By Sister Nancy Surma, OSF
I just finished a project that spoke of the lives of hundreds of dedicated women in seven states with work that spanned nearly 100 years. My role—serving as content editor and executive producer for eight heritage walls about the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania, Ohio, and the health care ministry they sponsored.
Before Sylvania Franciscan Health joined Catholic Health Initiatives in late 2014, the SFH board discussed how the heritage of the Sisters could be preserved in the healthcare ministries they established. The board decided to fund heritage walls in each of the ministry locations that would become part of CHI.
A company in the Toledo area, 2-Scale, was retained to design and fabricate the hangings which were to have some depth and not just be flat pieces on the wall. I worked with their designers to select images and write explanatory text with material gathered from the archives of the Sisters of St. Francis, the records of Sylvania Franciscan Health and pictures from each location. In all, eight heritage walls were produced. They are now installed in prominent locations in each organization.
The left side of the boards tells the story of the Sisters of St. Francis, starting with Mother M. Adelaide and reviewing the locations the Sisters served in, along with the change from direct oversight of the hospitals to the creation of Franciscan Services Corporation, then renamed as Sylvania Franciscan Health, and finally to joining Catholic Health Initiatives. The right side relates the history of the individual location.
It was impossible to tell the complete story, both of the Sisters and of the ministry locations. So many Sylvania Franciscan Sisters worked long hours in difficult conditions, some in the heat of the South, some in professions they had only minimal preparation, some far from family and friends, but all with the knowledge that what they did extended the healing ministry of Jesus. Lay partners too, over the decades, joined in the difficult work, doing their best, struggling with limited resources, committed to caring for all those who came for care.
Arlington National Cemetery has its Tomb of the Unknowns. I like to think that the healthcare system of the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania, Ohio has its heritage walls.