As Dr. Betty Noll and her staff prepare to vacate the old St. Francis Hospital building in Marceline, the last of the Franciscan nuns who once operated the facility as a fully functional hospital is leaving Marceline. Calling the St. Bonaventure parish the best assignment of her 71-year career, 92-year-old Sister Juliana Droste is packing her meager possessions in anticipation of the move into an assisted living arrangement in St. Louis.
Although she accepts her retirement and relocation without complaint, Sister Juliana served the Marceline community faithfully for 32 years, and she will miss its residents as much as they will miss her. “Everyone here works together,” declares the Franciscan Sister of St. Mary. “Here I am part of a community, the best one I’ve ever served in.” The feeling is mutual. “Sister Juliana is such an inspiring presence in our lives,” says St. Bonaventure parishioner Jacqui Ostrowski. “She considers Marceline her home and family, and she is our Sister.” Barb Daller agrees: “Our community and parish will miss her dearly. No words can express how much she is loved here and will be missed.”
When she arrived in Marceline in 1980 to serve at St. Francis Hospital, Sister Juliana had already been a Sister of St. Mary for 39 years; she joined the order in 1941 at the tender age of 21. True to the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience Sister Juliana made in 1941, she had been a model of tireless compassion for all who needed her comforting presence.
St. Francis Hospital of Marceline wouldn’t be established in Disney’s boyhood home until 1946 when the Sisters of St. Francis purchased the 16-bed facility. Then in 1952, a new addition was constructed, doubling the hospital’s number of beds. In 1964, to again expand and adapt to the latest technology, the Sisters of St. Francis converted the original St. Francis Hospital in Marceline to St. Joseph’s Home for the Elderly. They then had a brand new St. Francis Hospital constructed at 225 West Hayden St., where the building remains to this day. With the closing of St. Joseph’s Home for the Elderly in 1969, the Sisters of St. Francis added a new extended care unit to St. Francis Hospital. The hospital’s management was taken over by the Sisters of St. Mary in St. Louis (Sister Juliana’s order) in 1977. It would be another three years before Sister Juliana would be sent to Marceline by the Sisters of St. Mary to work at St. Francis Hospital. In 1985, the Sisters of St. Francis and Sisters of St. Mary united as one to become the Franciscan Sisters of Mary. But Sister Juliana’s preparation to serve at Marceline’s St. Francis Hospital began long before her move there in 1980, or the formation of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary five years later.
Page 2 of 2 - The second oldest of 13 children growing up on a farm near Godfrey, Illinois, Juliana Droste worked at cultivating asparagus on the family farm when she wasn’t attending school. “I rode to school on the back of a milk truck,” recalls Sister Juliana. “I went to school until the eighth grade when my brother Paul became very ill. After that, I had to stay home to care for family and work on the farm.” Although she would never return to school and was only 13, Juliana had already begun a life filled with self-sacrifice a full eight years before she entered the convent.