The mission of St. Benedict's Hospital is etched in stone outside its doors which reads, "Above all things, care must be taken of the sick as if they were Christ in person."

And Sister Francis Forster has fit in well with that philosophy, having retired Jan. 1 after serving 30 years in health service at the hospital.The 72-year-old nun was honored at a recent public reception for her efforts.

Sister Francis is well-known in Ogden. She is the founder of Birth Right of Ogden, a voluntary organization which counsels young pregnant women in an attempt to discourage them from having abortions.

She is also the co-founder of Hospice of Northern Utah, an organization which supports dying people.

The Catholic woman has always had a need, or an urge, to help the unborn and elderly citizens in society.

That's why she tries to convince pregnant women to consider alternatives to abortion. But if a woman decides to go through with an abortion, "nobody says naughty, naughty," she said.

"We know what's going on in Weber County," she continued. "We have lots of abortions here."

And Sister Francis also knows about the dying, especially those elderly persons inflicted with terminal diseases. That's why she got involved with the Hospice program.

"Hospice supports the dying," she explained. "It helps people to die with dignity."

Her hard work and dedication in helping people in Ogden has paid off. She was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humanities Degree at Weber State College in 1986. And this month she received the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Award from Pope John Paul II.

She retired Jan. 1 from the Catholic-owned and operated hospital as vice president of mission effectiveness. She said her duties have been to orient all employees, volunteers, doctors and trustees about the mission of the health facility.

"We want people to understand why we have a very strong commitment to life," she explained. "We see all life as sacred."

Born Sept. 21, 1916, in New Ulm, Minn., the youngest of six children, Sister Francis said she decided to become one with the Catholic Church when she was in the sixth grade.

"I was interested in the prayer life of sisters," she explained. "I never saw marriage as anything other than something good. But I do not have any family obligations. I have the energy and time to give of myself. I thought I could do something for the world.

"Instead of marrying a man, I gave my total life to Christ," she said.

Sister Francis attended the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn., where she studied liberal arts.

Two years later, in 1936 when she was 20 years old, she took her vows. "My whole life has been based on need," she said. "I went where I was needed."

Sister Francis said that becoming a nun 50 years ago was an exciting time for women because they could move into positions of leadership. The sisters operated and ran the colleges, and she wanted a leadership role.

"I was at the right place at the right time," she said smiling. "There were not that many opportunities for women in those days."

Sister Francis said she has no regrets and she feels good about having a life of fulfillment.

"I always have been," she said. "I've enjoyed every phase of my life. I felt I've always had something to give.

"I have never felt that my religious habit in any way lessened my ability to reach people," she explained. "I was always accepted wherever I went."

Now that Sister Francis has retired doesn't mean she's going to slow down. She said she plans to relax for the rest of the month before getting involved in some way with helping the poor.

"I see my life like a candle burning down. . .consuming itself," she said. "But there's still some wax left and I hope to continue to burn that wax as I continue to give of my energy and time in such things that fit my gifts."