Healing Heart

It’s a story that started with compassion for the sick and needy and a desire to care for the whole person – physically, emotionally and spiritually.

It’s a story that started with compassion for the sick and needy and a desire to care for the whole person – physically, emotionally and spiritually.

And it’s a story that continues today through hard work, perseverance and the same kindness that motivated the Sisters of Little Company of Mary (LCM) more than 50 years ago when they first envisioned opening a hospital in the South Bay.

Talking with Sister Terrence Landini, you can feel the warmth and sense of community the sisters have built, both within and beyond the hospital walls. Sister Terrence joined the work of the LCM sisters in Torrance in 1966, just six years after the hospital opened to the public. And although she retired at age 73, her role as nurse, comforter, friend, and member of the Providence Little Company of Mary Foundation board of trustees has not ended.

In the 1960s, Torrance looked like the wild west, according to Sister Terrence. Horses would walk on the lawn of the hospital and oil rigs dabbled the landscape. In her memory, the only nearby restaurant was a Country Burger (now Spires). Although she started out as an assistant in Torrance, she was no stranger to healing and bringing comfort to the sick. Sister Terrence had gone to school, trained, and supervised 165 beds in the LCM hospital in Evergreen Park, Illinois.

In 1956, Cardinal McIntyre invited the sisters to come to Torrance to build a hospital on a 10-acre site given by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The idea was to offer care for the communities between the hospitals in Long Beach and Santa Monica. With fundraising underway to build a hospital, the sisters began nursing around the South Bay, which included coordinating immunizations for children in the area. “It was a dream of mine to have palliative care,” said Sister Terrence. She even helped establish a nursing institute to train more people.

Fundraising, volunteering and a sense of community were integrated early on. Working side by side with the sisters was the Little Company of Mary Hospital’s Auxiliary, established in 1959 with the motto “service above self.” By the end of the first year, the Auxiliary had 500 members, who not only served the hospital, but also helped the sisters restore their new home on Portola Avenue.

The cross-shaped Little Company of Mary Hospital was finally dedicated in June 1960. With the bar set high for new staff, Sister Terrence helped review candidates for positions; she acknowledged the excellent credentials it took to work there.

Today, the Providence Little Company of Mary Foundation gets generous contributions from the community. “It’s because of the sisters and the mission and the focus. The people seem to have a relationship with them and this is how they express their gratitude,” said Ellen Wise, RN, director of communications for the Providence Little Company of Mary Foundation. “There is a high caliber of medical staff, but there is also a special spirit that permeates.”

The non-profit foundation uses its generous donations to conduct work outside the hospital, and the sisters are proud to be part of community outreach programs such as Partners for Healthy Kids, the Collaborative for Alternatives to Violence and Abuse, the Sexual Assault Response Team, the Public Private Partnership, Coordinated School Health, and senior outreach.

“For those gifted financially, they like to be able to give to us since they can’t be at the bedside,” said Sister Terrence. And in return, the sisters are known for being a presence in the donors’ and other community members’ lives.

At its height, there were 16 sisters working and serving the medical center, everywhere from the lab and surgery floor to food service. Today there are just four sisters remaining. The founders always knew the Little Company of Mary would remain a small group, so they did not hesitate to look for more help in achieving their mission. Seeking another Catholic hospital with similar experiences and values, the LCM joined forces with the Sisters of Providence and the Providence Health System in 1999 to create Providence Health & Services, and the name of the hospital in Torrance was officially changed to its current incarnation in 2009.

Although for some time in the 1970s Sister Terrence was sent back to work in the Evergreen Park hospital in Chicago, she always felt a strong connection to the South Bay. “I know that I am called to be here in Torrance,” the sister peacefully concluded. “I belong here, and I think that our staff all feels that.”