‘God lets us know what he wants of us’

Sister Mary Frances Kyle visits Vincenzo Scanga, one of the last patients she visited before leaving AtlantiCare Medical Center in Atlantic City after 17 years. In 2000, Sister cared for Scanga’s wife – and his whole family – after she was in a motor vehicle accident.

Recently, Sister Mary Frances Kyle, SSJ, was sorting through papers when she found the prayer of Saint Vincent DePaul that a dear friend, a Sister of Charity, had given her many years ago.

“Do the good that presents itself to be done,” the prayer opened.

The next day she got a call from the Sisters of Saint Joseph asking her to consider being part of the new Welcome Center that the Sisters are opening in Camden.

“They said, ‘We want you to be part of it,’” Sister remembered of the conversation. “‘You are familiar with the City of Camden, having worked there for 14 years, and your knowledge of Spanish would be a valuable asset.’”

Sister Mary Frances has spent the last 17 years of her 33 years in hospital ministry caring for patients, staff and providers at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center (ARMC).

“It was so unexpected,” said Sister of the offer. “When I got home, there was the prayer, sitting on my bureau.”

“God lets us know what he wants of us. We belong to him and not to ourselves. If he increases our work, he adds to our strength also,” continued the prayer.

“I called the sisters the next day. I got voicemail and left a message: ‘My heart says yes, but my head needs more time to grasp this opportunity,’” said the 78-year-old nun.

Raised in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia, Sister spent 14 years caring for patients and the community in Camden through her assignment by the Camden Diocese from 1986 to 2000 before she was assigned to AtlantiCare.

“Our patients and their families have allowed me to accompany them during some of the most difficult and intense moments of their lives,” said Sister. She has ministered to patients and loved ones in all areas of the hospital.

“Faith comes into play in a special way in life-and-death situations,” explained Sister, who has cared for thousands of patients regardless of their faith or beliefs. “Finding God in the midst of suffering can be challenging. Seeing people survive terrible traumas is both gratifying and inspiring.”

“In the hospital, the doctors and nurses often stop to ask for a prayer,” said Sister. “It’s very touching to have a doctor say, ‘Would you say a prayer for me?’ To be in an environment where people can express themselves, regardless of their faith or cultural backgrounds, is very rewarding.”

While assigned to AtlantiCare, Sister lived at Saint Joseph’s in Somers Point for 10 years and then moved on to Holy Trinity Convent in Margate for the last six years.

She loves to attend Sunday Mass at Saint Frances Cabrini Church in Ocean City, where she played a key role in implementing a weekly Spanish Mass. Sister said the Diocese of Camden has continued to provide for the spiritual needs of the Spanish-speaking members of the community.

Sister has cared for patients, families and parishioners beyond the walls of the hospital and the church.

“I try to keep in touch with home calls and house visits,” she said. “Sometimes they’ll need clothes, so I’ll ask the staff who have children if they have clothes to spare,” she explained. “One family didn’t have any furniture. I asked one of our ER nurses and she said, ‘Absolutely, I can help with that!’”

“I’m grateful to have shared in the joys and sorrows of countless wonderful people at AtlantiCare,” said Sister. “I’ve had the opportunity to see how God works in their lives. To see a good outcome is wonderful. We see violence and tragic accidents. We experience healing and courage. We witness kindness and compassion.”

“I’ve grown in my own spiritual life over the last 17 years,” she added. “I’ve seen God working in so many people’s lives. To be able to bond with staff and patients in a spirit of unity in the midst of diversity has been the greatest blessing. It feels like I’ve made a thousand friends.”

Margaret Belfield, executive vice president and chief operating officer, AtlantiCare, said, “Whether she was quietly talking with the parents of a patient in our Trauma Center’s Intensive Care Unit, celebrating the progress a premature baby was making in our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or talking with providers and staff about a lifesaving brain surgery at our Neurosciences Institute, Sister Mary Frances has quietly and lovingly made a difference for us and those we serve.”

Prior to working more than three decades in hospital ministry, Sister taught in Catholic schools in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

On the subject of where life will take her, Sister said, “As the prayer says, God will show me the way and companion me on the journey.”

Grateful for her 17 years at AtlantiCare, Sister moves on to Camden to work in a neighborhood Welcome Center, sponsored by the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania.