Sister Jeanne Marie Meurer, who helped establish nurse-midwifery as a profession and who initiated the graduate program of nurse-midwifery at Saint Louis University in the 1970s, died Sept. 11 at The Sarah Community in Bridgeton. She was 90 and had been a Franciscan Sister of Mary for 72 years.
Jeanne Marie Meurer was born Feb. 2, 1930, in Nicollet, Minnesota, the oldest of five daughters born to Raymond Meurer and Mary (Paquette) Meurer Hoehn. She entered the Sisters of St. Mary Aug. 6, 1948. (In 1987, the Sisters of St. Mary reunited with the Sisters of St. Francis of Maryville, Missouri, to become the Franciscan Sisters of Mary.) She received the name Sister Mary Christopher, and she pronounced final vows Feb. 11, 1954. Her sister Ramona, who died May 17, 2020, was also a Franciscan Sister of Mary.
She earned her bachelor’s (1955) and her master’s in nursing service administration (1962), both through Saint Louis University; and her masters in maternity nursing with a certificate in midwifery through Columbia University, New York (1970). She was certified in nurse-midwifery through the American College of Nurse Midwives (1971) and became a fellow (FACNM) in 1994. She earned a master’s in pastoral studies through Aquinas Institute of Theology (1998), and in 2006 was made an honorary member of the Saint Louis University chapter of Alpha Sigma Nu, the Jesuit honor fraternity.
She served as head nurse of St. Mary’s Health Center’s Labor and Delivery (1955-56). She helped set up Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center in 1956 and served as pediatrics supervisor there until 1961. She then headed St. Mary’s Health Center’s nursery for a year. She supervised obstetrics and taught in the School of Nursing, both at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin (1962-65) and at St. Mary’s Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri (1965-69).
Sister Jeanne taught at Saint Louis University (1970-82). She also opened the nurse-midwifery service at City Hospital, the first nurse-midwife to practice in the state of Missouri (1971-82), and in 1972 began the graduate program of nurse-midwifery at SLU. Under a World Health Organization (WHO) fellowship, she studied maternal nursing and midwifery in Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland.
In 1982, she began Ruskin Migrant and Community Health Service, a federally funded nurse-midwifery program for migrants, in Tampa, Florida. From 1985-91, she worked with the University of South Florida’s College of Public Health to develop the Community and Family Health Department. She developed and taught a course in maternal and child health for students, offered in Jamaica in 1988 for students from the U.S. and the Caribbean. From 1982 to 1985 she traveled to Egypt four times as a nursing consultant to the United States Assistance International Development, teaching in Egypt as part of her consultation.
From 1991-95, she served in FSM Leadership. She served on the Missouri State Board of Nursing in Jefferson City (1993-96) and taught at the University of Missouri-Columbia. In 1998 she co-founded Woman’s Place, a safe drop-in haven for women suffering from domestic abuse, co-directing until 2006. She volunteered there through 2008.
She taught at Aquinas Institute of Theology (2006-08). She volunteered with the Oasis Tutoring Program as an outreach educator for the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Horticultural Therapeutic Program and served on the St. Louis County Domestic and Family Violence Council. Moving to The Sarah Community in June 2011, she often took residents shopping or to doctors’ appointments. Intensely involved in community and political affairs, especially environmental and ecological concerns, she helped initiate a recycling program at The Sarah Community. Honored in 2012 as an “Ageless—Remarkable Saint Louisan,” in 2014 she received the “Legend in Nursing” Award from the March of Dimes.
She is survived by three sisters, Kathryn Foreman of Panama City Beach, Florida; Colette Hinkle of Tampa, Florida; and Mary Lou Pentico of Blairsville, Georgia. Sister Jeanne donated her body to Saint Louis University School of Medicine.
A memorial Mass will be held at a future date in the chapel at The Sarah Community.