In 1988, one Betty Jo Parsley penned a tribute to the Sisters of St. Francis who founded and staffed Mt. St. Mary Hospital in Nelsonville, Ohio. Her tribute was reprinted in the April ATP of that year. Entitled, “Faith That Built Hospital Still Present,” the article extolled the care of the sisters for the patients and the tremendous faith and courage that the early sisters had in order to make the dream of a hospital come true.
In Betty Jo’s words we read:
The founders of the former Mount St. Mary Hospital in Nelsonville, now Doctors Hospital, would be proud of the excellent nursing care that is being given there today.
The story of the local hospital is a story of faith, the kind of faith rarely seen in the business world. It surpasseth all understanding. It is good to recall the story occasionally, to renew our own faith at times when it may seem that the lamp is burning a trifle low.
It is mentioned now because my father, the late Joe Keller, was a patient there and the care he received was outstanding. [Wonderful care was also given to other members of her family.]
I certainly do not intend to compare the staff of Doctors Hospital today with the Sisters of St. Francis who built it, but I do want to emphasize that the faith that sustained the hospital from the first day its construction was announced is still ever present.
In 1950 on October 10, a small band of “pioneer” Sisters of St. Francis, headed by their superior, came to Nelsonville to establish a temporary convent home on East Columbus Street pending completion of the new hospital. [Betty Jo is mistaken in the year. The first sisters arrived on October 10, 1949. They were Mother Lidwina Jacobs and Sisters Lindtrudis Johannpotter, Constantia Crotty, Celine Paul, and Annette Mumm. By October 29, S. Celine was transferred to St. Ann’s in Buffalo. S. Raphael Weber soon arrived and S. William Elsener joined the group in November.]
The sainted Sister Raphael, who was permitted to live to see her dream realized and the hospital firmly established, told about the trip she made with Mother Lidwina to a convention of hospital administrators. One of the speakers discussed the problems facing new hospitals, and this, of course, was something in which the local representatives had more than ordinary interest.
“Under no circumstances,” the speaker emphasized, “should a new hospital consider opening its doors without at least $150,000 in cash for working capital.” [This was 1950 after all!]
“And to think,” said Sister Raphael, “here we had just opened one, with some 60 to 65 people on the payroll, and we have not one penny left to pay current bills. With work we were acquainted, in prayer we have abundant faith, but capital we have none.”
Cost of completely equipping the hospital had exceeded estimates, and when the doors swung open in April 1950, the treasury of the Sisters of St. Francis was bare. They were as poor as the famed saint of Assisi in whose name their charities are practiced.
It is not publicly known, but the first payroll was borrowed from the provincialate in Stella Niagara, which had shouldered the $625,000 hospital obligation, in addition to another heavy debt of more than half that amount used in construction of a college in Buffalo.
The sisters were then and are now millionaires in reverse. If the citizens of Nelsonville had a small part of their faith, some of their devotion, and a willingness to work and to sacrifice, the matter of building factories, schools, and homes for people who want them would cease to trouble.
We are grateful to the sisters for coming to Nelsonville. We are also grateful for the Board of Directors of Mount St. Mary Hospital who worked and were successful in making the dream continue when Doctors Hospital of Columbus took over in June 1980. Doctors Hospital continues to be a modern miracle, a shining example of the power of faith combine with work.
--Betty Jo Parsley