Nun Imposes Religious Christmas Gifts Ban at Catholic Hospital

By Hilary White

  TAMPA, December 21, 2006 ( – When a group of teachers and sisters from Villa Madonna Catholic school tried to brighten up patients’ hospital stay with Christian-themed gifts, the nun in charge of St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital missions decreed that such gifts were inappropriate. A nun from a different order, Sr. Kim Keraitis, who helped organize the gift giving responded she found the political correctness of the decree appalling.

  The St. Petersburg Times reports that the decision was made that religiously neutral ornaments that read “Joy to the World” and “Peace on Earth” were in; lapel pins depicting Christ’s birth, ornaments with “Merry Christmas,” and Jesus-themed T-shirts were out.

  Sister Pat Shirley, a member of the Franciscan order that founded the Tampa hospital in 1934, told local media, “Yes, we were founded by Catholic sisters, but we serve everybody in our community.”

“We have to create an environment in which all feel comfortable, whether it be Christmas or Hanukkah or Gasparilla or any circumstance,” Sr. Pat said St. Joseph’s vice president of missions. “Gasparilla” is an annual summer tourist festival sponsored by the city of Tampa based on local pirate myths.

  The website of the hospital’s foundation, however, said clearly that St. Joseph’s remains a Catholic hospital. 

“It’s not Tampa General,” Sister Keraitis of the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco and principal of Villa Madonna school said. “It’s not Wal-Mart. It’s a Catholic hospital, so if you want to distribute items that say ‘Merry Christmas,’ even if there are people there that are of other faiths, it’s kind of understood that it’s a Catholic hospital.”

  Among the gifts organized by Sr. Keraitis were red T-shirts the read, “Jesus is the heart of Christmas ... Villa Madonna wishes you a Merry Christmas.”

  The Franciscan Sisters’ politically correct attitude was not shared by parents of patients, however. Kimmie Martinez, a Villa Madonna teacher said that when the group was told they would not be allowed to distribute the gifts without parental consent, they toured the halls singing Christmas songs and parent’s accepted the gifts “eagerly”.

  The volunteers asked if patients believed in Jesus and if they did, they got the gifts, Sister Keraitis said.

“I don’t want to cause a big stir, but my concern was the fact that it’s a Catholic institution,” Sister Keraitis said. “Within the Catholic institution, we shouldn’t have to apologize for saying ‘Merry Christmas’ to people.”

  St. Joseph’s Children’s hospital is part of a group of St. Joseph’s Health Care facilities originally established in 1934 by the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany who came to Tampa to aid the victims of an outbreak of yellow fever.

  The Franciscan Sisters of Allegany have missions in Brazil, Jamaica and Bolivia but are experiencing the same drought of candidates as most of the orders of Catholic sisters who ‘reformed’ in the 1960’s. They currently have two candidates for admission in the US.  

You can make a difference!

Can you donate today?

Share this article