Sister Lauren Weinandt joined the Sisters of Saint Francis in Rochester 65 years ago and began working at Saint Marys Hospital. She is now considered to have the longest tenure of continuous service of any Mayo clinic employee.
And she recently had a memorable birthday. She turned 100 on August 2, 2021. Celebrations included a mass in her honor and a party with friends and family.
Meeting people from around the world
Over the years, Sister Lauren has held many positions at Saint Marys Hospital, including secretary to Sister Mary Brigh and Sister Generose and receptionist in Administration. Now she helps maintain the archives. When asked about her favorite job, she says, “I liked them all!” But she adds, “The most fun was meeting celebrities and sometimes talking to them.”
A few of the many celebrities she met include Jimmy Stewart, Danny Kaye, Ernest Hemingway and Ronald Reagan. She remembers, “I went shopping for Reagan and got him some slippers and a robe.” Ernest Hemingway gave her a small Christmas tree that she displayed in her office during the holidays for more than 50 years.
Now, she has people from all over the world stop by her office to share their memories of her presence. “You never know what a small act of kindness can do,” she explains. “I’ll talk to them and pray with them. People will come by or I’ll talk to people in the chapel. Religion doesn’t matter; it’s the person. It’s a whole ministry.”
She shares, “One of the best parts of my job is seeing people get well and go home.”
Helping people through her work
Sister Lauren helped start the Poverello Fund, which helps provide financial support to Mayo Clinic patients in need. She describes how they had bazaars and rummage sales for many years to raise money for the fund.
“I’m thankful for the people I’ve met and been able to help,” Sister Lauren reflects. “My goal of being a missionary is met. I call myself an armchair missionary.”
Staying active, laughing, and focusing on faith
When asked her advice on how to have a long, healthy life, she says, “I keep active and keep working. I throw a little humor in it. I keep busy all the time. I don’t let much bother me.”
She also says she’s a healthy eater but likes candy too— especially See’s Candies. For her birthday, the CEO of See’s sent her a large box of candy with a letter wishing her a happy 100th birthday.
Sister Lauren notes, “My prayer life helps me. I spend time in chapel.” She and the other Sisters meet for prayer daily at 4 p.m. in the Saint Marys Chapel, where they pray for patients and their families and have mass.
Keeping traditions and values
Sister Lauren also helps make sure the holiday decorations are displayed at Saint Marys Hospital. She ensures the manger scene is placed out front, the wreaths are hung above the entrances and the chapel windows are decorated. “I try to continue the values and history of Saint Marys.” Sister Lauren and the other sisters also bless new areas of the hospital. And every year on Christmas night, they go caroling to the patients in the hospital.
Looking back and to the future
“It’s been an interesting life,” Sister Lauren says. She is thankful for her good health and her friends and family. Sister Lauren plans to continue her work. She says, “I have no plans to retire. God’s in charge. Don’t worry about anything, and it will be like God planned it.