Sisters of Healing


POSTED: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 - 10:00pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 - 10:09am

You see it on almost every other block 75 miles across East Texas, Trinity Mother Frances hospitals and clinics.

If you are from East Texas you may not know how the hospital started.
East Texas was just starting to make a name for itself in the 1930s. The oil boom was in full effect and a lot of people were coming to this prosperous area for jobs. But, something was missing in this up and coming Texas city. There were no hospitals.

"Some of the doctors particularly one I can remember that I can say was a predecessor of Trinity clinic was the Bryant clinic and they had ten beds but, that was in the doctor's office and that was about it for hospitals," said CEO and president of Trinity Mother Frances, Lindsey Bradley.

Where does one look to even find the resources to start a hospital?

"Itwas a community project badly needed but they realized they didn't know how to run one," said Bradley.
Bradley said one of the physicians, Dr. Douglas, heard about a convent of sisters that were running hospitals around the Oklahoma border and Chicago.

The sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

"He wanted the religious order to run hospital," said Sister Irene, head sister of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

"Some of the community leaders got on a train went to Chicago and asked the sisters that were in Chicago if they could operate this new hospital in Tyler," said Bradley.

"Our proposal was accepted and was most promising and Dr. McDonald chose that we would sponsor the hospital and at that time our congregation sent 16 sisters to their new mission in Tyler," said Sister Irene.

Sisters, who were of polish decent including blessed Mother Frances Siedliska, came to Tyler and helped Dr. McDonald and 19 other physicians open Mother Frances hospital.

The hospital, named after the Blessed Mother Frances Siedliska, was set to open on March 19th, 1937. A five story hospital with 60 beds.

But, the day before, a tragedy struck that would shake the area for decades.

"All the dignitaries were going to come, there was going to be the ribbon cutting and the celebrations but, tragically on that day before Friday, the school in New London had a very tragic explosion that killed hundreds of children and injured many,many people," said Bradley.

The hospital was given a "baptism of blood" the day of it's opening.

"It was dedicated to the blood of those kids from New London," said John Davidson, with the New London museum.

Instead of an opening of cheers treats and celebrations, was welcomed by a horrific bloody explosion.

The very next day, Bishop Joseph Lynch of Dallas did a simple, dedication to the opening of the hospital.

In appreciation for the hospitals service to the victims, the New London museum dedicated a section just for Mother Frances hospital.

"You don't talk about one without talking about the other," said Davidson.

But, this isn't the only tragedy the sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth had to cope with.

"During the second world war, a group of sisters in Poland were executed," said Sister Irene.

Part of the same convent of the sister's who started Mother Frances, were murdered by Nazis.

July 1943 in a small Polish town, the Nazis made a mass arrest of 120 Polish men.

The wives and sisters of these men went to Sister Mary Stella and ten other sisters to ask for their prayers and support.

But then, they decided to make the ultimate sacrifice.

"O God, if sacrifice of life is needed, they get our life and spare the people who are incarcerated and waiting to be executed," said Sister Irene.
On August 1st, 1943 the sisters were executed by the Nazis, for the lives of 120 fathers, sons and brothers.

In 2000 Pope John Paul II canonized them as saints.

Back in the United States, Mother Frances hospital was prospering and 77 years later, the sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth are still very much involved.
"When I came to interview in 1981, Mr. Weisenbaker looked at me and said I want you to understand why this place is special, it's special because the sisters are here."
Trinity Mother Frances is one of the best hospitals in the whole United States and even though there are only four sisters working in the hospital, the history of the Holy Family of Nazareth is very much present.

"77 years later, they're still here providing the love, commitment and support their example should be an inspiration to all of us," said Bradley.

"We are strong, we are open to take care of people and we're so happy," said Sister Irene.

In 1995, Mother Frances hospital integrated with Trinity Clinic. The board debated about starting fresh and giving the hospital a new name. but, it was understood by all, that there was a commitment to the founding sisters.


Comments News Comments

Excellent article. It's always nice to know the history of an institution that, in so many ways, shapes an area as does TMF.
You did a great job bringing the people alive who were involved.
When it is all said and done- it's people who matter.
People make things happen.
In this case a positive contribution that has grown with the community and interwoven into its fabric.
People of vision have made some hard choices over the years & it has paid off.
Thanks for doing such a good job writing it up.

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