The Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart, the founding congregation of AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, Illinois, have been honored with a “legacy wall” at the medical center. Tom and Michelle Vana, who donated the wall in honor of Tom’s mother, Marilyn, and stepfather, Karl Kurtz, spoke about the family’s meaningful relationship with the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart at the wall’s recent blessing and dedication.

The legacy wall tells the story of the Franciscan Sisters, their relationship with the greater Joliet community and the founding of the medical center.

In 1882, the sisters were called to the Joliet area to alleviate suffering caused by a typhoid epidemic. They came with no money or housing—many of them speaking only German—driven by and dependent on their faith, Robert J. Erickson, President and CEO of the medical center, said at the dedication. When a smallpox epidemic struck the community, the sisters continued their ministry. In return for their service, the community responded with gratitude, offering $600 to help the Sisters build a new hospital.

Sr. Joyce Shanabarger, community leader for the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart, led a blessing of the legacy wall. Several sisters joined her in recognizing and praying for those who had come before them.