Forty Years Young

Forty Years Young

It is astounding enough to learn that George Hillenbrand has volunteered at UM-St. Joseph Medical Center for 40 consecutive years. But even more surprising than his extraordinary length of service is hearing how he became a volunteer.

Sr. Loretta Anne, OSF, and a member of St. Joseph’s Spiritual Care department in 1972, had heard George speak at St. Clements Catholic Church in Rosedale. She was so taken with his speaking voice that she asked him to be a Saint Joseph Eucharistic Minister, celebrating Mass both in the Chapel and with the patients. What is quite astonishing is that George was a patient, lying in his bed, at the time she asked! For his first appearance as Eucharistic Minister at Saint Joseph Hospital, George appeared at the altar in his hospital gown, pulling along two IV poles. This feat demonstrates Sr. Loretta Anne’s powers of persuasion along with George’s dedication to his faith. While he now performs his duties as Eucharistic Minister in a jacket and tie instead of a hospital gown, his commitment to UM-St. Joseph and the importance of a faith-based medical center has never wavered.

For his first two years of service, George was the only Eucharistic Minister at UM-St. Joseph, attending to seven floors of patients every Sunday. While that responsibility would be more than enough for most, George took on the added task of being the medical center’s Chapel Sacristan, carefully laying out the vessels and garments for the priests who would perform Mass each week. George holds that position to this day.

When asked to describe UM-St. Joseph Medical Center in three words, George quickly responds, "my second family." Continuing, he adds with his trademark twinkle, "I think my work here has kept me young in spirit. This place is great. I’ve made so many friends, doing what I love to do."

Sister Evelyn Grudza, OSF, Spiritual Care Volunteer, adds, "I can’t remember a time when George wasn’t a part of our team. He has been an invaluable volunteer to the life of this hospital. We are so blessed to have him."

On May 4, 2013, George Hillenbrand celebrates his 90th birthday with Muriel, his wife of 55 years, their two children and two grandchildren. But for today, we are celebrating that Sr. Loretta Anne had the foresight to tap an unsuspecting patient for a role that would so vitally, and for so long, contribute to the spirituality that is UM-St. Joseph.

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