How Did the Church Begin Hospital Ministry

by Sister Julie Ann on February 17, 2010

sr_laura2008d.jpgFranciscan Sister of Christian Charity HealthCare Ministry, Inc.  CEO, Sister Laura Wolf, OSF, answers this question from a perspective that “Catholic health ministry does not belong to me or to our congregation alone. It is Christ’s ministry.”

While Catholic health care organizations comprise the largest provider of not-for-profit health care in America today, they have all been built upon one foundational purpose: to fulfill the Gospel mandate to proclaim the good news and “cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers: (Mt 10:8)

ursalinef.jpgReligious orders throughout their histories have sought ways of bringing Jesus’ mission of love and healing to communities in need. This is what compelled 12 Ursuline sisters to travel from France to New Orleans in 1727 to provide health and social services to the underserved immigrant poor in that city and the following year to open Charity Hospital, the first Catholic hospital in what was to become the United States.

group3.jpgToday Catholic health care, in the form of hospitals and nursing homes is present in all 50 states. According to the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA), there are more than 600 Catholic hospitals in the U.S.  which employ more than 500,000 full-time and more than 200, 000 part-time workers. Every day, roughly one in six patients in the United States-more than 5.5 million every year-receives care in a Catholic hospital.

The vast majority of Catholic health care organizations in the U.S. were founded and continue to be sponsored by congregations of women religious. And like the Ursulines before them, the many congregations of Sisters began their health care ministries for one basic reason: people, usually in poor immigrant communities, were suffering, and their needs were not being met. Today, we all remain committed to continuing the Catholic Church’s healing ministry for virtually that same reason…”

Does this answer the question for you? Any comments?

4 thoughts on “How Did the Church Begin Hospital Ministry”

  1. Sister Sharon Paul says:

    Sr. Laura, I agree with your reflections on Catholic Health Care exists to fulfill needs of “people.” Jesus was the first role model and continues to be the inspiration as many dedicated people carry on the ministry in care of the sick, poor and afflicted.
    Monsignor Joseph Ruesing born in 1852 in Germany came to U.S. as a newly ordained priest & in 1884 became resident pastor here at St. Mary’s Church in West Point, Ne. He saw a need for a home for the poor elderly who had no place to go. On Nov. 15, 1905 he opened St. Joseph’s Home for the Aged here and it was the FIRST home of its kind in Nebraska. Now, it is called St. Joseph’s Retirement Community (assisted living) and Monsignor Ruesing’s vision is continuing to grow and expand through dedicated benefactors and workers. Blessings on all those who bring healing and compassionate care to others!

  2. Sister Rosangela says:

    This is very interesting and informative. I can’t even imagine how many poor people have been helped through Catholic hospitals who otherwise would have had no care. Thanks to you and all those who serve in Health care.

  3. Thanks so much for this important article Sister Laura! It is imperative for us to continue to support our Catholic Health Care so as to be faithful to the Gospel of Jesus!

  4. I appreciated this article and am happy to belong to a religious community that shares in Jesus’ healing ministry through Catholic Health Care. I have learned so much serving on the Board of Directors for St. Paul Elder Services, Kaukauna, WI. I have become aware of how many projects and how much care go into assuring health care for those who cannot afford it.

    I am grateful that Sister Laura took the time to publish such a well-written and informative piece.

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