EUGENE, Ore. — Mention her name, and the immediate response–a smile and a comment of how she has made our community a better place.
From her time as the head of PeaceHealth to her clinic, Volunteers in Medicine. Most will tell you Sister Monica Heeran has been a moral force in this community and will be missed.
A simple drive around town, and you can’t miss the mark Sister Monica has made on this community.
Buildings in her honor highlight the programs and mission she’s spent most of her life perfecting, but these are just walls holding her legacy. Now she’s on to a new mission and the new calling–take a little time for herself.
“I look forward to a little more time to pray and to read and to do some things that I want to do,” said Sister Monica.
But leaving isn’t easy for her or those she’s touched. In order to understand her imprint, we take you back to 1973 when Sister Monica arrived in Eugene to manage Sacred Heart Medical Center. Fast forward to 1988 when she went on to serve as CEO and president of the PeaceHealth system for another 10 years.
“I really felt like I was serving God and the people of God, and that was a pleasure,” Sister Monica said.
“She has always been that type of person who is a mentor a listener a fabulous listener. Always cared more for the people she was talking to than herself,” said Dr. Rick Kincade, PeaceHealth family physician.
And when she handed off the big baton, most agreed PeaceHealth would never be the same–always better.
“She really set the legacy for what PeaceHealth is really about she lived it and often we talk about our careers, but hers is really about her life that is what she gave to this organization truly her life,” said Tim Herrmann, PeaceHealth network vice president for patient care services.
And it was the lives of others, specifically the most poor and vulnerable, that she put first. In 1999, she started Volunteers in Medicine, a health care clinic for the under-served.
“At the clinic, the target was really those who couldn’t afford to pay for services, and that was kind of a special mission,” Sister Monica said.
The clinic is still thriving today in Springfield.
“Her legacy is really is about making sure people don’t fall through the cracks,” Kincade said.
“I think we have made a difference in the lives of those people who needed those services,” Sister Monica said.
In 2003, Sister Monica was recognized for her efforts and awarded the prestigious First Citizen Award.
“She was the first of the Eugene First Citizens that stepped outside of the mold of the professional business community,” said Jim Torrey, former Eugene mayor.
Torrey was mayor of Eugene at the time, and he says the honor was well deserved.
“She was just a strong advocate for making sure this community was successful both economically and socially,” Torrey said.
“I grieve that she is leaving because I truly think she has been a driving force in our community,” said Susan Ban, ShelterCare executive director.
And Ban sees that force every day at ShelterCare and the Heeran Center, which helps people with psychiatric disabilities.
“She went to bat for us and went to bat for this population and making sure this population the level of services that they needed,” Ban said.
Sister Monica says she hopes Lane County will continue to strive despite budget cuts and rolling economies.
“I hope that the community, whether it be the clinic or the hospital or whatever, be tuned in to the needs of the people or the needs of the times,” Monica said.
Leaving us with the knowledge of what a lifetime of service and a legacy of love really looks like.
Sister Monica left for Washington on Wednesday. She is excited to have some down time. But those we talked with say they know if they really need her advice, she is just a phone call and email away.