As a young girl (pre-teen) in the St. Cloud Orphanage, I looked forward to Sundays because student nurses from St. Cloud Hospital and college women from St. Benedict’s College would come to spend time with the small group of young girls just beginning their teenage years. The women would teach us how to set our hair, what kind of clothes to wear, and we talked about boys! We played games and went on walks, made taffy, and told stories. Those women treated us like real people.
One such afternoon someone mentioned my last name. Up to then, I don’t think any of the women knew anything but our first names. At that moment, Chloe, a student nurse, interrupted, “Patty, do you have a brother named ‘Bobby’?” I was shocked. My brother had disappeared and I had no idea where he was. I thought he might be adopted. We were never told when a sibling was adopted or put in foster care. They just disappeared. I said, “Yes.” “Patty, Bobby is getting so much better.” I was dumbfounded. How did she know my brother, Bobby? What did she mean? I asked her how she knew Bobby and what was wrong. She said, “I’m a nurse and I see him all the time.” My brother was in St. Cloud hospital with polio.
I will never, never forget that day. My brother was NOT adopted. I was so happy he had polio! He wasn’t lost somewhere out there.
Much later, I found out the back story. Chloe spent most of her free time reading, or just sitting with my brother who was only six. He had no visitors because he came from the orphanage. She was his only visitor all that time. I also think she may have gotten in trouble because I wasn’t supposed to know anything about where my brother went. And, trust me, I put up a real stink at the orphanage once I found out.
And now, there is a beautiful kind ending to the story. When I was working on a project at Saint Scholastica Convent just before COVID, I did some art projects with S. Paula. I knew she had memory loss but I wondered, just wondered, if maybe she would remember anything about her student days. I didn’t have any expectations. I just told the story of a little boy who had polio and a wonderful student who took care of him. As I glanced at Chloe, she had tears in her eyes. She said to me as clear as a bell, “Pray for Bobby.” I never said the boy’s name as I was telling the story. “Pray for Bobby.” I stopped right then, and at her urging we said the Hail Mary together.
Every single day that I went to Saint Scholastica’s and I saw Chloe, she would say, “Pray for Bobby.” We would say a Hail Mary and the rest of the time I was there it seemed she didn’t know me at all. This was a God-thing. Now it is me who has tears. I was hoping to see my dear Chloe who saved my brother for me in just a few weeks when I’m at St. Ben’s.
My heart sings with the gratitude of an 11-year-old girl who learned what it meant to be Benedictine from a student nurse. Chloe was Benedictine long before she became Sister Paula and made final vows.
Pat Pickett, OblSB
Photo: Sister Paula Revier as associate administrator of the St. Cloud Hospital, provided by the St. Cloud Hospital Archives