The Century Club: Sister Mary Coletta, Leading Visionary in Health Care Industry in Oklahoma

Article excerpt

Guided by her faith, Sister Mary Coletta followed her calling to care for the poor and sick and became a leading visionary in the health care industry in Oklahoma.

Born Florence Johanna Massoth on a western Kansas farm in 1919, she attended a church school as a child in her predominantly Catholic community. In 1935, she moved to Oklahoma City to attend St. Joseph's High School. She graduated two years later.

In 1939, she chose to dedicate her life to service in the church - just as many of her aunts, uncles and cousins had previously done.

As a devout Catholic, she completed six months as a postulant and took the name "Mary Coletta." Her calling was to become one of the Sisters of Mercy.

Founded in Ireland in 1831, the Sisters of Mercy lived by the motto, "service to the poor, the sick, and the ignorant." The Sisters first traveled to Indian Territory as educators in 1884. As they became ever more committed to caring for the sick, they opened Mercy Hospital in McAlester, Oklahoma Territory, in 1902.

During the first half of the 20th century, the health care industry in Oklahoma consisted of municipal hospitals, doctor-owned hospitals and institutions affiliated with churches. In fact, by 1943, the state had 85 hospitals.

In 1946, the Sisters of Mercy purchased the Oklahoma City General Hospital, located at NW 12th Street and Harvey Avenue. It had been built in 1917, but had been expanded to include 145 beds and 25 bassinets.

Sister Mary Coletta was named Mercy's director of the School of Nursing. As such, she served as an instructor, recruiter, social director, disciplinarian, counselor and administrator.

Her superiors recognized her potential for leadership and sent her to Catholic University in Washington, D. …