St. Joseph’s Cherishes 125 Years of Serving the Community

Honoring our Sisters of Mercy

st. joseph's first hospital

Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center turned 125 years old amidst the treatening coronavirus pandemic. The spread of the disease and the hospital's immediate response to priortize the community's health and well-being mirrored its own history, when it was founded in 1895 by the Sisters of Mercy as a tuberculosis endemic beseiged the Valley.

During St. Joseph's 125-year milestone, caregivers doubled down on a resounding commitment to serve all members of the community seeking care, just as the Sisters had done before them. And just as the Sisters depended on donations from the community to enhance and extend care provided, St. Joseph's Foundation carries on the cause to raise the funds essential to fulfilling its current mission.

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.

Mercy Memorial Wall at St. Joseph's

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.  Since then, it has grown into one of Arizona’s largest and busiest hospitals, and is home of Barrow Neurological Institute and Norton Thoracic Institute.  

“The Sisters who founded St. Joseph’s would be so proud of how far this hospital has come and how much it continues to do for the city,” says Sister Sister Madonna MarieMadonna Bolton, a registered nurse who worked in pediatrics and has held multiple roles at the hospital. “Since the Sisters first arrived in Arizona to open a school, we have been proud to help those in need, not only in Phoenix, but throughout Arizona.”

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.

“In the very early days, the conditions were very difficult.  The Sisters would never complain about it but there was no air conditioning or creature comforts,” says Sr. Madonna. “Their habits were made from black surge material, which was very heavy and hot, and they slept on the veranda with wet sheets and a fan blowing on them to keep cool.  St. Joseph’s wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for them. We need to be grateful.” 

Today, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center is a 594-bed, not-for-profit hospital that is nationally recognized for its specialty care, medical education and research.  Last year more than 31,000 patients were admitted and more than 114,000 were treated at the hospital’s emergency department.                                                                                                                                                                                

“The heart and soul of this tremendous hospital come from the amazing work of the Sisters,” said Patty White, who was president and CEO of St. Joseph’s during the commemoration in 2018.  “We have been blessed by their leadership and spiritual guidance.  This anniversary is a wonderful opportunity to thank them.”