The doors of North Philadelphia’s Sacred Heart Home opened in 1930. The Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne have been offering free medical care and a place to call “home” in every sense of the word to incurable cancer patients ever since.
For the last year, Jim, who suffers from a form of throat cancer, has called Sacred Heart Home his home.
“I should have been dead three years ago,” says Jim. “This is a miracle in my life.”
The miracle he refers to is the work of Sister Mary DePaul, a Dominican Sister of Hawthorne and director of operations, and the nine other nuns and small staff who work at the home. It is their mission to make “guest-patients” feel welcome in an atmosphere of peace and warmth, where love, understanding and compassion prevail – without discrimination as to race, creed or national origin.
“We take those of all faiths, of all backgrounds,” explains Sister Mary DePaul. “(The term) guest-patient has a dual meaning. You want them to feel like guests in your home and we want the nursing care to be as it would if you were to take care of your mother and father.”
The 25-bed facility is for those who need around-the-clock nursing care and do not have the ability to pay for it. The home operates solely on donated funds and does not accept payment from guest-patients or their families, nor are funds accepted from state and federal programs or health insurance providers.
Sister Mary DePaul adds that the majority of guest-patients come from what she calls a broken down society – a lack of family life and struggles with drug and alcohol addictions.
“They shine, especially at the end of their life. It’s a real gift that you can do that for people when they’ve had such a struggle all their life and they just have a little shining at the end. It’s the best reward of all.”
But for Jim, he says he’s the one who has received the gift. For instance, with the help of the sisters, he was recently able to fulfill a lifelong wish on his bucket list: to go to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, conquer the steps and pose at the famous Rocky statue.
“This place has given me a renewed lease on life until God is ready to call me home.”
The Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne were founded by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s daughter, Rose, in 1900. She took those suffering from incurable cancer into her home and her heart, comforted them, restored their spirits and helped them to live out their days in dignity and peace. Today, her mission continues.