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St. Mary of Nazareth Hospital Center, 2233 West Division Street in Chicago, was founded by the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth in response to a series of pressing social and religious needs, especially among the burgeoning Polish immigrant population which settled in the city's Near West Side during the late nineteenth century.

Although many Poles during the 1700s and early 1800s had come to America and settled in widely scattered states, Illinois and Chicago were not major centers for Polish immigration until 1880. However, by 1940, with its half-million Poles, Chicago had the largest Polish population among American cities.

In Chicago these immigrants became workers in the city's new mills and factories and in its tanneries and packing houses Like other newcomers to America and the city, the Poles settled in the tenement section where health and sanitation problems often spawned disease and, frequently, death. Recurrent outbreaks of tuberculosis, typhoid fever, and cholera seemed to fall hardest on the poor, the factory workers, and the tenement dwellers, that is, among recent immigrants like the Poles.

As late as 1885, Chicago had only 16 hospitals for a half-million people. Of these, 11 were religiously controlled, but only four were under Catholic administration. Most of the 16 served certain ethnic groups; however, none served the Polish community specifically. Consequently, when a Polish Chicagoan fell ill and required hospitalization, he or she had to enter a hospital in which either his or her religious needs or language were not always understood.

The severity of these conditions gave rise to a call by Polish parishes in Chicago, especially by St. Stanislaus parish, for a hospital in which Poles might receive medical assistance in familiar religious and cultural surroundings. The recently organized Sisters of the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth responded to this call, and the first St. Mary's Hospital was established in 1894.

Founded by Mother Mary Frances Siedhska in Rome in 1875 during the papacy of Pius IX, the Congregation originally intended to devote itself primarily to acts of charity. Just ten years after its founding, the Order was urgently asked by Archbishop Feehan to assist in mission work among the immigrants in America. With the approval and encouragement of the Holy See, Mother Mary Frances and eleven other nuns left Rome and reached the United States on July 4, 1885, A few months later, Mother Mary Frances returned to the motherhouse in Rome.

The initial endeavors of the Sisters in America were directed to teaching children, mainly those of immigrants, and caring for orphans. However, on her second visit to the United States in 1889, Mother Mary Frances was struck and deeply moved by the appalling need of Polish immigrants in Chicago for a hospital. Consequently, she commissioned Mother Mary Lauretta Lubowidzka, then the provincial superior for the United States, to organize a hospital in this city. This was a ans demanding task, for the Sisters had no model within their Community after which the new hospital could be patterned. In addition, only a Sisters were available to assist Mother Lauretta. Moreover, they had training for hospital work, nor were adequate funds available. Never theless, the first step toward establishing a hospital was taken when Mother Lauretta incorporated the Congregation under Illinois law on January 5, 1892.

Next came the problem of physically establishing the hospital, no mean task in the adverse financial and economic climate of the 1892 panic, A three-story building, located at 258 West Division Street under the metropolitan elevated train tracks, was selected as the first site of St Mary's. Similar to other pioneer city hospitals, then, the first St. Mary's occupied what was formerly a private dwelling. Through appeals to the Polish community and Chicagoans in general, money was raised to refurbish the structure. Necessary repairs and remodeling were completed, and the new hospital was dedicated with a Mass offered by Archbishop Feehan on Sunday, May 6, 1894.

The original St. Mary of Nazareth Hospital contained 24 beds. In the basement were the dispensary, the laundry, and the kitchen. On the first floor were the chapel and offices. Private rooms, wards, and an operating room were located on the upper floors. The first governing board included Mother Lauretta, Mother Paula, and Mother Cohimba, Mother Paula became the hospital's first superintendent. The first chief of medical staff was C.G. Davis, M.D.; W.A. Kuflewski, M.D., F.A.C.S,, was named assistant surgeon.

The hospital opened its doors the day after the dedication to admit its first patient. Two other patients were treated that day, and the total receipts for the hospital's operation on May 7, 1894, was twenty-five cents. At the year's end, the hospital's total monetary income was only $126. Those figures reflect the chronic financial difficulties faced by the hospital during its early years of existence. To keep the hospital in operation the original medical staff members pledged their services free of charge for one year; the community was asked for support through monetary contributions; and the Sisters resorted to drives through the neighborhoods in a horse-driven buggy asking for donations. At one point, the financial precariousness of St. Mary's almost forced its closing.

But the difficulties in operating the hospital were not entirely financial. There were physical and practical problems, too. Patient meals were not first prepared in the hospital. They were prepared at a school operated by the Sisters, then carried to the hospital. Incapacitated patients had to be transported from floor to floor in chairs. Sisters were often required to work a 20- to 24-hour day, nor had they much previous training for their tasks.

Despite all its difficulties, the hospital grew, if it did not prosper. New medical staff members were added, including the famed Chicago surgeon, Dr. Albert Ochsner. Increased vocations to the sisterhood allowed for an expansion of the hospital nuns' staff. A second building, adjacent to the original hospital structure, was acquired in 1899.

In 1896, Mother Mary Paula, the Hospital's first superintendent, was succeeded by Mother M. Salomea. In 1897, Mother M. Sophia became the superintendent and directed St. Mary's until 1901. In 1900, the hospital established a nurses' training school. Three years later, in 1903, the school graduated its first class of seven students.

The hospital's various advances did not keep pace with the growing demands for health service in Chicago, however, and it became increasingly evident that it was time for St. Mary's to build an entirely new and much larger hospital structure. Permission to do so was granted by Mother Mary Frances and Archbishop Feehan.

An entire city block was purchased between Haddon Avenue and Thomas Street and Oakley Boulevard and Leavirt Street. Construction began in 1901. On March 12, 1902, the second St. Mary of Nazareth Hospital was dedicated by Auxiliary Bishop Peter J. Muldoon, The very next day, patients were transferred from the old hospital buildings, and the new hospital began to function. By this time, the office of hospital superintendent had passed to Mother Mary Donata, who held that post until 1910.

The new hospital incorporated some of the most advanced features of its day. It was constructed of fireproof materials and stood six stories high. On the ground floor were located the laundry, kitchen, store rooms, morgue, laboratories, and the nurses' and servants' dining rooms. On the first floor were located various offices, including the administrative office, a doctor's consultation room, an outpatient emergency room and the X-ray room. The chapel, was situated directly behind the main entrance. The second through the fifth floors were occupied by wards, private rooms, and the obstetrical and surgical suites. The south wing of the fifth floor was used as a residence for the Sisters and the nursing school students. The uppermost floor was reserved for storage.

In 1904, the women's auxiliary was founded. New medical personnel and procedures were introduced. By 1910, the staff included at least one anaesthetist, ophthalmologist, neurologist, orthopedist, dermatologist, pathologist, and pediatrician. Medical lectures and demonstrations were provided for the staff as early as 1902, the year the hospital was opened. Medical students from Loyola and Illinois Universities attended them. A new instructional technique, the "clinical meeting" involving direct observation of clinical procedures by doctors and students, was introduced at this time in Chicago by St. Mary's and a few other hospitals.

During those years, too, the patient census increased steadily. So rapidly did obstetrical and other admissions grow that the nursing school students' quarters on the fifth floor were converted into patient wards. However, temporary or minor additions to the number of beds did not meet the clamor for room, and two new buildings were adjoined to the north and south of the original hospital structure in 1914. The north portion became a nurses' residence and housed the school of nursing. These improvements were completed during the administration of Mother M. Amata, who assumed the hospital superintendency in 1910 and, except for a year when St. Mary's was directed by Mother M. Euphemia, occupied that office until 1920.

Shortly after the hospital expanded its physical facilities, it suffered a sudden and serious diminution of staff, as doctors, interns, and graduate nurses, responding to President Woodrow Wilson's call in 1916, enlisted in the armed forces and medical units. The hospital and its skeletal crew were very hard pressed when, in 1918, the Spanish influenza struck the nation leaving two million dead. With the end of the war and the waning of the pandemic, the hospital returned to a more normal pattern of functioning. A free dispensary was established in 1919 and so also was a Social Service Department, - the latter with the aid of the National Catholic War Council.

On May 6, 1919, the hospital celebrated its Silver Anniversary. As part of the occasion, the Chicago Daily News, in an editorial, praised St Mary's as "evidence of the turning point of the social life of the American Poles." "It overcame its years of trials," the newspaper went on to say, to become "an honor to Chicago" under the remarkable direction of the Sisters of Nazareth "and with renowned physicians" in its employ. Launched with a small, inexperienced, but determined band of Sisters, a few dedicated physicians, modest physical facilities, and irregular and discouraging financial prospects, St. Mary's did not merely survive, it grew and prospered. Emerging from obscurity, it became a respected center for the practice and teaching of medicine in Chicago, the nation's medical education center. In its first quarter-century of existence, the hospital had served over 50,000 patients and had been the birth place for over 2,000 infants. Under teacher-physicians such as Dr. Ochsner, it had become the schoolroom for many interns and doctors; and its school of nursing had graduated over 220 students. By 1919, its staff included 38 physicians and fourteen religious registered nurses.

Mother Mary Amata retired in 1921 and Mother Mary Ignatius, C.S.F.N., assumed the responsibilities of the office for the next five years. She was succeeded in 1925 by Mother Mary Isabelle, C.S.F.N. In 1931, Sister Mary Basilla, C.S.F.N., was appointed to the office of superintendent. Six years later, in 1937, Sister Mary Therese accepted the office. Her administration would span the next 16 years.

The years between the wars were marked by changes, trials and achievements, like the quarter-century preceding them. During the administration of Mother Ignatius, the Hospital was first accredited by the American College of Surgeons and the American Medical Association; it has maintained full approval with those and other major professional agencies since that time.

In 1925, the hospital suffered the loss of an old and dear friend with the death of Dr. Albert Ochsner. Twelve years later, when Dr. Pietrowicz died, St. Mary's lost the second of its most influential first physicians. In 1927, the hospital entered into an affiliation of its school of nursing with De Paul University. Through the years, the hospital has maintained conoffered a tact with De Paul and other Catholic institutions of higher learning.

In 1929, following the stock market crash, the nation tumbled into the Great Depression, dragging many businesses and institutions to ruin. St. Mary's did not escape the effects of the Great Depression. Admissions fell nearly 50°/s between 1929 and 1932. Whole floors were closed as patients without money, jobs, or insurance elected to delay or entirely forego hospitalization. Nonetheless, the hospital managed to complete a was a new north wing in 1931 which expanded the hospital's patient capacity to nearly three-hundred. The addition was dedicated by Cardinal Mundelein. Additional improvements, educationally and physically, came as the 1930s drew to a close.

Following Pearl Harbor, 55 doctors and nearly fifty graduate nurses left the hospital for the armed forces. To offset the loss of medical personnel called into service, the hospital opened Red Cross classes. As medical staff and nurses left to enlist and as the number of student nurses and interns declined (in 1942, there were no interns at all), work an loads for remaining personnel doubled. To relieve the remaining hard pressed physicians of some routine duties, Sisters and nurses assumed new tasks previously performed by the doctors alone. Care of patients, the already an extremely demanding task due to staff reductions and changing medical technology, was made no easier as various hospital supplies - and even foods - became increasingly costly and difficult to procure. Finally, in addition to all the other hardships worked by the war, patient admissions rose rapidly.

Despite the problems engendered by the war, there were causes to celebrate. The hospital established the School of Radiologic Technology under Dr. Chester Challenger in 1941; and on May 6, 1944, St. Mary's celebrated fully its first half-century of service. The hospital's golden In jubilee celebration was attended by Archbishop Stritch, together with of other bishops, clergy, staff members, and city officials.

Renovations in the physical plant were completed in 1947 and staff size and admission figures gradually increased. In 1950, the School of Medical Technology, under Sister Mary Wendeline, C.S.F.N., was organized. In 1955, a new $3 million School of Nursing building, located e just west of the hospital, was completed. A year later, the School of Nursing was accredited by the National League of Nursing. Finally, as the decade drew to a close, a nurse anesthetist school was organized by the hospital.

After a tenure which lasted for a decade and a half, Sister Mary Therese was succeeded in 1953 as the hospital's chief administrative officer by Sister M. De Chantal, C.S.F.N. Four years later, that office was filled by Sister Mary Reginella, C.S.F.N. In 1959, the direction of the hospital was assumed by its present administrator and president, Sister Stella Louise Slomka, C.S.F.N.

During the 1960s, St. Mary's changed significantly in its physical and service structures. Major refurbishing of the hospital building, completed in 1964, allowed for a modest increase in bed capcity. In 1967, the hospital instituted Chicago's first total convenience food dietary service. An intensive/coronary care unit was established that year, also. In 1968, St. Mary's organized one of the first community mental health care outpatient facilities. In 1969, the hospital installed an electronic patient data system, the first of its kind in Chicago and the third of its kind in the nation.

Basic changes continued to mark its administrative arrangements and educational programs, too. In 1960, the hospital established a particular type of participative management called "organized decision-making,' then a unique development in the operation of health care facilities. Two years later, the first laymen were admitted to the hospital's governing board. In 1962, the School of Radiologic Sciences added a nuclear medicine program to its curriculum. In 1965, it concluded an affiliation agreement with the city college system. The School of Nursing condensed its three years of instruction in 1966 into a two-year sequence; and in 1968, after a six-year lapse, training of interns at St. Mary's was reinstituted with American Medical Association approval.

From the late 1950s onward, of all the changes and events that occurred or that were proposed, the most important by far was the growing conviction that, no matter what improvements were made in its physical structure and service capabilities, St. Mary's had to expand and grow even more to meet its community's and Chicago's needs. Thus, when Lutheran Deaconess Hospital, located adjacent to St. Mary's, announced that it would end operations at its original site and relocate, St. Mary's decided to build an entirely new hospital which would replace itself and Lutheran Deaconess, both of whose physical plants were deemed obsolete.

In 1968, St. Mary's purchased the property on which Lutheran Deaconness stood and subsequently razed the building. The next year, the federal government awarded the hospital a $1.7 million grant-the largest single federal construction grant received in Illinois-to be used toward financing the new structure. In 1972, ground was broken for construction which was completed three years later.

The period from 1972 to the present witnessed additional growth, even as the plans for the new St. Mary's were being perfected and finally realized. In 1971, the highest administrative posts were re-organized, and corporate officerships were introduced. In February of 1972, the hospital received approval for a federally insured $30 million loan. Later that year, a Family Care Clinic was organized. Shortly thereafter, the clinic became the context for a new medical residency at St. Mary's, the family practice residency.

In 1974, as the new building neared completion, the hospital quietly celebrated its eightieth birthday. With a medical and dental staff that year of nearly 200 and a complement of almost 1,050 employees, the Center treated 65,000 patients, despite demanding preparations for the move to the new structure.

The following year, the School of Nursing celebrated its diamond jubilee. Since its founding, the School provided the profession of nursing in Chicago and throughout the nation with over two-thousand-three hundred graduate nurses. The School of Medical Technology, during the same year, marked its twenty-fifth anniversary; and the Hospital commenced an oral surgery residency program in affiliation with Loyola University's School of Dentistry. Finally, with a half-million dollar grant from the Scholl Foundation, the hospital established the Dr. William M. Scholl Orthopedic and Rheumatology Unit.

The most significant event for St. Mary's in 1975, however, was the completion and occupation of the new hospital building. On January 5, 1975, Cardinal Cody, dedicated the third St. Mary of Nazareth Hospital. Present for the occasion, having traveled from the motherhouse in Rome, was Mother M. Medarda Synakowska, C.S.F.N., the superior general of the order. On March 10, early seventy-three years to the day from the dedication of the second St. Mary's, the third and newest St. Mary's began operations as 150 patients were transferred safely from the old building.

In late August, 1976, the future pope, Karol Cardinal Wojtyla, together with 15 bishops, visited St. Mary's after attending the 41st International Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia. In the following year, the hospital unveiled a computerized electrocardiograph system, a computerized cardiac catherization laboratory and a private-hospital, fullservice hyperalimentation program; all of these services were the first such programs in the nation.

Two years later, the hospital entered into a full medical education program with the University of Health Sciences/Chicago Medical School. Since that time, the hospital's residency programs have expanded to include internal medicine, general surgery, psychiatry, and orthopedics as well as family practice medicine.

In 1975, the Congregation which founded the hospital began its second
century of charitable work in the name of Christ. St. Mary of Nazareth Hospital Center stands as an imposing testament to the years of sacrifice and service on the part of the Congregation and on the part of thousands of its physicians, staff members, and benefactors. It stands, also, as a promise to the future of the community and the city it has aided without interruption since 1894.

The newest St. Mary's, which required $43 million in 1975 to complete, is an ultra-modern, concrete and steel, sixteen-story structure, with a four-hundred and-ninety patient bed capacity. St. Mary's features cornplete facilities for the care of emergency, ambulatory, and hospitalized patients as well as a 38-bed mental health inpatient unit. The first allsingle room hospital with combined surgical-operating and obstetrical delivery room suites in Illinois, St. Mary's has consistently manifested a boldly innovative spirit in medical and administrative matters.

The hospital remains the haven for newly-settled Chicagoans of the Near West side, people who often are immigrant laborers, primary Eastern-European and Spanish-Speaking and who are not among the city's wealthiest citizens. Responsible for a service population of over 1.1 million including over one-quarter of Chicago's working classes, St. cvlary's-called by one of the city's major TV stations, "The Hospital That Wouldn't Run Away"-attends the city's inhabitants who are in Most urgent need of health care, just as it did in the 1890s.

St. Mary of Nazareth Hospital is presently served by five chaplains: Rev. Kenneth Heavey, O.S.B.; director of pastoral care; Rev. Lawrence J. Henry, C.S.C.; Rev. Walter P. Krempa; Rev. Lawrence Lobo; Rev. John Kizakedan.

With a devoted medical/dental staff of nearly two-hundred-andseventy and over 1,850 employees, the hospital provides the latest in health care facilities and procedures. It remains a respected educational center with residents, medical students, nurses, and other health care professionals-in-training numbering now nearly three-hundred. The schools and programs of St. Mary's, in their philosophy, curricula, and academic affiliations, reflect the hospitals' emphasis on clinical excellence and its abiding and deep commitment to Christian values and the hospital's own Catholic heritage.

Founded less than 25 years after the Chicago Fire, St. Mary's has grown with the city and the community it has served. Together with the local churches and parish schools, it has undoubtedly contributed to the strength and cohesion of Polish culture in Chicago, a colorful, central segment in the rich mosaic of America's ethnic history. In its tradition of Christian service toward all races and creeds, firmly established by the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, St. Mary's will continue to bring new hope, new health" to all who enter its doors.

From "A History of the Offices, Agencies, and the Institutions of the Archdiocese of Chicago" - 1981

Reprinted with the permission of the Chicago Archdiocese.

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