Last Mass held at St. Joseph’s

PARKERSBURG – As closure of the former St. Joseph’s Hospital approaches, a final Mass was held Monday in its chapel.

More than 50 people gathered in the Christ the Healer Chapel on the first floor of what is now known as Camden Clark Medical Center’s St. Joseph’s Campus for the Mass, said Sister June Souder, pastoral care practice manager.

“It was standing room only,” she said.

Because of the emotional nature of the service, the newspaper was not invited to attend. However, Souter spoke about it later in the day.

“Although it was sad that it was the last Mass there, I was really grateful that so many people came out. That was a real blessing,” she said.

Those in attendance included current and former employees, volunteers and people from the community, Souter said.

Mass was a daily occurrence when members of the Sisters of St. Joseph actually lived at the facility, which was established more than 100 years ago as the second Catholic hospital in West Virginia, Souter said. The frequency decreased over time, but Mass was still held monthly in recent years.

“If there were any patients … in the hospital who wanted to come, they were able,” Souter said.

Deacon Jim Kelly will still take the consecrated host to patients for Communion at the Memorial Campus. The bread and wine, consecrated as the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ, are still stored in the chapel, but after Aug. 18, Kelly will bring them from St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church.

“That whole ministry to the sick continues,” Souter said.

The St. Joseph’s emergency department is slated to close Aug. 19. All other operations are expected to be consolidated to the Memorial Campus by the end of the month, with approximately 60 jobs being lost.

“As we move through the final stages of the consolidation, it’s important that all of us take time to honor the legacy of St. Joseph’s,” Camden Clark Chief Executive Officer David McClure said in a statement Monday afternoon. “The final Mass at the St. Joseph’s Campus provided a time for reflection, celebration and an opportunity to honor the rich history of service and care.

“As one chapter ends, another begins,” McClure said in the statement. “Even though the building is closing, the highly skilled staff and outstanding services of St. Joseph’s will continue to live and thrive as an integral part of Camden Clark Medical Center.”

The professional building at the St. Joseph’s site remains open and occupied.

In 2011, St. Joseph’s Hospital was purchased by the West Virginia United Health System for $87 million and merged with Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital to form the current Camden Clark Medical Center.

Plans to close the St. Joseph’s Campus by 2017 were announced in 2012. But a decrease in patient volume resulting from changes in technology and health care policy moved up that timetable.