Former apostolic sites in the United States

Polson, Montana

In 1916, the Religious Hospitallers of Kingston at the invitation of Father William O’Malley of Polson, Montana and Bishop John Carroll of Helena Montana, opened a hospital on the shores of Flathead Lake in western Montana.  Sisters were needed to provide health care to members of the Blackfeet Nation and other members of the fast growing community.  St. Joseph Hospital is recognized as the first American hospital to provide integrated care for Native and non-native patients.  Three sisters, Sisters St. Joseph (Mary Agnes Leahy), Mary of the Sacred Heart (Catherine Leahy) and Gertrude Leahy went from Hotel-Dieu, Kingston, Ontario, and arrived in Polson on September 20, 1916 to found this mission.  Upon their arrival they did not find a hospital building waiting for them and set about transforming a boarding house into a medical facility, St. Joseph Hospital that would accommodate six patients.  By 1918 – 1919, the building’s capacity had increased to 11 and was continuously taxed during the height of the influenza epidemic.

In 1921, the Sisters purchased additional property and the existing building was remodeled and served as the hospital until 1931 when a new hospital building was constructed to accommodate still more growth in the Polson civic community.  By the early 1950s, the 1932 building was proven inadequate, and discussions began regarding the financing of another building project.  Ground was broken for the new facility on July 8, 1958 and the 40 bed hospital opened in March 1960.

A lay administrator was appointed in 1974 and at this time the Sisters withdrew from active participation in the Hospital.  However, the Sisters remained on the Board of Directors until March 13, 1984 when the Hospital was transferred to the Presentation Sisters of Aberdeen, South Dakota.

Bishop De Goesbriand Hospital, Burlington, Vermont

Bishop Joseph Rice wanted to have a Catholic hospital in Burlington.  He negotiated with the Religious Hospitallers at the Fanny Allen Hospital to have them manage and staff the hospital.  The Sisters agreed and named the new hospital Bishop deGoesbriand after the first Bishop of Vermont.

In 1922, a fund raising campaign was launched throughout Vermont for this new hospital.  By the summer of 1925, the new hospital was ready for occupancy.  Sister Monahan, Superior and 7 Sisters from the Fanny Allen hospital community were assigned to this new hospital facing the campus of the University of Vermont.  The Sisters lived on the fourth floor of the hospital until they moved to a residence a few streets away.  After numerous building expansions including the Vermont Rehabilitation Center, the DeGoesbriand Hospital became a major teaching hospital of the University of Vermont College of Medicine.

In 1953, the schools of nursing at the Fanny Allen and the deGoesbriand Hospital merged to become the Jeanne Mance School of Nursing located in Burlington, thus establishing one stronger nursing education program directed by the Hospitallers of Saint Joseph.  In 1965, students received their basic arts and sciences at St.Michael’s College in Winooski, Vermont.

In 1967 after two years of extensive study, the DeGoesbriand Hospital and the Mary Fletcher Hospital merged to become the Medical Center Hospital of Vermont with a total of 585 beds.  A few Sisters continued to serve in the merged facility while others were appointed to the Fanny Allen Hospital and other nursing education facilities.

There followed an evolution in nursing education which led to the transitioning of the hospital nursing programs into the University.  On June 6, 1971, thirty-nine women, the 18th and final class of the Jeanne Mance School of Nursing received their diplomas.  A total of 613 professional nurses graduated from the Jeanne Mance school of Nursing since their class enrolled in September 1953.
(Source:  Archives of the Bishop DeGoesbriand Hospital)

Hartford, Wisconsin

In 1926, the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph at St. Bernard’s Hospital in Chicago were asked on behalf of the Hartford community, to take over the Hartford General Hospital which had been established in 1916.  Unable to spare Sisters for such a venture themselves, the St. Bernard community approached the RHSJ at Hotel-Dieu, Kingston who proved to be interested in this mission.  The RHSJ purchased the Hartford facility, renaming it St. Joseph’s Hospital and on April 30, 1926, Mother Margaret Kazelton and Sister St. Oswald (Margaret Mary O’Keefe) arrived from Kingston.  They were joined by Sisters Kathleen McCarten and Monica DeMarsh on May 11, 1926.  Within a short period of time, it became obvious that the building, constructed in 1920 was inadequate to meet the needs of the growing Hartford community.  Thus, the Sisters embarked on a public fundraising campaign to help finance the construction of a new 50 bed facility which was completed in April 1929.  The 1920 building was subsequently used as the Sisters’ convent.

In 1956, again prompted by the need to upgrade and expand the hospital, a public fundraising campaign was begun to raise $350,000 to help finance the construction of an addition which would increase the hospital’s capacity to 20 beds.  Ground was broken for this addition in 1958 and the new addition opened in 1959.

By the late 1960s, the declining number of RHSJ coupled with the cost of operating and upgrading the hospital necessitated a change in governance.  Following negotiations with town officials, legal counsel and the RHSJ Provincial and General Councils, ownership of the hospital was transferred back to the civic community, through the sale of the property to Hartford Memorial Hospital, a non-profit corporation established in 1970.  The official transfer took place on July 20, 1971 at which time the facility was renamed Hartford Memorial Hospital.

New London, Wisconsin

On February 11, 1929, three Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph, Mother Bernadette Murdoch, Sister Dwyer (EllenWalsh) and Sister Ann Hickey, left Chatham New Brunswick to establish a foundation in New London, Wisconsin.  For a number of months, a local New London priest, Father Otto Kolbe, had been corresponding with the Chatham superior, Mother Elizabeth O’Keeffe on behalf of the city regarding the need in New London for religious sisters to assume operation of the existing small hospital.  On February 20, 1929, the three RHSJ arrived in New London, and a formal procession of the 13 bed hospital and its equipment was transferred from the Hospital Board of Directors to the Sisters five days later.

The Sisters, with the help of local benefactors, began searching for an appropriate site for a new hospital building, and found it near a stand of trees locally known as “The Pines” which they purchased and proceeded to build a new 50 bed hospital which officially opened on March 22, 1931.  A lay advisory board was formed.  In 1952 and 1962 new wings were added to the hospital.  In 1970 a lay administrator was appointed.  In 1974, the community left the hospital to live in a residence.  That same year, faced with the reality of undertaking major renovations, the General and Provincial Councils of the Congregation decided to transfer the responsibility of the property and the management of the hospital to the Board of Directors.  The RHSJ continued to work at the hospital and served on the board of directors of the Corporation until 1975.

From this time they continue to be present by being on the Board of Directors of Sr. Joseph Residence.

Van Buren, Maine

In 1938. The Sisters of Saint Basile ventured into a first experience of establishing a foundation, responding to a call from  small American town.  On December 16. The first five pioneer Sisters, Sisters Brissette (Nadeau), Maria Albert, Emma Plourde, Brigitte Legere and Beatrice Kearney opened a small 30 bed hospital in Van Buren, Maine.  The very modest installations could only be temporary and in July 1954, the RHSJ permanently closed the small Hotel-Dieu of Van Buren.

Saint Joseph’s Home For The Aged, Burlington, Vermont

In August 1943, Bishop Matthew Brady asked the Fanny Allen community to accept the management of this institution under the direction of Vermont Catholic Charities, Inc.  Five Sisters were assigned to this mission with Sister Loiselle as Superior.  Major renovations were made to accommodate the increasing demand for the care of the elderly.  In 1962 this mission was transferred to the administration of the Daughters of Charity of the Sacred Heart due to an increased need for Sisters to return to the Fanny Allen Hospital.

Biddeford, Maine

The pastor of Biddeford requested the RHSJ to establish a hospital for the Franco-American catholic population of his parish.  However, the region already had two other English-speaking hospitals, therefore they would have to be content with a small 50 bed French speaking hospital where all written communications were in English.  The hospital opened in 1951 bearing the name of Notre Dame Hospital. In May 1969, given the difficult economic context of the region, the Catholic hospital had serious financial problems and merged with the Webber Hospital. It subsequently became a rehabilitation center. While a few of the Sisters continued to work in various capacities within the existing health care facilities, others began to be involved in with the poor in the Saco area.

Saco, Maine

In 1982, the Webber Hospital in Biddeford sold its health care facility to a private enterprise.  The Sisters decided to move to Saco.  In collaboration with the neighboring parishes, they organized a vestry and a food bank for the poor in the basement of the convent where they could  also receive furniture and household furnishings.  In collaboration with the laity, they organized a hot meals service.

The RHSJ were active in this ministry until they left in 1999.