A Heritage of Loving Service: The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in Tucson
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Heritage: The Story of St. Mary's Hospital, 1880-1980
By Leo G. Bryne and Sister Alberta Cammack, C.S.J

Chapter I Frontier Hospital
The Convent

The sacrifices of the Sisters to care for their sick were brought home to Tucsonans in a dramatic way in March of 1925. A fire in the chapel of the convent revealed to the public how sacrificial the nuns had been when it came to their own comfort. Firemen and public officials who toured the building after the flames were extinguished suddenly realized that, while the nuns had been seeing to patient comforts through the years, there had been little chance or money to add amenities to their own quarters in the thirty years since the convent was built. Not only that, the number of Sisters living in the building was far greater than the structure had originally been designed to house. Happily, a public subscription fund was begun, and a sum of $25,000 was eventually raised to build a new convent which was occupied in 1927. It was a wholehearted community project with Herbert Drachman, a Jewish civic leader, Harold Bell Wright, a Protestant writer, and Bishop Daniel Gercke sharing the spotlight on the day the new home was dedicated.

The new convent did not contain a chapel, but it was soon to have one. Shortly after the fire, Bishop Gercke, who was traveling in the East, had a chance meeting with Thomas E. Murray, Jr., the young industrial engineering genius. Murray wanted to build a chapel in some mission field in memory of his mother, Catherine. He asked Bishop Gercke if he could recommend a likely place for the memorial. The Bishop lost no time in telling the story of the Sisters of St. Joseph at St. Mary's Hospital in Tucson. The result of that meeting was St. Catherine's Chapel. Alone of all the buildings on the grounds in 1928, it stands today and is in the process of restoration.

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