st marys hosp ward c1889.jpg

An early ward at Saint Marys Hospital. The 27-bed hospital was established by the Sisters of St. Francis in 1889. A tornado that ripped through early Rochester in 1883 often is credited as being responsible for the origin of both Saint Marys Hospital and the Mayo Clinic.

When Mother Alfred Moes first went to Dr. William W. Mayo with the proposal that he open a hospital in Rochester, she was turned down.

Opening and running a hospital would be cost-prohibitive, Mayo said.

To which Mother Alfred replied, in essence, "leave it to us."

That was in 1884, in the wake of a tornado that devastated Rochester and caused the sisters to nurse the injured in makeshift hospital wards around town.

Four years later, Mother Alfred paid $2,200 for a nine-acre site just west of town, and the founding of Saint Marys Hospital was underway.

Since then, the Sisters of St. Francis have been a major force in the shaping of Rochester.

This weekend, the Choral Arts Ensemble will pay tribute to that legacy with "In Giving We Receive" concerts Saturday and Sunday at Assisi Heights. 

"I think a lot of people don't really appreciate what these sisters have done here," said Rick Kvam, director of Choral Arts Ensemble.

Kvam's ensemble has been housed at, and has performed at, Assisi Heights for more than 20 years, giving him a close-up view of the work the sisters do.

But it's a good bet nearly everyone in the community has, at one time or another, come in contact with an activity or effort that is enhanced by the efforts of the sisters.

These women don't believe in being cloistered on their hilltop at Assisi Heights. Instead, they fan out through the community, lending their talents and energy to any number of causes.

Their efforts in the area of social justice, which can so often be lonely work, speaks to their bravery and dedication. In other fields, the sisters have been teachers, administrators, health care professionals. They were instrumental in starting the Gift of Life Transplant House. Obviously, their faith compels them to get involved and take action.

The names of well-known sisters -- Sister Mary Joseph, Sister Domatilla, Sister Mary Brigh, Sister Generose -- are familiar to us all through their association with Saint Marys Hospital. But dozens of other sisters have made important contributions to our community.

In other words, the sisters are well deserving of the musical tribute to be presented this weekend. To have these concerts in their beloved Lourdes Chapel at Assisi Heights makes it all the more special. 

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