Late-nineteenth century New Jersey could be a difficult place for a young woman from a poor German-immigrant household to gain a foothold. Clara Maass was the eldest daughter of a large family and needed to work hard from an early age.
Despite her limited circumstances, Maass’ fortitude and courage gave her brief life enduring significance for millions. At age 21, hospital directors at Newark German Hospital named Maass head nurse. Accounts of her time in Newark record that she viewed nursing as a way to care for both body and soul; she wanted to follow the example of Christ as healer.
Later, while serving as a nurse in Cuba, she asked to participate in a Yellow Fever experiment. Focused on her Christian mission as a healer, she believed immunity would help her to more effectively nurse her patients. Maass was bitten by mosquitoes carrying the virus; she died on August 24, 1901. Her faith sustained her to the end. In 1952, Lutheran Memorial Hospital in Newark was renamed the Clara Maass Memorial Hospital. This hardworking East Orange, N.J., girl now represents healing and hope in her community.
This message is excerpted from “Called to heal” by Laura Jane Gifford in the July/August 2016 Gather magazine. Today is the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost. Today we commemorate Florence Nightingale, 1910; Clara Maass, 1901; renewers of society.
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