Green Bay hospital celebrates centennial
St. Mary's moved from one side of town to the other to better serve area needs
By Mike Dauplaise
St. Mary's Hospital Medical Center
On June 29, current and former employees of St. Mary Hospital Medical Center in Green Bay will join
Bp. Robert Banks in a Mass of thanksgiving for the hospital's centennial. The 10 a.m. Mass on St.
Mary's grounds will also welcome members of the Misericorde Sisters (the hospital's founding
community) and the Hospital Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis (Springfield), who now sponsor
and staff the facility.
In the late 1800s, Bp. Sebastian Messmer learned of the work being done by the Sisters of Misericorde
in New York. He knew that Green Bay could benefit from their work with unwed mothers and babies
and requested a group of sisters come to Green Bay.
The Misericorde Mother House in Montreal sent five sisters and two lay women known as Magdelenes
to Green Bay. Led by Sr. Marie-of-the-Immaculate-Conception, they arrived on Oct. 10, 1900.
The sisters were given an abandoned home on the corner of Webster Ave. and Crooks St. The brick
dwelling had served as the bishop's house prior to being used as an academy for girls and an orphanage.
The Sisters of Notre Dame, who had operated the orphanage until 1896, welcomed the new arrivals
from Montreal. The only furniture was four chairs and an ironing board that served as a dining room
table. The sisters brought $21 as a group, and each brought a pillow in her trunk.
Repairs were soon completed, and additional furnishings provided by the people of Green Bay. Msgr.
Joseph Fox, then Vicar General for the diocese, celebrated the first Mass in the new chapel on Nov. 9,
1900. That same day, the sisters welcomed the first child, a 7-month-old boy they named Joseph.
Early records show that the sisters named most of the male babies Joseph, and most of the female
babies Mary. The children were differentiated by middle names and stayed with the sisters until the age
of 2. Then they were relocated to an orphanage.
The sisters built their first hospital next door in 1903. That same year, St. Mary's School of Nursing was
also established. It operated until 1953. Dr. W.E. Fairfield, also a Quebec native, was instrumental in
convincing the Misericordes to build the hospital and set up the nursing school curriculum. He was also
its primary lecturer.
A home for the babies was built in 1905, and a new wing and two additional floors were added in 1912.
That building became the familiar east side St. Mary's Hospital.
By the 1950s, after both St. Vincent and Bellin had constructed new hospitals, St. Mary's decided to
move to the west side. The new site was well beyond the edge of town.
The new building opened on Oct. 10, 1960, exactly 60 years after the founding sisters had arrived. The
move from the east side, known as Operation White Cap because all of the volunteers wore white caps,
was accomplished in one day by about 170 volunteers and 31 trucks. Al Schneider, founder of today's
Schneider National, was one of the move's chief coordinators.
The home for unwed mothers remained on the east side for a short time, then moved to Marian Hall in
1964 (now the Misericordia Building behind the hospital). The program moved to a home just west of
ManorCare Nursing Home in 1972, and closed the next year.
When the Misericordes decided to move into other ministries, Bp. Aloysius Wycislo wanted St. Mary's
to remain a Catholic hospital. The Springfield Franciscan Sisters, who sponsor St. Vincent Hospital,
took over St. Mary's, and the transfer to the Hospital Sisters Health System was completed in 1974.
Ground was broken for the new Patient Care Building on June 12, 1979, and the new hospital building
opened in front of the old hospital on Nov. 16, 1981. A major addition was completed in 1992.
St. Mary's again took on a leadership role in women's health in 1998 with the development of A
Woman's Place. This expanded women's services department provides educational and clinical services
for all ages.
With the growth of services and educational offerings at A Woman's Place, St. Mary's Hospital enters
its second century poised to continue its role as a community leader in women's health.
By Joanne Flemming
What: St. Mary's Hospital Medical Center will mark its centennial with a 10 a.m. Mass June 29 on the
Who: Employees, former employees and sisters from the two orders that have sponsored the hospital
during the past 100 years are invited. Bp. Robert Banks, with Fr. Dick Mauthe will preside.
Anniversary date: Oct. 10
Highlights: Public is invited to view the permanent display "St. Mary's Hospital -- 1900-2000" on the
first floor Patient Care building. The display includes old photos from the east side hospital.