The city of Centralia was 55 years old when Father J. H. Bruns of St. Mary’ Parish and a group of civic leaders decided to establish a community hospital.
In 1905, Father Bruns and his congregation purchased the property at Elm and Noleman and began to raise money, but high unemployment stalled fundraising efforts.
In 1908, a committee of doctors and businessmen renewed efforts. On May 12, 1909, ground broke on the 22-bed, two-story hospital that opened Nov. 25, 1909. The hospital cost $25,000 and was initially managed by the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, a community of Sisters who had been in Centralia since 1889.
After World War I, the hospital agreed to take care of all ex-servicemen for $3 a day under a contract with the U.S. Veterans Bureau. Many patients remained at the hospital for the next two years.
With Centralia’s population growth, the hospital expanded to 86 beds in 1922, adding a south wing and a third floor.
The Felician Sisters Arrive
By this time, the Poor Handmaids felt that they were unable to supply sufficient numbers of sisters who were nurses. The Felician Sisters then took over management of the hospital and local school. Mother Angela, the Foundress of the Felician Sisters often said that when the Church presents a need in the name of Jesus, we cannot say “no.” In 1939, Sister Mary Celestine and 19 Sisters got off the train and arrived in Centralia.
World War II had a great effect on St. Mary’s Hospital, because many physicians and registered nurses went into service. Throughout those war years, volunteer nurse aides were trained by the American National Red Cross and they served well.
Penicillin made its debut in 1944, in limited supply, and St. Mary’s was selected by the War Production Board to serve as a depot for distribution for a 40-mile area.
In 1947, the Felician Sisters purchased St. Mary’s Hospital from the Diocese of Belleville. By this time the hospital was quite crowded so the Sisters purchased 20 acres on the west side of Pleasant Avenue in anticipation of building a new hospital. With community financial support, groundbreaking for the new hospital occurred on November 21, 1955 (exactly 100 years after the founding of the Felican Sisters as a Community in Poland).
Sister Mary Paschalisa, Administrator, welcomed the first patients to the 117-bed new hospital, March 10, 1958. But in 10 years this “modern” facility became overcrowded and a 40-bed wing was added in 1969. St. Mary’s Hospital expanded again in 1972, adding the east expansion.
In March of 1984, Sister Miranda was named President of the Felician Healthcare System and Sister Clarette became the new hospital President. Sister Clarette remained President until 1994 when Jim McDowell, the first non-religious person to hold that position, became President. Sister Clatette then became President and CEO of Felician Services, Inc.
Partnership with SSM Health
In 1996, Felician Services, Inc and SSM Health began a Joint Operating Agreement (JOA) for St. Mary’s and Good Samaritan Hospitals to became St.Mary’s Good Samaritan.
On Aug. 24, 2015, St. Mary’s Hospital became SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital – Centralia following SSM Health Care’s change to SSM Health, all its hospitals and health care services under one name.
The move to SSM Health reflects the organization’s commitment to an exceptional patient experience. That means delivering high-quality health care that is affordable, sustainable and convenient to every patient. SSM Health Illinois remains in partnership with the Felician Sisters.