With four full-service hospitals, a world-class pediatric hospital, and multiple outpatient surgery centers, clinics and freestanding emergency centers, CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System offers all the convenience and quality you’ve come to expect from modern health care. The roots of that care are grounded in a story that started almost 150 years ago.
In March of 1869, a cholera epidemic was sweeping through San Antonio. Three Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word rode more than 280 miles from Galveston by stagecoach to bring medical care to the residents of the city — only to find the newly constructed hospital and convent had burned to the ground. They immediately set to work, and after eight months of hard labor from the Sisters and volunteers, the Santa Rosa Infirmary was finished. On November 25, 1869, Sister Madeline published a letter in the paper declaring San Antonio’s first private hospital would be open to “all persons, without distinction of nationality or creed.”
This unwavering commitment to healing strikes at the heart of who we are and who we strive to be. “There’s real power in reminding ourselves that we come from a long heritage of this courageous and compassionate work,” says Deborah Simmen, system director of mission initiatives and spirituality at the CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System offices in Irving, Texas. “It doesn’t look identical across 150 years, but it’s similar — there were women and men who came before us, and we’re building on their meaningful work. At CHRISTUS Health, we tell our stories to inspire and support the work of everyone at every level.”
Continuing Their Work
Today, CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System is sponsored by three religious congregations: the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word in Houston, the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio and the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth in Des Plaines, Il. “Although they are three separate and distinct congregations, the spirituality of all three flows from the understanding that through their service the Sisters continue God’s healing presence in the world,” Simmen says. “The heart of what they do is about responsive service and being aware of the true needs of the community, then finding innovative and transformative ways to meet those needs.”
One woman who has been transforming the San Antonio community for decades is Sister Michele O’Brien, development officer for the Friends Foundation and The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. Her current work involves finding the vital support needed to help those in our community. “It’s not just about fundraising, but friend-raising and building relationships,” Sister Michele says.
“We connect with people who will have an impact on the adult hospitals. Whether it’s giving their time, treasures or talent, our friends help us meet needs that aren’t met by the current budget.”
Sister Michele is an excellent fund-raiser for the health system because she herself has been involved in the health system for many years. She began what is now the Community Outreach Program in 1993, connecting the health system with those in the community who need it most. A recipient of a liver transplant in 1995, Sister Michele has spent 11 years advocating for organ transplants, including traveling to Washington, D.C. to ask for changes in federal regulation regarding organ donations, chairing the local chapter of the National Kidney Society and
Board Membership on the local organ procurement group for south and central Texas (TOSA).
“What motivated the original three sisters to come to San Antonio still motivates all of us,” Sister Michele says. “Obviously, it so attracted me that I became a sister during my years of college.
The mission of CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System is meaningful to me today because it enables a person to heal and to be able to use their talent and grace for the world. With health and dignity we can help our community. Sister Madeline, our Foundress, stated that we would accept patients of every creed, and so it stays the same today. Those are our promises, and we intend to keep them.”