Their story is our story.
Father lends a helping hand
Hospitals care for the sick. Churches care for the soul. But in hard times, the two can clasp hands to catch those tumbling through the gap in the middle. That’s what happened during the Great Depression. Lowell Jensen, a former board member of St. Charles, remembered.
“There were 150 to 200 people riding the rails going north and going south looking for work and getting with their families to try to live,” Jensen said. “I remember then what that hospital did. It was Father Luke Sheehan, of course.”
At the height of the Depression, the area along Franklin Avenue between the railroad tracks and present-day Third Street was undeveloped. People riding the rails camped there. The good father took pity.
“They put a sign up there that they could get food at St. Charles Hospital, and of course, some of them would filter down into town,” Jensen said. “Then the Chamber of Commerce came to Father Luke and said they wanted to take that sign down.
“Father Luke said, ‘You leave that sign up. They’re not bums, they’re people who need help.’ And so he said they were going to feed them as long as they’re hungry. You’d see 30, 40, sometimes 50 people lined up every morning.”
The sisters of St. Charles Hospital served meals through the Depression.