A new era: An aging community
By Kris Leonhardt
As the Sisters of St. Joseph convent enters a new era, we take a look at the order’s formation and the creation of their facilities, along with their ongoing stewardship in the community.
Continued from previous week
The Sisters of Joseph celebrated their Silver Jubilee in 1926. By that time, they were serving schools in nearly a half dozen states, with provinces in several states.
In 1929, the congregation moved into health care, purchasing a Denver convalescent home; that was followed by a purchase of River Pines Sanitarium near Stevens Point, in 1938.
From there they continued to expand into hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes across the country, with special attention to those in need who “would otherwise not receive medical attention.”
In 1943, the general administration was moved from the Stevens Point motherhouse to the South Bend, IN, motherhouse, and two years later the congregation became known as the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis, or SSJ-TOSF.
The Stevens Point facilities remained in relatively the same form for over a decade; however, with construction of Maria High School to the south in 1956, the academy that had filled the wing was closed and the space was repurposed into the sisters’ congregational home. The facilities served as home to the Maria High School faculty, high school girls attending Maria who aspired to become nuns, and aging and ill sisters.
In 1965, the congregation was over six decades old, with a growing need for the care of aging sisters.
In January, 17 of the old pines that secluded the convent grounds were meeting their demise, as the congregation began work on a major expansion. The $1.5 million expansion included a new chapel and infirmary, which was scheduled for completion in June 1966.
The sisters solicited project funds privately for the addition that would provide a more appropriate chapel to seat 400 nuns, which would accommodate the over 350 sisters that returned to the facilities for retreats.
The sanctuary would be circular, with the altar facing the people, which was new to the religion at the time.
Above the altar was a skylight.
The new three-story infirmary wing included a hospital floor, with 17 rooms, and two additional floors to accommodate another 38 sisters.
A new heating plant was included in the project and the previous boiler and laundry facilities were to be razed.
In those years, the sisters were serving as both teachers and nurses at Maria High School, St. Peter’s School, St. Stanislaus School, St. Michael’s School in Junction City, St. Mary of Mt. Carmel School in Fancher, St. Adalbert’s School at Rosholt, and River Pines Sanatorium in Whiting.
The farm was still being operated by hired staff, with 24 cows and 300 chickens.
Needing the space for the expansion, the two barns were scheduled for razing and the livestock was to be sold.
In February, ground was broken, with construction scheduled to begin in March.
Continued next week