Dominican Home Health Agency was founded in 1923, when four Dominican Sisters, all nurses, arrived in Denver to dedicate their lives to caring for the city’s sick and poor residents.
Mother Mary Walsh, who started the order Dominican Sisters of the Sick Poor in New York, was looking for a remedy for several of her Sisters who were suffering from tuberculosis. The dry climate of Denver inspired Mother Mary to request permission from Bishop Tihen for a group of nuns to come to Denver, in part to provide healing for her sisters who were ill, as they convalesced in Denver, and in part to establish a location in the city to care for those in need.
The Sisters, affectionately known as the Sidewalk Samaritans, served the city’s sick poor from birth to death. From day one, they provided end-of-life care that honored the physical and spiritual needs of their neighbors.
Sister Regis Nuva and her legacy of love
“We came into their homes and made them realize that they were important people whom God loved abundantly.”
Born in New Jersey to Italian immigrant parents, the youngest of seven children, Sr. Regis Nuva was always attracted to the Church. She entered the novitiate of the Dominican Sisters of the Sick Poor in 1951, made her First Profession in 1953 and Final Profession in 1957. When asked by her superior to choose between being a dietician and a nurse, the choice was clear. That night, all she could see were the faces of patients in need. She earned her RN from Misericordia School of Nursing (NY) and served on nursing assignments in Ossining, NY (1951-1957) and in the Bronx, NY (1960-1961).
In 1961, she arrived in Denver on assignment to join with eight fellow nuns to serve the poor, sick elderly in Denver. In 1989, Sr. Regis and her fellow Dominican Sisters of the Sick Poor turned management and governance over to a local all-volunteer board of directors and established a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Fueled by the Sisters’ passion, our lay staff continued providing the in-home nursing care and community health services to vulnerable and elderly in Denver.
For over 50 years, Sr. Regis lived out her faith daily by providing nursing care to “the least of these” with nothing but absolute joy. She loved every minute of her life and “wouldn’t change a thing!” In 2008, she was awarded the Hiawatha Davis, Jr. Humanitarian Award. The Denver community was and remains so fortunate to inherit the fruits of her good works. Always smiling, Sr. Regis touched innumerable lives and people were attracted to her infectious spirit.
In 2014, the Board and staff of Dominican Home Health Agency hosted a retirement and birthday party for her. Here’s a letter she wrote, which was included in the event program:
To be a nurse is a gift. It was wonderful caring for the sick poor. I can’t think of anything better than to serve those who are marginalized. My fellow Sisters and I worked hard and loved our patients unconditionally. Each one of them was precious. Oftentimes, they thought that God might have forgotten them. Then we came into their homes and made them realize that they were important people whom God loved abundantly. It was so lovely to hear them say how we brought hope back into their hearts. That was just the most beautiful thing – that someone cared for them and it helped them to turn their lives around. We were guests in their homes and treated them with respect, honor and dignity. That was the essence of it. It’s really so simple, actually.
I love the Dominican Home Health Agency. It will always be sacred to me. It is my wish that this organization continues well into the future. Thank you for supporting us and our work. Without you, this agency couldn’t survive. Without your help we could not go on. We are deeply grateful for all you do for us. You are all “la famiglia” to me and I love each and every one of you. Please continue your support of Dominican Home Health Agency so that we may continue to change lives for years to come.
May God bless you all.
The painful realities and lessons of Covid-19
In 2020, God began to show us a new way to focus how we love our neighbor by filling a significant need in our Catholic community. In caring for patients in 2020 – 2021, we were faced with the reality that authentic Catholic end-of-life care did not exist in Denver. God continued to shut doors in home health care and brought forward opportunities to move toward home hospice care.
Through COVID-19, we became painfully aware of how vulnerable we are to dying alone. Loved ones were prevented from receiving the sacraments due to pandemic restrictions. Many died alone, without their family and faith to accompany them on their final days in this life.