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Family member of Saint Marys founder visits community

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Gerard Moes stared in awe as he paced through the halls of Assisi Heights, frequently pausing to view old photographs of his ancestor and her accomplishments.

"What I like of Assisi Heights is that there seems to be … this silence, this harmony," Moes said. "Everybody has a contribution."

Gerard Moes, 68, and his wife, Margit Moes, traveled from Luxembourg to learn about the history of his ancestor and fourth great aunt, Mother Alfred Moes, founder of Saint Marys Hospital and the Sisters of Saint Francis of Rochester, Minnesota. During their stay Tuesday and Wednesday, the Moes visited Assisi Heights, Mayo Clinic Hospital-Saint Marys Campus, the Mayo Clinic and the gravesite of Mother Alfred Moes.

Mother Alfred Moes established the Sisters of Saint Francis in 1877. After a tornado ravaged Rochester in 1883 — killing 37 and injuring hundreds — Mother Alfred Moes persuaded Dr. William Worrall Mayo to build Saint Marys Hospital, now part of the Mayo Clinic.

Gerard Moes said he was struck by the "harmony" between medicine and religion at Saint Marys.


"You feel there's a common aim, a common vision," he said.

Though separated by more than 100 years, Gerard Moes noted he was able to find commonalities with his ancestor through faith and family values.

Mother Alfred Moes was accepted as a woman in an era lacking women's rights, Margit Moes added. "There were no women's rights at that moment."

As Gerard Moes visited the gravesite of his ancestor, he said he felt a greater sense of pride and connection with Memorial Day looming.

"It gave me the feeling of being on the side of heroes," he said. "Heroes, soldiers, as well as all the nuns being there. They were fighting illness; they were fighting … life tragedies."

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