Giving the poor for love what the rich get for money

Marcelle Mogg

The contributions of the Sisters of Charity to health care in Australia are formidable. Madonna Magazine profiles the lay-woman tasked with ensuring that their mission and spirit lives on in St Vincent's Health.

- Rosie Hoban, Madonna Magazine

While the story of the Sisters of Charity in Ireland and the beginnings of their work in Australia is compelling, driven by pioneering women and stories of courage and adversity, Mary Aikenhead's mission was always clear.

Marcelle Mogg is the Organisational Mission and Learning Manager for St Vincent's Health. Marcelle believes her mission is as important now as it was when the Sisters first came to Australia in 1838 to serve the poor.

'We strive for best practice care in our health facilities, but we do it as a Catholic ministry and as an act of faith. When we look after patients who are homeless or in prison, we do it because it is the humane way to act. But more importantly, we do it because each person is made in the image of God.'

Sounds simple, but it's a challenging job in a largely secular workforce.

'Many people who have been treated at one of our hospitals or aged care facilities tell us that there is something different about St Vincent's and how we treat our patients. I think it is because our people understand why we do what we do and that the mission, handed down to us by the Sisters of Charity, is that difference,' says Marcelle.

Many Sisters of Charity are still involved in health care and work alongside lay staff to ensure the mission guides all decisions, from policy development and staff recruitment to clinical practice.

'We have to constantly ask ourselves why, as a Catholic ministry, we are in health care. Why, for example, do we still offer health care to prisoners? We do it, not because it is a profitable area of health care, but because we want to ensure that the quality of care is maintained and that these people, no matter what their crime, are treated with dignity because they are made in the image of God,' she says.

Marcelle’s past careers have provided the ideal training for her current work. She trained as a nurse at Australian Catholic University; worked at nearby St Vincent’s Public Hospital after her graduation; worked with the Marists on lay leadership formation then ran their Retreat Centre in Macedon before moving to edit Jesuit Communications’ Australian Catholics magazine, and Eureka Street. In 2006, Marcelle returned to St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne to head up the mission office. Along the way she has studied pastoral care and spiritual direction.

'Patients will walk out of here and they may not know or care about our mission and all that the Sisters of Charity have handed on. But it matters to us that we are faith based. Marcelle says. She holds on to what Sisters' foundress Mary Aikenhead once said: Charity hospitals should be places 'where the poor are given for love what the rich can buy for money'.

Read full article: Given for love - Rosie Hoban (Madonna Magazine)

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