ShareThis Page
Nun’s charity boundless as EMT, chaplain, relief aide |
Obituary Stories

Nun’s charity boundless as EMT, chaplain, relief aide

Sam Spatter
| Thursday, May 15, 2014 12:01 a.m
Sister Thomas Joseph Gaines, 73, of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, died May 12, 2014.

Sister Thomas Joseph Gaines was a tireless worker for others, whether as a chaplain for more than 30 years at John J. Kane Hospital in Allegheny County or helping those struck by natural disasters — hurricanes in Florida and the Gulf Coast or tornadoes in Mississippi.

The ministry of Sister Gaines, a member of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, Greensburg, “exemplified the teaching of Pope Francis,” said Sister Catherine Meinert, president/provincial superior of the community.

Sister Gaines, 73, died on Monday, May 12, 2014, in Caritas Christi Motherhouse of the Sisters of Charity. She had heart disease.

She was born in Oakmont and entered the congregation of the Sisters of Charity on Dec. 28, 1959, from St. Irenaeus parish in Oakmont.

“She always wanted to be a Sister of Charity,” Sister Meinert said.

For 33 years, she served as a chaplain and was certified by the National Association of Catholic Chaplains, said Jane Strittmatter, a spokeswoman for the Sisters of Charity.

Sister Gaines became involved in ministering to those impacted by disaster because the nephew of a friend died in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

She provided care and distributed food in the wake of Hurricane Charley in Florida in 2004. She ministered to victims of Hurricane Katrina, who were taken to the Houston Astrodome in August 2005 when New Orleans was devastated. In April 2011, a series of tornadoes raged through 39 counties in Mississippi and Sister Gaines traveled there to help.

While pastoral minister at St. James Parish in Wilkinsburg from 1972 to 1981, she became interested in the Wilkinsburg Emergency Medical Service. She was a driver for the volunteer ambulance service and earned her emergency medical technician certification in the late 1970s, Strittmatter said.

While volunteering for the ambulance service, she handled her daily telephone contacts and visits to the elderly, her work with Meals on Wheels and service at a senior citizens center, Strittmatter said.

Former Mayor John Wilkins named her Wilkinsburg’s “Citizen of the Year” for her social and spiritual leadership. She received the Harold B. Gardner Citizen’s Award for her ambulance work.

She worked at John J. Kane Hospital from 1981 to 2013, rising to the position of chaplain at Kane Regional Center in McKeesport.

She moved to the Caritas Christi Motherhouse about two years ago, and “she continued to minister to the other sisters,” Sister Meinert said.

“She went out of her way to do the little things,” make people happy, Strittmatter said.

She is survived by a sister, Joanne Abshier; nieces, grandnieces and grandnephews.

Visitation will be from 2 to 7 p.m. Thursday in Caritas Christi Motherhouse, 129 DePaul Center Road, Greensburg, where a funeral will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

Categories: Obituaries
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.