A Hertiage of Loving Service tells the history of St. Mary's Hospital and the Carondelet Sisters in Tucson. Written by
Sister Alberta Cammack, C.S.J., and Leo G. Byrne, it can be a valuable resource to students and researchers in such fields as nursing, public health, hospital administration, the allied health fields and regional historians.
A digital version Sister Monica Corrigan's diary, The Trek of the Seven Sisters, is provided. The Trek of the Seven Sisters is a small
booklet that is illustrated with 16 charming line drawings. The Trek recounts the courageous journey made by the seven Carondelet Sisters across the desert from San Diego to Tucson in 1870. It is one of our favorite resources in the entire Through Our Parents' Eyes collection.
Sister Aloysia Ames' The St. Marys I Knew includes two histories: History of the School of Nursing 1914 - 1966
St. Mary's Hospital, Tucson and The Diary of Sister Berchmans,Voyage and Travel to Tucson 1876.
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet: Arizona's Pioneer Religious Congregation, 1870-1890 is a comprehesive history of the Carondelet Sisters that was written in 1952 as a Masters Thesis at St. Louis University by Sister Thomas Marie McMahon, C.S.J., B.A. It appears with permission of the Order and St. Louis University.
Sister Alberta Cammack, C.S.J., has contributed the brief history immediately following this introduction as well as histories about the Carondelet Sisters in Florence, Fort Yuma, Komatke, and San Xavier.
A Brief History of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in the Tucson Area
by Sister Alberta Cammack, C.S.J.
Over 300 years ago in Le Puy, France, a Jesuit Father concerned for the needs of the people in the towns he visited, brought together a group of six women and set before them a vision of love and service.
He foresaw the group increasing and spreading through the world as the Congregation of the Great Love of God, however, he chose a humbler title by calling them Daughters of St. Joseph.
Their mission was to define the needs of their towns and enlisting the aid of others like themselves to bring about better conditions.
He set no limits to what the Sisters could do, as they were to undertake anything within their ability -- and so the Sisters of Saint Joseph began.
Within a short time other cities than Le Puy knew the sight of the Sisters hurrying along the streets with carts of medicine for the sick, or with little bands of orphans within reach of their protecting hands.
They had spread throughout France when the leaders of the French Revolution singled them out. Their convents were closed and the Sisters scattered. Some were imprisoned and some were called to die.
After the Revolution the Sisters regrouped and spreading beyond the borders of France came to America in 1836, reaching the little village of Carondelet beside the Mississippi.
In time the Sisters with American ways welcomed others from France who came to share their labors. During the Civil War they tended the wounded on the battlefield, together they taught in schools, served the sick and orphans, and in the wild northern woods they lived among the Indians.
In 1870 seven Sisters offered themselves for a new mission in the undeveloped lands of the southwest. They arrived in Tucson by wagon on the glorious feast of the Ascension, having spent thirteen days of anguished travel over rutted mountain passes and gray desert wastes.
They were welcomed and began a school next to San Agustin Church. The school flourished and within six years a small novitiate was begun about a mile west of town.
Girls came to join their work and to wear the habit of the Sisters of St. Joseph. Girls came with Spanish names: Orosco, Leon, Ortiz, Franco, Otero, and a girl with an Italian name, Nole, with a Mexican mother.
Sisters trained in the East also answered the call for their services as the work in Arizona spread to Yuma, to Florence, and to Prescott where their first undertaking was to open a small hospital for injured miners.
It was in 1880, however, that Bishop Salpointe asked the Sisters at the novitiate to serve the sick in the small 12-bed hospital called St. Mary's. Three novices, two to nurse the sick and one to confer with the doctors and to keep the books. All three cleaned, and washed, and cooked.
In 1873 the Sisters opened a school for Indian children at San Xavier, having been asked to do so by the Indian agent.
In 1885 a larger school for girls, St. Joseph's Female Academy , was begun a short distance from San Agustin.
With each new project two Sisters were sent out on begging tours trying to raise the needed money. They were supported by the miners, the cattlemen, the merchants and citizens of Tucson, the clergy, and wealthy patrons in Sonora, Mexico.
They borrowed large sums of money and mortgaged their properties to build a sanitorium for St. Mary's hospital and to enlarge the Academy. Land was donated for a new orphanage to replace the old adobe novitiate which had housed the orphans and which had been damaged by a tornado. Not only did they beg to raise money for the new building but they continued begging to support the orphans.
In 1901 an Indian school was begun in Komatke, near Phoenix, where the Sisters labored with the Franciscan Fathers and Brothers. They managed the government Indian school at old Fort Yuma across the Colorado from 1885 to 1900. It was difficult, frustrating work dealing with government policies, the hostility of a small group of the Indians, and the animosity of those who resented the Sisters acting as government agents and as teachers at the government school.
In the early 1920's St. Joseph's Academy in Tucson and St. Joseph's in Prescott had become respected institutions; and St. Joseph's Orphans Home, a cluster of buildings housing over a hundred boys and girls.
In 1931 St. Joseph's Academy moved to a desert area east of town and became known as Villa Carondelet.
In later years the Sisters taught at other schools besides the Villa. They were at St. Peter and Paul, St. Ambrose, St. Joseph Schools, and Salpointe High School.
Today the Sisters are no longer among the Indians nor are they teaching in some of the parish schools. Changing conditions obliged them to withdraw, leaving other groups of Sisters or lay teachers to continue in their stead.
In 1961 a great need for more nursing beds led to the opening of St. Joseph's Hospital. It was financed by a community drive and government funds. Since then it has continued to expand its facilities.
Today the Sisters face the future as they serve in hospitals, schools, parishes, and other institutions and agencies. Their work includes Casa de los Niños for abused children. Pio Decimo Neighborhood Center for needed social programs, parish and pastoral ministries, counseling, tutoring, and work with the handicapped.
In our highly technological society, the Sisters are trained as doctors, nurses, lawyers, social workers, graphic artists, therapists, technicians, teachers, school and hospital administrators, counselors, and photographers.
As professionals and skilled workers they function in established institutions or new undertakings, still holding to their original vision seeking to serve the needs of others and to witness to the great love of God.