SSM Health St. Mary's is marking centennial with Mass, reception, barbecue, time capsule opening

July 2024
On Oct. 22, 1922, people celebrate the laying of a cornerstone for St. Mary's Hospital, now called SSM Health St. Mary's Hospital — St. Louis.


SSM Health St. Mary's Hospital — St. Louis launched its 100th anniversary celebration June 10 with proclamations from government officials representing the state of Missouri, the city of St. Louis, and the suburb of Richmond Heights followed by the opening of a 50-year-old time capsule and then an employee barbecue.

The capsule, which St. Mary's officials had placed into an exterior wall on the hospital's 50th anniversary, contained nearly 200 items, including a 1974 Washington Post article on President Richard Nixon's resignation; blank carbon copy credit card receipts; a latex exam glove; a Papal medallion; a candy striper's cap; an employee handbook; a patient questionnaire; a prayer card; and a message from Sr. Emiline Hitpas, SSM, who was the hospital's executive director at the time the capsule was sealed. Also included in the capsule was an audio recording of interviews with St. Mary's staff about the hospital's next 50 years.

Scott Grimwood, manager of the archives of SSM Health, displays a newspaper that was part of the trove of materials discovered in a time capsule that St. Mary's had secured about 50 years ago. Participants in a celebration of the hospital's centennial opened the capsule at that gathering.


This June 1924 newspaper clipping covers the dedication of St. Mary's Hospital. The clipping was one of the many items that were in a time capsule that hospital leadership opened in June 2024 as they celebrated St. Mary's centennial

More centennial events are ahead, including a Mass and reception in July and commemorations of St. Mary's legacy during SSM Health's Heritage Week in November.

On Nov. 16, 1872, five German sisters arrived in St. Louis seeking religious freedom and the opportunity to minister to and care for the sick. According to information from St. Mary's hospital, the women had just $5 among them. (The sisters later assumed the congregation name the Sisters of St. Mary. Later they became known as the Franciscan Sisters of Mary.)

Fifty years after their arrival, having already established multiple health care sites in the Midwest, the sisters broke ground on St. Mary's in the St. Louis suburb of Richmond Heights. The hospital, which opened on June 10, 1924, cost $1.4 million to build. There were fewer than 70 physicians who treated 1,547 patients within the first six months of the hospital's opening. At the time of its opening, the sisters had established an affiliation agreement with Saint Louis University that made St. Mary's the major teaching hospital for multiple university departments. The agreement had the university providing medical staff and medical care at the hospital, while the sisters oversaw administration and nursing care. The university and hospital remain partners now, though the affiliation has morphed over the years.

This is a 1924 postcard of St. Mary's Hospital.


Clinicians treat a patient in the emergency room of St. Mary's in the 1930s.


St. Mary's office assistant Nina Wade takes part in the hospital's centennial celebration.


St. Mary's employees, from left, Julann Dale, Angel Williams and Wade enjoy a celebration of St. Mary's centennial. Dale is a social worker and Williams is a nurse with home health and hospice.


Grimwood handles items that were in the time capsule.


St. Mary's hospital, decorated for the centennial.


Today, St. Mary's is a 525-bed facility with more than 800 physicians on staff and about 3,000 team members. The hospital welcomes about 3,000 babies annually and treats about 50,000 patients in its emergency department.

In 1986, hospitals and other health care facilities that had been sponsored by congregations of Franciscan Sisters of Mary came together to form the SSM Health system. Today that system has 23 hospitals, including St. Mary's. Currently, SSM Health is sponsored by a ministerial juridic person, SSM Health Ministries.


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