with Reminiscences by Sr. Karen Helfenstein
St. Vincent’s Hospital, Manhattan, the first Catholic hospital in New York City, began in a brownstone on East 13th Street in 1849 and grew into a large main campus at West 12th Street and 7th Avenue. The campus included a 783-bed inpatient facility, outpatient practice sites, and a School of Nursing (1892–1999). St. Vincent’s remained the center for health care in the Greenwich Village community until its closure in 2010.
All employees and patients celebrated Christmas at the hospital. Sr. Karen Helfenstein, who graduated from St. Vincent’s School of Nursing in 1966 and entered the Sisters of Charity of New York in 1967, worked as a Registered Nurse for one year and returned to work as Vice President for Community Services, 1983–1990, and Senior Vice President for Mission, 1990–2000. Sr. Karen recalls the activities at the Hospital during the Christmas season:
“The memories I have are gatherings of all kinds during the two weeks leading up to Christmas. The doctors were generous in feasting their department staff. There were parties where administrators served food and gave out presents to staff and song fests among student nurses in the auditorium. As freshman we used some familiar songs and changed the words to Jingle Bells and other familiar tunes so that nursing terms and medical jargon that we were learning was inserted! I sang each Christmas at Penn Station in uniform with friends during commuter time.
We kept the spirit among us even as we fed babies in Pediatrics and newborns in nurseries at midnight on New Year’s Eve, kept IVs running, monitored patients after surgery and changed wound dressings. Often, even as students, we worked on the holidays, evenings and night shifts and weekend days, all of it; that was different for all of us. We helped each other through the experience of being apart from family during the holidays when that was our assignment. The bond we created has lasted a lifetime. I feel honored to have been a part of it all.”
The 17 photographs shown in the gallery depict the joys of the Christmas season as celebrated by the medical family of St. Vincent’s Hospital, Manhattan.
– By Mindy S. Gordon, Archivist
What beautiful memories from SVH I worked there from 1983 to 2010. Good times
Glad to know you enjoyed our post!
My Mom Mary Elzabeth Mylod..Mary Elizabeth Dolan..was a student nurse from 1945..for 3 or 4 years…I am not sure of number of years for her degree..Sister Richard
Maureen was a yr ahead or in her class..I am not sure…they were great friends..and I met Sister Richard several times..the last being July ’81 at my sister’s Cape May wedding.
Greatest memory is at ages 6 & 11 visting her & others from.St. Vincents for a week at Christmas in NYC..visting the hospital & Christmas Turkeys at the Brownstone where she resided in Grennich Villzge
pardon my spelling….recently (2022)ad some cardiac issues & eucharistic minister/RN here was a grad of class of 1972..and knew Sister Richard & Sister Eileen Hawkey..very well.Thanks for the great article.
Joseph Dolan Bethesda MD.
Yes! Good times. I was there the same years you were
I born born in St. Vincent’s Hospital on December 16, 1943 in the newly-opened Spellman wing (so my late mom told me). I have a feeding schedule dated December 25, Christmas Day. My mom said that she had to stay in the hospital for 10 days back then – and almost had to learn to walk again. Maybe a Santa came to me that day in the nursery. My father’s 2 sisters were Sisters of Charity – Sr. Virginia Maria and Sr. Mary Margaret. Happy Christmas Sisters of Charity of New York.
Hi Michael. Love to the family!
Merry Christmas and Happy, Hope-filled, Safe New Year for all the McGoverns.
Cousin Sr Margaret Egan, SC
Cousin Sr.Margaret Egan – thank you and you stay safe. UP BLACKLION!!
Thank you so much for sharing your remembrances, Sister Karen! I remember Sister Margaret Carmella from St Vincents, Hospital School of Nursing in Staten Island. It makes me smile to remember her. distinctive voice that exuded warmth (Oh, Honey” and a tilt of the head). I remember how she would go to the patients in pediatrics and shower them with love. I remember a little girl of about 4 who had Down’s Syndrome and Sister Margaret Carmella would smile and the little sweet child would raise her arms up to be held and she was picked up and held .- the joy was in both of their eyes. We were so fortunate to have been taught by these Sisters, like Sr. Margaret Carmella. I’m 74 now and these are treasured memories from many moons ago! I wonder if the Sisters of Charity who taught us knew how much we learned from watching them live the practice of nursing as they taught it to us.
Thank you for sharing your memories. I think the sisters knew 🙂
I so enjoyed seeing these pictures. I worked at St Vincent’s for 20 years from 1970 to 1990. It was a wonderful place to work. The Sisters were an inspiration and I was proud to be associated with them. These pictures brought back many happy memories. I even sang and played guitar at the Christmas parties! They were so much fun. It’s terrible what happened to St Vincent’s. Once the Susters were forced to leave the place fell apart. Thank you so much to the Sisters of Charity for all you have done for so many people.
Thank you for your kind words. Glad you enjoyed the memories!
Such wonderful memories of a large and extended SVH family. I worked in many areas from 1979 – 2005. So many friends I made there are in my circle of close friends and those relationships never waiver.
Thank you to the Sisters of Charity for always inspiring us to take the absolute best care of our patients. We have now brought that caring and knowledge to so many other patients and facilities. Proud to h ave been a SVH registered nurse!
The Sisters of Charity are forever proud of the dedicated nurses who carried on the legacy!
55&vsee sr . Catherine in a pic and sang at penn and grand central. It was hard being away from home but my mother would work dinner around my schedule. Thanks , sr. Karenmerry Christmas all.
Thanks for sharing your memories!
I always enjoyed looking at pictures and stories of my “home.” I grew up as a nurse there between 1975 and 1996. The family I gained there say with me until today. There is nothing better than the nurses taught by the Sisters of Charity.
We agree, Denise! Thank you 🙂
Loved looking at these photos! I was born in St Vincents and followed in the footsteps of my mom and aunt by attending school there as well. I worked there from the day I graduated till the day they closed . I spent most of those years in Pediatrics . I will forever be grateful to the Sisters of Charity for making me the nurse I am today .. So many memories I will always cherish .
Family legacy merged with SC legacy—great combination! Thanks for sharing.
Thank you Sr Karen, wonderful memories!!
Sister Karen loves sharing memories of St. Vincent’s!
Thank you, Sister Karen for sharing. It brings back memories of my student nurse days at St. Vincent Hospital School of Nursing in Bridgeport, Ct when the Daughters of Charity and nursing students would sponsor a Christmas party for all the children of clinic patients
Wonderful memories. Attended school 1974 – 1977 and continued to work there till 1984.
Glad to stir your memories!
StVinny was my home away from home when I came in 1983 forever greatful and honored to be a part of this great hospital and have met the most wonderful people I call friends and family
Honored you are part of our St. Vincent family!
I was born there in 1972, and my siblings in the late ’60s. Nice to see photos of a place I’ve only ever heard about.
Glad you enjoyed the photos!
At 86 and a 1955 graduate, some of my fondest memories are from days as a St. Vincent’s nurse. Life long friends, life skills and knowledge that has stayed with me and been used over and over even though I “retired” early to raise a family. All four born there! So heartbroken to see it close. .
Our St. Vincent roots are strong! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
I was a “Vincent-teen” there from 1965-1969. I worked in Radiology, Central Supply and Medical Records. Sister Richard Maureen was in charge of us and we learned so much from her and the example that was set by the Sisters, Doctors, Nurses and other Staff. It was the best first job you could have. It was disgraceful that the city allowed it to close. With the virus, I bet the city wishes it had those hospital beds available.
Thank you for sharing your memories and thoughts.
I went to school beginning in 1969 and worked in the hospital after graduation until it closed. My education and work there made me a better nurse and I hope I have passed the values to all the nurses I have worked with. I am happy that I had such great experiences. It was fun seeing the 1972 photo.
Glad you enjoyed seeing the photos, and that you had such great experiences!
Wow! I worked at St. Vincents from 1975 to 1983. First in Medical Records, then in HR with Emily and Ms. Halligan ending my tenure working with Edith Belsjoe in HR. I love working there! My first son was born there also 1982. I recall how nice the MD’s were – Dr. Walsh, Dr. Januzzi, Dr. Alam and others.It was a great time in my life. It was a sad day when it closed.
So great to look back at all the memories and see the people who touched our lives forever … We were so fortunate to have our training at St Vincent’s .. Even though it’s no longer there , the gifts that were given to us can never be taken away and will always remain in our hearts.