retired in 1976 and moved to St. Elizabeth Motherhouse two years later.
In 1991, Sister Paracleta died at the St. Elizabeth Motherhouse in Allegany, N.Y. She was four days short of her 80th birthday.