The last nun? Sister Leticia's retirement at St. Joseph Hospital could end nearly 120-year streak
Nuns have been a presence at the many iterations of St. Joseph Hospital in Elgin since it was founded in 1902 by the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart.
When Sister Leticia Lapid walks out the door for the last time to retire after 24 years as a spiritual care chaplain, that streak may end. She's the only nun serving at what is now Amita Health St. Joseph Hospital.
Her replacement hasn't been chosen yet, but it's not likely to be another nun, she said.
"I'm not 100% it won't be," Lapid said. "They would be lucky if it was a nun."
Lapid grew up in the Philippines. As the oldest child, she had to work to help support her family. She worked the family farm with her father and at the Dole pineapple plantation in her hometown of South Cotabato, but she knew it wasn't for her.
"It planted in my mind that I'm not going to stay in the field," she said. "I said, 'No way, I have to do something else.' I had a dream to see the world."
She finished school and worked as a midwife and then a nurse in the Philippines before moving to Germany, where she worked as a certified nursing assistant in a hospital for 15 years.
"When I was in Germany, I was able to travel anywhere I want," she said. She traveled Europe and beyond, but she said she was still looking for the right "community."
She moved to the U.S. in 1987 and joined the sisterhood.
The Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart is a Roman Catholic religious congregation of women based in Frankfort that is part of the Joliet Catholic Diocese. The Sisters serve in health care, education, religious education, parish and diocesan ministries, and ministry to the poor. "I love the Franciscan way," she said.
"This has been my calling ever since I was in high school, but it just didn't materialize right away."
She started at St. Joseph's in 1988 as a CNA on the telemetry unit. Her ministry work took her away for a few years before she returned to Elgin in 1997 as one of several spiritual care chaplains at the hospital.
Lapid said she's worked in every department of the hospital as a chaplain, caring for people from birth to death.
"I love working with the people and the patients," she said. "You get to know the families of the patients, and they became my family."
Angela Allanson, an executive assistant in the administration who has worked with Lapid since she came back as a chaplain, said she will be missed.
"Everyone knows Sister in the Elgin community," she said. "She's so kind and has a good sense of humor. We're definitely going to miss her when she eventually really retires, even though we don't know when that's going to be exactly."
Her last day was technically last month, but Lapid will stay until they hire her replacement and she helps get them oriented. After that, she's moving to her community's motherhouse in Frankfort and plans to continue volunteering.
"For nuns, there's no such word as retire," she said.