The Medical Mission

Sister Yvonne Viens


Sister Yvonne grew up in a family of 14 children, 4 boys and 10 girls, born to Ferdinand and Valerie Viens in the small town of St. Georges de Windsor, Quebec, Canada. Seven children would later follow the call to serve the Lord in religious life. Sr. Yvonne was asked to help at the local hospital which was operated by the Grey Nuns. During this time she heard God’s call to join the Grey Nuns, but the parish priest told her she was too young (at age 15) to become a sister.. It was not until seven years later that Sr. Yvonne, still positive that God was calling her entered the Novitiate of Sisters of Charity of Montreal, Nicolet Province, on November 29, 1939.


Sister Yvonne made her final profession in 1942, followed by nurses training. She received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing from the University of Montreal, and her Master’s Degree in Guidance and Counseling from the University of Toledo. She also did post-graduate work in Operating Room Training at St. Vincent Hospital in New York.

Sr. Yvonne has had a very rich and varied ministry in healthcare.. She was supervisor on various nursing units in the Grey Nuns’ hospital in Biggar and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and at Edmonton General Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta. She held the title of Director of Nursing at St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon.

Sr. Yvonne was transferred to the American Province in 1963 and assigned to St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Toledo, Ohio, where she built a rich legacy of innovation and dedication. While in the operating room, Sr. Yvonne influenced people, simply by being there. She served as the Director of the Surgical Suites until 1973; during which time she developed a program for training surgical technicians. In addition to reviving the Nurses Association, she initiated the process to establish an association for the surgical technicians.

Many of her graduates still work at St. Vincent’s and in other area hospitals, and remember her fondly. Over and above their training, she helped them grow personally. At one time Sr. Yvonne took in three children of a nurse whose husband required surgery. She dutifully cared for the children after school until bedtime so their mother could attend to their father’s pre and post surgical needs.

On the technical side while at St. Vincent’s, Sr. Yvonne demonstrated her resourcefulness when faced with critical needs. She created a special tray to improve the quality and efficiency in the sterilization of instruments used in surgery. In cooperation with the School of Anesthesiology, Sr. Yvonne designed a cart to accommodate all the necessary items for the Anesthesiologists with efficiency and ease of the user. She was invited by Ethicon Company, makers of surgical items, to be their consultant to evaluate the quality of their products.

From 1972-74, Sister Yvonne Viens was Director of Staff Development and Patient Support Services for St. Vincent’s. She developed the new Employee Orientation Program and the very successful Management Program for first level supervisors.

Sr. Yvonne left St. Vincent on February 19, 1974 to pursue advanced studies in religious education at St. Louis University, St. Louis, MO. Upon her return, she was missioned to the Grey Nuns’ Provincial House in Lexington, MA, where she served as Director of the Sisters’ Infirmary for four years. Working in the infirmary, Sr. Yvonne demonstrated special concern for every sister, looking after each individual’s physical and spiritual needs with tender loving care. During those years, Sister Yvonne was a member of the Board of Directors of St. Joseph Hospital, Nashua, NH. Her health has never been ideal and after a rest period, 1979-81, she was appointed Administrator of the Provincial House.

One of her most rewarding experiences followed when in 1988, she began a missionary ministry in La Parada, Cucuta, Colombia, South America, a small town on the Venezuela border. During her three year stay, she worked with the other sisters to help the impoverished people while serving as the Superior of their local community. They organized the ministries of education, home visitation, and outreach to those in need. Sr. Yvonne also supervised the construction of a convent where the sisters would live, and a laundry for the general population. By the gift of their personal presence and accompaniment, they were able to help many impoverished people. She said: “People eat when they have money, when there’s no money, they don’t eat. In Colombia people have enough money to live miserably.” The black market between Venezuela and Colombia was a real problem.

After falling ill in 1991, Sr. Yvonne was given a rest period. In January 1993, she returned to St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Toledo, Ohio. She brought her very personal touch to patients through a missionary program called “GoldenCare PLUS Program”. She visited people in their homes and in nursing homes, often times bringing them homemade tomato and carrot soups to quench their appetites and warm their hearts. In discussing this mission ministry she said, “Sometimes the people I visit are very sick or have no family and want someone to talk to.” Another mission ministry dear to Sr. Yvonne’s heart was acting as primary caregiver and surrogate mother for a little boy from Bogotá, Colombia. The Grey Nuns had arranged for him to have major plastic surgery in Toledo, OH. He was later adopted by a Toledo couple.

After she resigned from her position at St. Vincent’s, Sr. Yvonne served for 18 hours a week as a mission volunteer. She continued to work “until God tells me when it’s time.” That time came in May 2004 when at age 86, she was welcomed to Youville Place to continue the Mission of St. Marguerite with a compassionate heart and a listening ear.