By JESSICA ABLE
Record Staff Writer
When Sister of Charity of Nazareth Betty MacDougall reported for work at Our Lady of Peace Hospital this past September 21, it was the last day she would step foot in the psychiatric hospital as a full-time employee.
Sister MacDougall’s retirement also marked the last day a Sister of Charity of Nazareth would have a physical presence at Our Lady of Peace Hospital. For more than half a century, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth have served at the hospital on Newburg Road.
The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth opened Our Lady of Peace Hospital in 1951. Today the hospital has 261 beds and offers psychiatric services to people of all ages — from children to senior citizens.
Sister MacDougall, who has been a religious for 50 years, began working at Our Lady of Peace in 1988 as principal of John Paul Academy, a private school that was started as part of the hospital’s youth treatment program.
“When I interviewed (for the position), all the questions that were asked, it felt like everything I had done previously had led me to that point,” Sister MacDougall said.
The following year, the academy joined the Jefferson County Public School (JCPS) system and changed its name to Peace Academy. Sister MacDougall became the academic education coordinator for the school.
“There are so many things in hospitals that are different from things in school. We had to be sure we kept the privacy rules for the hospital and how the school interacted with the hospital,” she said.
As the academic education coordinator, Sister MacDougall became a liaison between the hospital and JCPS.
“The thing I feel really good about is that we served a lot of kids. We served kids who were sick. Not sick in bed but ones who had tried to run away or were suicidal,” she said.
Twenty-four years later, Sister MacDougall said she’s seen a lot of changes but the one constant is that Our Lady of Peace Hospital has always adapted to meet the needs of the patients. And that’s something of which she is proud.
Sister MacDougall said she is someone who has “always been in a classroom or near a classroom.” She began her career in education shortly after she took her vows in 1960. Her first assignment was at St. Benedict School in Lebanon Junction, Ky. From there she spent the next couple of decades in Covington, Ky., as an educator and principal.
Sister MacDougall holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, a master’s degree in educational psychology and a certification in special education. She grew up in Clarksville, Ind., and was one of six children. Sister MacDougall attended Presentation Academy and said she was so impressed by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, who operated the school, that she decided to enter the community following graduation.
“The sisters were so down to Earth. They were really interested in us as people,” she said.
Sister MacDougall’s older sister, Dorothy, had joined the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth four years before.
“She said ‘Don’t come Sister MacDougall said she is sad to be the last Sister of Charity of Nazareth to serve at Our Lady of Peace Hospital but knows the legacy of the sisters her will remain.
“The people who came before us, those whose shoulders we stand on, I think they would be pleased with the moving forward,” she said. “I think the founding people would be very happy because, as things change, the hospital has changed to stay with the needs of the people. They (the hospital) will keep right on doing it without the sisters.
“I do believe (Our Lady of) Peace will go on and do well,” she added.
Now that Sister MacDougall is retired, she said she plans to devote more time to gardening and sewing. She also plans to volunteer at her parish, St. Anthony of Padua Church in Clarksville. She also plans to tutor with Doors to Hope — a new ministry the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth have started at Holy Name Church.