Catherine Mary O’Keeffe came from Ireland to join the Congregation in September 1939. She received the religious name of Sister Mary Emmanuel. She served the community in various capacities, and went to nursing school in Michigan in 1946 to begin her journey in the healthcare ministry.
Since its founding, Sister Mary Emmanuel was vital to the Mercy Hospital ministry. Sister Mary Emmanuel served at Mercy Hospital in various capacities as a nurse, mission leader, and finally, as the hospital’s administrator.
Sister guided the hospital through significant development including doubling the hospital’s capacity, overseeing the addition of the critical care units and building several additions, including the Carroll tower, the Surgical Pavilion, and the Mercy Professional Building.
More importantly, this soft-spoken woman lived the values that embodied this religious community, and she was esteemed and loved by all who knew her. She treated others with respect and dignity, advocated for a just society, and always aspired toward a life of great virtue. Her contemplative life shared love with others, and she continuously helped to meet the needs of the community. Sister Emmanuel lived by example, and she helped to realize Father Médaille’s “Little Design” into a thriving medical center to serve the greater Miami community.
By the 21st century, Mercy Hospital had become an institution in the community and a vital presence in South Florida. To meet longer term medical challenges, the Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Augustine, Florida decided to open a second hospital: a Long Term Care Hospital (LTCH). The creation of this new LTCH allowed the Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Augustine to expand the continuum of care.
While the new hospital was in the development stage, Sister Mary Emmanuel died October 10, 2002. Because of a lifetime of leadership and commitment to healthcare and service to others, the Sisters choose to name the new facility in honor of Mary Emmanuel O’Keeffe. In recognition of her life, her ministry, and her values, the new hospital was named in her honor. This distinction marked the life of an amazing woman and recognized the contributions of the Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Augustine within the South Florida community.
While the first Sisters of St. Joseph arrived in Florida in 1866, their work continues in many vital ministries, including a special place known as Sister Emmanuel Hospital.