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A Legacy for Mother Catherine Spalding Society, Caritas Christi Urget Nos

A Legacy for Mother Catherine Spalding Society, Caritas Christi Urget Nos

March 06, 2023 Posted in: Stories of Giving  4 minute read time


An important legacy in Kentucky was preserved in 2015 when a statue was erected of Mother Catherine Spalding, the first woman honored in a public venue in the history of the Commonwealth.

No doubt it was not only deserving, but long overdue. She now graces the public corridor on Fifth Street in Louisville in the front of the Cathedral of the Assumption where her care and devotion to children began in 1812 and later to care for the sick and poor.

Another statue graces the entrance to Saint Joseph Hospital in Lexington. While the Lexington statue is on private property, the significance remains the same … to honor her legacy and that of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. CHI Saint Joseph Health now carries that legacy of the foundresses forward to the patients and families we serve —a ministry we take very seriously.

Their first ministry was education. Years later, when cholera struck the area, the Sisters, once again, stepped forward to meet the needs of the community. And the SCNs health care ministry was born. So, here we are, the beneficiaries of the Sisters’ vision and commitment to serving others in education and health care — Caritas Christi Urget Nos — The Love of Christ Impels Us.

To once again honor her legacy, the CHI Saint Joseph Health Foundations has established a planned giving society — appropriately named the Mother Catherine Spalding Society.

It is quite appropriate that the first family to be inducted into the Society will be none other than Bill and Mary Florence Barnes. Their roots to the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth run deep.

Mary Florence was a Sister of Charity and Bill joined the priesthood with St. Joseph’s Society of the Sacred Heart and served in the Night Ward of New Orleans. He served the African American community, prioritizing social justice before civil rights emerged. He recently shared meeting Michael Schwerner at a black church service the night before Schwerner was killed during what is known as the Freedom Summer murders.

A Legacy for Mother Catherine Spalding Society

They both left their orders and continued their focus on ministry work. Later they would meet and marry as like-minded individuals.

Mary Florence and Bill both championed causes focused on vulnerable populations and social justice. Additionally, their passion for supporting health care services for the entire community is in alignment with our mission. Bill recalls the early efforts in 1945 to build a much-needed hospital in Bardstown, led by Msgr. James H. Willett and Keith Crume, MD. Mary Florence’s brother, Greg, was born Jan. 1 at home, just a few days shy of the opening of Flaget Memorial Hospital.

Consequently, the Barneses have also been staunch supporters of Flaget Memorial Hospital Foundation supporting the legacy of the Sisters’ hospital, now entrusted to us. Their support through the years has been vital to our growth. Recently the Barneses stepped forward to offer a challenge gift to the community to help us cross the finish line and reach our goal of $1.3 million to complete Project Hope. Our hope through their generosity became a reality in 2021 when we cut the ribbon on the newly expanded cancer center.

Today, they once again lead by example, offering a planned gift this year that will live into perpetuity to support critical equipment and capital needs for Flaget Memorial Hospital. Supporting generations of families to come and meeting the health care needs of their friends and family in our community. It is because of the generosity of the Barneses and members of the Haydon family, as well as others who will follow their example, that our legacy will continue to serve and our mission is made possible.

We make the healing presence of God known in our world by improving the health of the people we serve, especially those who are vulnerable, while we advance social justice for all.

Mother Catherine Spalding Legacy Society

The Mother Catherine Spalding Legacy Society will honor the founding leader of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth.

Members of the society have made forever gifts to support the mission of CHI Saint Joseph Health. Their leadership will make a lasting impact on providing innovative care to the patients and families we serve.

Specifically, the Mother Catherine Spalding Society is comprised of individuals who have made irrevocable planned gifts of $50,000 or more to support one or more of the CHI Saint Joseph Health Foundations.

The gifts leave a long-lasting legacy that builds healthier communities by elevating patient care through an integrated physical and behavioral health delivery system. They also set an example for others to invest in our mission.

As the foundress of CHI Saint Joseph Health, Mother Catherine Spalding is most deserving of this important recognition. At the mere age of 19, she rose to lead an order of religious women, whose legacy of service continues today with more than 600 members worldwide.

Mother Catherine’s legacy is today our legacy, and this society will provide forever gifts to continue her vision of providing compassionate, dedicated and innovative care.

The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth opened Saint Joseph Hospital in 1877 with a mission to provide compassionate care to the poor and underserved — a mission still carried out today. In 1951, the Sisters also opened Flaget Memorial Hospital in Bardstown.

Remembering Bill

Since writing this story and capturing an oral history with Bill Barnes, we are saddened to share that Bill Barnes passed away a few days later. We are blessed to have known him and honored that his legacy will be carried forward through the Barneses philanthropic giving.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Fall 2022 print edition of Spirit of Health.

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