SJHMC historical

Honoring St. Joseph’s Sisters of Mercy

A resounding commitment to serve

Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center was founded in 1895 by the Sisters of Mercy as a tuberculosis endemic besieged the Phoenix area.

In the 128 years that have followed, not only has St. Joseph’s continued its resounding commitment to serve every member of the community seeking care with humankindness, it's grown into one of Arizona’s largest and busiest hospitals featuring Barrow Neurological Institute, Norton Thoracic Institute and Creighton University School of Medicine Regional Campus.

With your continued support, St. Joseph’s Foundation carries on the Sister's cause by providing our community with the most technologically-advanced patient care, expert medical education and industry-leading research.

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Humble beginnings

"When the Sisters of Mercy arrived in Phoenix, AZ, their plan was to build a school for children," recalled Sister Margaret McBride, Division Vice President, Mission Integration. "What they found was a community suffering from tuberculosis and a smallpox outbreak."

The Sisters of Mercy opened the first St. Joseph's in a six-bedroom brick house at the corner of Polk and Fourth Streets in downtown Phoenix in 1895. The hospital was moved to its current location on Thomas Road and Third Avenue in 1953.

"Imagine the irony of not knowing exactly how to treat TB and smallpox. Doctors thought the combination of sunlight, citrus, and fresh air was the best treatment. There was a lack of supplies, linen, and workers to run the small, six-room hospital. Many in the community helped by providing food staples and support."

"A typical day for the Sisters included a 12-hour shift, many times longer, with no days off. They slept in the living room of the small cottage that was converted to a makeshift hospital, prayed in the early morning hours, and worked to comfort the sick. The Sisters made a promise that no one would die alone or in pain."

Indeed, during the course of the state’s history, the Sisters have cared for the sick during epidemics that have gripped far-flung areas, even caring for injured soldiers in Nogales in 1910 when Mexican revolutionaries and U.S. soldiers were in a heated battle.

"Even then," McBride continued, "the Sisters were living our mission: making the healing presence of God known, by improving the health of those they were called to serve, especially the vulnerable."

“The heart and soul of this tremendous hospital come from the amazing work of the Sisters,” says Patty White, St. Joseph's Foundation Board Chairman and former President and CEO of St. Joseph’s. “We have been blessed by their leadership and spiritual guidance."

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Mercy Memorial Wall

The Sisters of Mercy's contributions to St. Joseph's are well documented in the Mercy Memorial Wall that was commemorated in 2018 when the hospital celebrated its 123rd anniversary. The wall showcases religious artifacts and historical objects that illuminate the importance of the hospital and the Sisters’ leadership. Among other displays, the wall highlights photos of Saint John Paul II’s visit in 1987.