MADISON -- Sr. Mary Dorine Wittenbrink, FSM, a Franciscan Sister of Mary for 82 years, died January 2 at The Sarah Community in Bridgeton, Mo. She was 100.
She was known as the "preemie Sister" for her legendary work with the tiniest of babies. The premature nursery she established at St. Mary's Hospital in Madison and the instructional programs she gave physicians and nurses on caring for these infants often involved 16-hour days, but were a "tremendous experience."
Catherine Magdalen Wittenbrink was born October 5, 1916, in Evansville, Ill., the youngest of nine children of Max and Catherine (Pautler) Wittenbrink.
She entered the Sisters of St. Mary (later the Franciscan Sisters of Mary) July 27, 1934. She received the name Sister Mary Dorine and she professed final vows January 29, 1940.
She completed her B.S. in nursing from St. Louis University in 1945. After serving in the operating room at St. Mary's Ringling Hospital in Baraboo (1945 to 1947), she returned to St. Louis as head nurse at St. Mary's infirmary and taught pediatric nursing.
She supervised obstetrics at St. Mary's Health Center, the largest OB department in St. Louis. After training at Charity Hospital in New Orleans on the care of the premature infant, Sister Dorine headed to St. Mary's Hospital in Madison.
At St. Mary's, she established a premature nursery and, with a team of pediatricians, gave institutes statewide on caring for premature babies.
In 1958, Sister Dorine returned to St. Mary's Hospital in St. Louis as supervisor of obstetrics and set up a family-centered care program.
In 1966, pediatricians from St. Mary's Hospital in Madison asked that she return to help set up a neonatal nursery for sick premature babies. She remained in Madison until 1974.
In 1974, she attended a course in pastoral ministry in Denver, then was asked to begin a department of Pastoral Ministry at St. Joseph's Hospital in St. Charles, Mo. Her 18 years as director of pastoral care at St. Joseph's proved "a fulfilling, gratifying experience." In 1992, she retired from full-time ministry. After retiring, she helped in the FSM archives and led the FSM intercessory prayer ministry.
She is survived by a brother Boniface Wittenbrink, OMI, Belleville, Ill.
Sister Dorine donated her body to St. Louis University School of Medicine.
A memorial Mass will be held at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 11, in the chapel at The Sarah Community, 12284 DePaul Dr., Bridgeton, Mo., on the campus of SSM DePaul Health Center.