Good Neighbors: Sister Francis, 81, is NICU Cuddler

Sister Francis Joseph cuddles NICU babies every day at Sister's Hospital in Buffalo.

BUFFALO, NY- This week's 2 On Your Side "Good Neighbor" is a longtime volunteer at Sister's Hospital in Buffalo who offers comfort and care to the littlest patients.

Everyone at the hospital knows and loves Sister Francis Joseph, a woman who's small in stature, but big in heart.

"I'm a cuddler at Sister's Hospital. I help comfort and make babies feel loved an secure during their stay in the NICU," said Sister, a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities in Williamsville.

Sister starts her routine at 9 am on the dot- washing her hands, tying on a hospital gown, putting a pillow on a basic chair, and holding fussy babies. The babies almost always stop crying as soon as they're in her delicate hands.

Four hours a day, Monday thru Friday, there you'll find Sister, cuddling and praying.

Maybe it's her soothing voice, or her gentle touch, or maybe, despite never having a baby of her own, it's her maternal instinct. 

"I feel like I'm a spiritual mother to the babies with the prayers I can offer," she said.

She said she enjoys saying the Rosary with each baby.

"I could actually see God in them - the face of God - while I'm holding the baby. Their goodness and their love shows forth in their little hearts as a gift from God to all of us."

But the nurses say Sister Francis is a gift to the NICU, and they trust her with the sickest of babies.

"We have some babies that are going through the drug withdrawal process, so those babies can be a little challenging to settle, so those are probably the first babies that we would give to Sister," said Stacey Kingston, a Registered Nurse in the NICU.

At 81-years-old, Sister has lived a full life - she was a school teacher and nurse among other things - but she says this job is the most rewarding.

"I've had many experiences, but none compare to this last experience in my life. Just the whole experience brings me closer to God," she said.

Sister Francis says she continues to pray for all the babies she's cuddled and keeps an album of photos, letters, and cards that grateful families have sent her.

If you would like to nominate a "Good Neighbor," e-mail Melissa.Holmes@wgrz.com or call 716-849-2216.


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