The Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth trace their origin as a religious community to the 1600s in France where Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac established the Daughters of Charity. These women religious were dedicated to serving the sick and poor through an active ministry. Their motto was "the love of Christ impels us." This heritage and tradition serve as a foundation for our health ministry today.
Until federal monies became available and insurance was an established payment mechanism, much of the financing of our hospitals was done by the begging of the sisters, the good will of benefactors, fundraising events and loans. The archives reflect stories reminiscent of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes whereby a sister would give the last 30 cents away to someone in need, only to have a donor replenish the funds. This spirit of charity and faith in Divine Providence characterized the sisters in their healthcare ministry.
The reputation of the sisters preceded them and prompted local officials to seek their leadership in establishing and operating hospitals. When a doctor in Billings, Mont., requested that the sisters establish a hospital, he said, "I know your strength; you do not recoil from hardship." From 1864 to 1952, the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth established or assumed responsibility for 18 hospitals from Kansas to California.
In the 1960s, several factors led to an in-depth examination of the healthcare apostolate of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth. Healthcare was changing with advances in technology, increasing litigation and more government involvement. The study which followed was a turning point for the religious community that led to a renewed commitment to health care; a new delegation of authority; and ultimately to the formation of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health Services Corporation, now known as SCL Health.
Our history continues with The Formation of SCL Health.