A Publication of WTVP

“Determination and faith paved the path to Peoria in 1876. They knew little English, but their compassion and gentle touch spoke volumes.”

On December 2, 2010, the rich history of the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis was unveiled in the lobby of the new Children’s Hospital of Illinois and OSF Saint Francis Medical Center. Sister Judith Ann Duvall, chairperson of OSF HealthCare System, observed:
This heritage, this rich tradition that underlies OSF Saint Francis Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of Illinois, these memories, these incredible pioneer women and their faith, trust in God and sacrificial love for the sick and the dying, and especially this very special humble sister, Sister M. Canisia Gerlach, who so powerfully embodied the heart of this heritage as she served at the helm of Saint Francis for some 38 years, will never be forgotten.

The four glass panels mounted to the wall are digitally printed with script and images documenting the history of the Sisters. The first panel features the humble beginnings of OSF in Peoria with Sister M. Frances Krasse, images of the first hospitals and a portrait of the founding sisters.

The second panel features numerous hospital images and Sister Canisia’s story, from her arrival in Peoria from Germany to her administrative work at OSF Saint Francis from 1960 to 1998. It also includes what is known as the “Wagon Story.” On one occasion, the Sisters were low on food, and Mother Frances went to the chapel to pray about it. The next day, a delivery wagon full of food mysteriously appeared in front of the house. It sat there all day, but the driver was nowhere to be found. Not wanting the food to spoil, the Sisters unloaded it to store until the driver returned. But the next morning, the wagon was gone. God had answered their prayers.

The third panel features several portraits of Sisters throughout the history of the order, and the story of Sister Okydoke (Sister M. Elfrieda Witte), whose compassion for the poor was uncompromising. The fourth panel highlights a variety of images and poems by St. Francis of Assisi and Sister Judith Ann.

The history wall was the result of donations from the medical staff at Saint Francis, Dr. and Mrs. Carl Adams, and Dr. and Mrs. Ray Bernito; and the fundraising efforts of John Bearce, Saint Francis CEO Keith Steffen, Dr. Michael Shekleton, and Dr. George Hevesy.

“It is only appropriate that within the walls of this new, state-of-the-art building we honor the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis by looking back at the path they’ve forged to bring quality healthcare to the people of Illinois,” noted Steffen. iBi