The history of countless projects within St. Dominic Health Services and many in the larger Jackson, Miss., community share a simple footnote: Sr. Mary Dorothea Sondgeroth was key to their success.
When Sr. Dorothea became president of St. Dominic Health Services, St. Dominic Hospital was – and still is – the only such Catholic facility in Mississippi. The legacy of Sr. Dorothea and the entire health system bears witness that a Catholic-based health ministry can survive and thrive alongside other deeply held religious faiths.
At the start of Sr. Dorothea's tenure in 1995, the system held two subsidiaries: the hospital and an organization for community-based services. When she retired from that position 17 years later, the system had grown to include seven subsidiary organizations comprising a 535-bed hospital with more than 500 affiliated physicians, a large continuing care retirement community (St. Catherine's Village) and more than 3,000 employees.
At the end of 2011, Sr. Dorothea retired as president of St. Dominic Health Services—but not from St. Dominic's. She now works as the associate executive director of the St. Dominic Health Services Foundation.
In the Jackson community she has been recognized with roles in numerous community organizations, including the United Way of the Capital Area, Safe City Initiative, the Rotary Club of Jackson and Fondren Renaissance. She is a laureate of the Mississippi Business Hall of Fame, and in 1997, was named the top businesswoman in the state in Mississippi. In 2005, she was selected for a Jefferson Award from the American Institute for Public Service. This national award honors "unsung heroes who encounter problems in their communities, believe they can help and create innovative solutions."
Sr. Dorothea's inspiration is clearly visible in the revitalization of Fondren, a once-declining neighborhood adjacent to St. Dominic Hospital. In 1997, Sister Dorothea committed her organization's resources to help the newly formed Fondren Renaissance Foundation revitalize the area.
For 10 years, she served her order on the leadership team of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois. She also served on the nominating committee of the Catholic Health Association and the board of trustees for the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.