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Our History of Healing

Our founding sisters left us an incredible legacy, and their sacred ministry is now entrusted to the thousands of employees, providers and volunteers who work each day to deliver on our promise to reveal God’s healing presence to those we serve.
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August 12, 1858

The Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes was founded in Wisconsin. The first sisters were sent to teach German immigrant children with little, if any, preparation. Their lives were not easy, but under the leadership of Mother Agnes, the congregation flourished, and in the 1870s, the sisters expanded their education ministry to Ohio, New York, Kansas, and other states.

Learn more about the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes (CSA).

 

sisters peeling vegetables
Early sisters peel vegetables.

November 16, 1872

Inspired by the gospel and led by Mother Mary Odilia Berger, five German sisters arrive in St. Louis, Missouri to start a ministry of caring for the sick. They had just $5 among them, but carried the faith and compassion that would become SSM Health.

In 1874, the congregation would be formally named the Sisters of St. Mary (SSM), now known as the Franciscan Sisters of Mary (FSM).

founding members of the Sisters of St. Mary
Founding sisters, clockwise from lower left: Sr. M. Elizabeth Becker, Sr. M. Francis Reuter, Mother Mary Odilia Berger, Sr. M Magdalen Fuerst, Sr. M Odilia Schneider. Image courtesy of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary.

1874

Five Felician Sisters arrive in North America and travel westward to begin a health care ministry in Wisconsin.

Founded as a Franciscan order in 1855 in Poland by Blessed Mary Angela, these fearless sisters carried the gospel and the mission of their founding sister to a new continent, pioneering a legacy of compassionate service and care, primarily among Polish immigrant populations.

Learn more about the Felician Sisters.

Five Felician Sisters pioneers

May 24, 1877

The Sisters of St. Mary open their first hospital, St. Mary’s Infirmary, in a converted St. Louis home.

Almost 60 percent of their patients were unable to pay for their care, and in 1889 they began designating these patients in their account ledgers as “ODL,” or “Our Dear Lords.”

St. Mary's Infirmary Our Dear Lord's ward ledger.
St. Mary's Infirmary Our Dear Lords ward ledger. Image courtesy of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary.
St. Mary's Infirmary Our Dear Lord's Ward
Our Dear Lords Ward at St. Mary's Infirmary. Image courtesy of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary.

1894

Sister Mary Augustine Giesen and six other sisters leave St. Louis for Maryville, Missouri, where they establish a new congregation, the Sisters of St. Francis (OSF), and set to work addressing the health needs of rural populations in northwestern Missouri.

Original members of the OSF, above, and the original OSF convent and hospital, 1894.
Original members of the OSF. Image courtesy of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary.
St. Gertrude's Hospital and Convent
St. Gertrude's Hospital and Convent​, the original OSF convent and hospital, 1894. Image courtesy of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary.

1896

The Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes (CSA) begins its health ministry by opening St. Agnes Hospital under the leadership of Mother Mary Agnes.

The Sisters of St. Agnes had been founded as a teaching congregation in 1858 by Father Caspar Rehrl, but the pioneering sisters expanded their ministry to include health care in response to requests from local civic leaders.

St. Agnes Hospital
Sisters of St. Agnes (CSA) at the opening of St. Agnes Hospital. Image courtesy of the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes. 
St. Agnes Hospital
St. Agnes Hospital, 1896.

August 1, 1898

The Sisters of St. Francis open SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital - Oklahoma City, the first hospital in the Oklahoma Territory.

Sisters of St. Francis open St. Anthony Hospital in Oklahoma City
St. Anthony Hospital
The Mens’ Ward at St. Mary’s Infirmary
Image courtesy of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary.

1900

The Mens’ Ward at St. Mary’s Infirmary in St. Louis, Missouri.

December 22, 1902

Archbishop John J. Kain of St. Louis wrote a letter authorizing the Sisters of St. Mary's Infirmary to erect a convent and hospital in Jefferson City, Missouri.

St. Mary's Hospital - Jefferson City and Father Geisert
Father Geisert, priest and hospital chaplain, at St. Mary's Hospital in Jefferson City in the early 1900s.
St. Mary's Hospital Jefferson City Authorization Letter

February 10, 1903

The Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes opens Boyle Home.

CSA’s long history of caring for the elderly began with Mother Agnes’ commitment to open the Henry Boyle Home for the Aged, now known as St. Francis Home.

The Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes opens Boyle Home
Boyle Home. Image courtesy of the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes. 

1912

Eight Sisters of St. Mary travel to Madison, Wisconsin, where they work with Dr. Joseph Dean, founder of Dean Clinic, to open St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison.

Dr. Joseph Dean
Dr. Joseph Dean
Dean Clinic Sign
St. Mary's Hospital - Madison, Wisconsin
St. Mary's Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin

March 19, 1933

Living out the Sisters of St. Mary’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and ministering to the underserved, St. Mary’s Infirmary in St. Louis becomes the first Catholic hospital and nursing school in the United States for African Americans.

First medical staff meeting at St. Mary's Infirmary.
First Graduating Class of St. Mary's Infirmary School of Nursing for African Americans
First graduating class of the St. Mary’s Infirmary School of Nursing.
"This is very dear to my heart. I am greatly interested and the Church is interested in the Negroes in America. I love them and the Holy Church loves them, and I bless the undertaking with a special blessing, and I wish you all the success possible." - Pope Pius XI
Patient Care at St. Mary’s Infirmary, 1934.
Image courtesy of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary.

1934

Patient Care at St. Mary’s Infirmary in St. Louis, Missouri.

Felician sisters Outside of St. Mary's Hospital

1939

Twenty Felician sisters arrive in Centralia, Illinois, to assume management of St. Mary’s Hospital in Centralia as well as a local school.

St. Mary's Hospital - Centralia, Illinois
St. Mary's Hospital in Centralia, Illinois. 
Caring for a patient at the School of Nursing at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison, 1940.

1940

Caring for a patient at the School of Nursing at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin.

Sisters care for premature infants at St. Anthony Hospital, 1956. 

1956

Sisters care for premature infants at St. Anthony Hospital in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

July 7, 1986

SSM Health is established. Sr. Mary Jean Ryan, FSM, is appointed its first President.

The following year, the Sisters of St. Francis of Maryville (OSF) and Sisters of St. Mary (SSM) officially reunited to form the Franciscan Sisters of Mary (FSM). SSM Health Care was sponsored by the FSM congregation.

Sr. Mary Jean Ryan is missioned as first President/CEO of SSM Health Care.
Sr. Mary Jean Ryan is missioned as first President/CEO of SSM Health Care. Image courtesy of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary.
Sisters of St. Francis of Maryville and Sisters of St. Mary officially reunite and form the Franciscan Sisters of Mary (FSM).
The Franciscan Sisters of Mary gather at Reunification Rock, 1987. Image courtesy of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary.

1990

Living out our founding sisters’ commitment to stewardship and compassionate care of Creation, SSM Health institutes a system-wide ban on Styrofoam.

 

This is just one of a number of ways SSM Health actively promotes preservation of the Earth, including:

  • Banning plastic water bottles system-wide in 2008.
  • Maintaining a robust impact investment portfolio. In 2016, SSM Health committed to divest of all investments in fossil fuels, and we continue to proactively pursue investments in companies, organizations and funds that generate a measurable beneficial social or environmental impact.
  • Pledging to plant more than 3,000 trees in 2019.
employees planting trees at the SSM Health corporate offices
SSM Health employees planting trees.
Impact Investing - SSM Health commitment to sustainability

1996

The Franciscan Sisters of Mary enter a joint operating agreement with the Felician Sisters regarding two hospitals in southern Illinois.

The Felician Sisters had been operating St. Mary’s Hospital in Centralia, Illinois since 1939, and SSM Health began operating Good Samaritan Hospital in Mt. Vernon, Illinois in 1988.

Franciscan Sisters of Mary enter joint operating agreement with Felician Sisters
Sr. Mary Jean Ryan, FSM, and Sr. Clarette Stryzewski, CSSF, at the signing of the Joint Operating Agreement. Image courtesy of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary.
Good Samaritan Hospital - Mt. Vernon, Illinois
Good Samaritan Hospital in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. Image courtesy of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary.
SSM Health Logo and FSM Logo
FSM logo courtesy of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary.

2002

SSM Health becomes the first health care organization to earn the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

This award recognized SSM Health’s longstanding commitment to safety, quality and improvement and the important work the system had done in these areas since the introduction of Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) throughout the system in 1990.
SSM Health being awarded the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award
Sr. Mary Jean Ryan, FSM, receives the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award from Vice President Dick Cheney.
Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award
Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award
Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Logo

November 2013

Sponsorship of SSM Health is transferred from the FSM congregation to SSM Health Ministries, a group comprised of sisters and laypeople and formally recognized by the Catholic Church to oversee our Mission.

SSM Health Ministries ensures that the Mission, Vision, Values, and governance of SSM Health conform to the mission and teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, as well as to the spirit and call of St. Francis of Assisi and of Mother Odilia Berger to be the very presence of the loving, serving, compassionate and healing Jesus among his people.
Original SSM Health Ministries Board members
Original SSM Health Ministries Board members, from left: Thomas Hilton; Sr. Rose Mary Dowling, FSM; Thomas Gunn; Sr. Sandy Schwartz, FSM; Jennifer Grantham Stein; Sr. Susan Scholl, FSM.

January 1, 2018

The Sisters of St. Agnes formally transfer sponsorship of their Wisconsin health care ministries to SSM Health Ministries, the sponsor of SSM Health.

With this new partnership, the words of Mother Agnes resonate with newfound importance today: “Where there is union, there is strength.”
SSM Health and CSA transfer of sponsorship ceremony
At the transfer of sponsorship ceremony, left: Steve Little, Sr. Lucina Halbur CSA, Laura Kaiser, Sr. Mary Noel Brown CSA, Mike Sanders, Sr. Jean Steffes CSA, John Dillane, Paula Friedman, and Doug Long.
Sr. Jean Steffes Holding a lantern
Sr. Jean Steffes, CSA, holds a lantern presented to SSM Health Ministries at the transfer of sponsorship ceremony, symbolizing CSA’s prayer that the light of Christ may emanate from the heart of all those who minister within SSM Health. 

March 31, 2019

After a long and prayerful discernment process, SSM Health formally transfers ownership of its health care ministries in Northwest Missouri to Mosaic Life Care.

We believe this transition will best serve the people of Maryville and the surrounding communities for generations to come.

SSM Health transfers ownership of ministries in Northwest Missouri to Mosaic Life Care
Franciscan Sisters of Mary, members of SSM Health Ministries and SSM Health leadership at the transitioning ceremony.

Today

Our founding sisters left us an incredible legacy, and their sacred ministry is now entrusted to the thousands of employees, providers and volunteers who work each day to deliver on our promise to reveal God’s healing presence to those we serve.

 

Learn more about SSM Health today.

SSM Health employee working in the pharmacy
SSM Health today - mom and baby visit doctor's office
SSM Health providers preparing for surgery

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