Mission first, people, always. These words best describe the years that Sr. Mary Rose McPhee spent at Seton. During her tenure, Seton emerged as the largest hospital in Central Texas. A careful planner, Sister always kept the needs of the people first.
But her story starts well before this time. Sister joined the Daughters of Charity in 1941 at the age of 23. She was a student nurse at the time and wanted to do more for her fellow man. Her awareness of the plight of those who were ill, less fortunate and alone led her to a life devoted to the care of others.
Over the years, her gift of ministering to the poor was fulfilled in Catholic health care where she served as a nurse, hospital administrator, Executive Director of Health Services at Corporate Headquarters in St. Louis, MO, and Superior for the Daughters of Charity’s Western Territory.
The life of Sister Mary Rose McPhee demonstrates a life of astonishing accomplishments. Similar to Mother Teresa, it is the purpose for which they served that gave their work extraordinary meaning; both women saw Christ in the eyes of the poor and took action to address their needs.
Sister Mary Rose served as Superior of the Daughters of Charity of the western provinces, visiting all the hospitals, schools and social service agencies operated by the Daughters before being missioned to Austin in 1975. Here, she embraced her role as Administrator of Seton Medical Center. During her six-year tenure as administrator, two expansions of the medical center were completed, including the first regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The 56-bed unit revolutionized care of newborns in Central Texas.
The expansions she initiated added 158 beds to the Medical Center and were the start of Seton’s growth to better serve the people of the region, providing enhanced intensive care, surgery, radiology and laboratory services. The Bishop Louis J. Reicher Neurological Special Care Unit also opened during her administration, further expanding Seton’s role as a regional referral center.
Her constant awareness of the needs of patient and their families was also the guiding factor in the founding of League House, a facility where out-of-town family members can stay while their critically ill loved one is hospitalized.
The Seton Development Board was established under Sister’s leadership. Comprising 60 of Austin’s leading citizens at the time, the Board works in an advocacy role to improve Seton’s services through annual fundraising and promotion. Sister Mary Rose also helped with the organization of the Seton Fund, Seton’s philanthropic foundation created to support the Daughters of Charity mission of service to the people of Austin and Central Texas.
Twenty years after arriving in Austin, Sister Mary Rose founded Seton Cove, a spirituality center open to people of all faiths. At the 10-year anniversary of Seton Cove, she said, “I wanted people to learn to meditate, to laugh, to enjoy nature, to be healthy.” Another decade has passed and Seton Cove continues to “reach out to the poor in spirit and those seeking to enrich their relationship with God, others and self.”
Sister followed her own advice when she stated, “If people functioned out of an inner-conviction for the good of society, we would live in a different world.” She served the Diocese of Austin for 30 years and retired to Evansville Indiana, in 2004. Sister Mary Rose died on Tuesday, April 15, at the Daughters of Charity Seton Residence in Evansville. She had been a Daughter of Charity for 72 years.
A memorial service in her honor will be held Monday, May 19 from 10-11am at Seton Medical Center Austin in McFadden Auditorium. All are welcome to attend.