When Gemma was pursuing her nursing degree in 1985, the one patient she cared for before she took her leave-of-absence
to change majors was a comatose man. She cannot reveal any details of the man's condition, only that he responded to
her enough to warrant a phone call to his relatives, saying she thought perhaps he'd be more responsive at home. They
had planned to do so, but apparently it wasn't God's will for him.
Around 1988, when Gemma was attempting to pay off educational debts before entering a monastery, an inspiration came
to her to found a contemplative-active charism dedicated to the care of the comatose, using the rule of the Third Order Regular
of St. Dominic, with the motto of "Veritas et Spes" ("Truth and Hope"). The habit would have a green tunic, white scapular
and capelet, and navy blue veil. A medallion of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead would be worn.
In June 1989, Gemma presented three proposed charisms (the Cloisterite nuns; the Sisters of the Holy Innocents;
and the Sisters of St. Lazarus Raised) to the premier bishop of Knoxville, Tennessee. He had no objections
to them, but since he personally knew of a woman who drove 125 miles one-way to take care of her comatose son, he wanted her
(Gemma) to work on the proposed Sisters of St. Lazarus Raised.
Around that time, an article appeared in the Knoxville newspaper dealing with a woman in nearby Harriman who had
cared for her son after he was rendered comatose. He had recently died, and she was looking for others who had had "a
brother or a loved one" in a coma, as she planned to write a book about her--and others'--experiences. Gemma contacted
the lady and the two became friends.
"Compassionate Friends of the Comatose" was born.
Realizing that no hospital would allow them in to visit the comatose, they decided to become a clearinghouse of information
on the condition, and support for families who were dealing with the burden. Aside from the establishment of the
sisters, a long-term care facility was being planned so that the association could take over the care of the comatose
whose families opted for abandonment. If a family wished to withhold food, it would have to be in another facility,
CFC was integrated into Dr. Gianna's Assistants for Life to assist with end-of-life
issues in 2013.