1882

Again, there was seen a need for more Hospital space and in 1882, the Medical Board made a plea for a larger Hospital. The City was growing as were increased demands upon the Hospital and an appeal was made to the public, the Sisters making calls from house to house to solicit funds necessary for the erection of another building. An addition was added in 1884 ( the cornerstone having been laid in 1882) and two years later the building was dedicated by the Most Reverend P. Ryan, D.D., Archbishop of Philadelphia, who had succeeded Archbishop James Wood, D.D. Dr. Henry Landis paid tribute to the Sisters and to the Hospital they administer. He said in part—“that not only did the Hospital care for the sick and injured but that the Sisters gave a home to many an indigent person who had no one to care for them and spent their remaining days in peace and comfort.”

The Sisters in those days were very poor and many times begged from door to door for food for those under their care, but they remembered the words of our Lord, “Whatsoever you do to the least of My Brethren, you do unto Me.” The building of 1882-1884 could now accommodate seventy-five patients. It was built in the form of a cross – wide hall bisecting the four wings; elevators and dumb waiters installed. Porches ran along the length of the East and South Wings which must have been a welcome place for the convalescent patients to enjoy the gentle breeze from the mountain. The interior of the Hospital was not completely finished owing to the lack of funds, but that did not deter plans for an addition later to meet the ever-increasing need for patient accommodations.

Sister M. Walburga, the first Superior, after eleven years of prayer, hard work and achievements, had been succeeded by Sister M. Anastasia in 1884.

Then, as now, there were moments and happenings that bring a smile. There is a story told of these early days of a poor man who had been taken care of by the Sisters, without fee. The man recovered from his illness and elected to stay on until the end of his days as a “handyman”—and general factotum. It may be assumed that the Sisters appreciated the help of their former patient. The Sisters had little or no income as many of their patients were unable to pay little, if anything, for their care. Therefore, “paid” employees were at a minimum.

The Sisters were accustomed to going to the Farmers Market in mid-city, bringing home for their patients, fruit, vegetables and bread given them by kind farmers. The Sisters would carry these gifts up the long hill to the Hospital and one day, one of the Sisters noticed a man watching them. A little alarmed they decided to ignore his attention. After a few days of his apparent interest in them, he approached and asked if they carried their load up to the “Hospital on the hill.” Getting an answer in the affirmative, he said nothing. They were surprised the following week when he presented the Hospital with a horse and cart, gratefully accepted by the Sisters. Unfortunately, his name is not known but it is known to God, and this generous gesture has been borne out many ways by the good people of Reading. The “handyman” now added driving a cart to his other duties. A “handyman” indeed!

It may be noted here that the number of patients cared for rose from twelve patients in 1873 to two hundred and nine in 1884 (exclusive of private patients treated by physicians not on the Medical Staff, whose names did not appear on the Hospital register). There does not seem to be a record of outpatients kept at that period.

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