Our History


Called to Care for the Sick and Poor

Guided by a desire to care for the sick and poor, Father Christopher Bernsmeyer, OFM, founded the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis in Telgte, Germany in 1844. There, in the chapel of the Sorrowful Mother, the first five courageous members of the Hospital Sisters dedicated themselves to service to the poor in rural areas.

The Hospital Sisters continued their commitment to care for the sick and poor. In 1875, Bishop Peter Joseph Baltes invited Reverend Mother Cherubine to send the Sisters to his diocese in Alton, Illinois. Twenty Sisters, led by Sister Angelica, departed from their native Germany to begin their work in Illinois as the American Province of the Hospital Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis. After arriving in Illinois, the Sisters provided nursing care in Alton, Springfield, Belleville, Effingham, East St. Louis and Litchfield – oftentimes in their own homes. Since the Sisters were not allowed to accept money for their services, many times the patient’s family compensated the Sisters with food. Within 12 years, six hospitals had been built and the cornerstone of a seventh had been laid.

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Move In Day


A Third Time Capsule!

On August 28, 2015, HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital (Highland) continued a tradition that began more than 67 years ago. Colleagues, physicians and volunteers held a ceremony to dedicate the third time capsule installment in the hospital’s 137-year existence. Gathered under a sunny sky amid mild late-summer breezes in the hospital’s Franciscan Healing Garden, attendees listened and reflected on scripture and comments delivered by Peggy Sebastian, President & CEO, and Jeanie Korte, Manager of Spiritual Care.

“Since January 1878, colleagues, physicians, and volunteers have walked side-by-side with the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis to carry the torch of their Franciscan healing ministry,” Sebastian says. “Honoring the tradition that was started on November 21, 1948, and continued on September 2, 1987, we came together to reflect on our Franciscan heritage on the occasion of dedicating this 3rd time capsule installment.”

The first time capsule was originally dedicated and placed inside a section of a wall during construction of the previous St. Joseph’s Hospital facility at 1515 Main Street back on November 21, 1948. Along with the contents from that occasion, additional items were placed in the time capsule a second time on September 2, 1987.

“Even though our time in the new St. Joseph’s Hospital has been short, it’s a part of our 137-year history that’s being preserved – filling the pages of each new chapter that are written each day,” states Sebastian. “Along with the previous time capsule and its contents, this new time capsule will contain items similar to those preserved in the previous 2 installments.” Among the items in this 3rd time capsule installment, some of which were suggestions submitted by hospital colleagues, volunteers and physicians, include:  
  • A 2013 United States Mint coin set to commemorate the year the new hospital campus opened – the two (2) previous time capsules had coins from the 1948 and 1987
  • More than 860 photos – both hard copy and digital files – that chronical the groundbreaking ceremony in April 2012, aerial views depicting 14-months of construction progress, the blessing and dedication ceremony in June 2013, private and public events to celebrate the new hospital campus before it opened, patient move day, and the respectful “good-bye” to 1515 Main Street location
  • Copies of local newspapers serving as a timeline for the transition to the new hospital’s Troxler Avenue address
  • Documents detailing comments, sentiments, prayers and songs offered by administrators, Sisters, board members, and clergy during ground-breaking and blessing & dedication ceremonies
  • A copy of the “Building for Tomorrow” fundraising information packet – just as in 1879, history repeated itself as the hospital and those that reside within its service area partnered to bring a state-of-the-art hospital to life in 2013
  • Because of God’s blessings and the dedicated stewardship of St. Joseph’s Hospital colleagues, a financial statement for the first fiscal year of operations detailing the financial performance after the first year in the new hospital
  • A copy of the Friends Café menu the week the new campus opened • The “1” birthday cake candle from the August 2014 “birthday party” that celebrated the hospital’s first year of service • A colleague name badge used at the new campus
  • A “Jewel” card – used to recognize any colleague, physician or volunteer demonstrating the hospital’s Core Values of Respect, Care, Competence, and Joy
  • A replica of a patient ID wristband
  • A commemorative ornament and commemorative brick plaque from the St. Joseph’s Hospital Auxiliary
  • Promotional materials highlighting hospital services and medical staff roster
  • A sample of dirt that was blessed and taken from the new hospital campus construction site
  • And most importantly, a crucifix which hung in the old facility
The original time capsule box was recovered during demolition activities at the previous Main Street hospital location. Subsequently on Friday, May 2, 2014, Sebastian, along with hospital board chairman Bill Sullivan, opened original the time capsule – a rudimentary-constructed copper box measuring eight (8) inches wide by 11 inches long by three (3) inches high – to reveal the contents of the time capsule to hospital colleagues, volunteers and board members on hand. Items such as newspaper articles, religious artifacts, photos, brochures and other publications describing hospital operations and fundraising activities, as well as additional historical information related to St. Joseph’s Hospital, the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis and other items (from previous 1948 and 1987 installments) were inside and later highlighted on the hospital’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/stjosephshighland) during a subsequent two-week period.

A plaque will be placed in the hospital’s Franciscan Healing Garden commemorating the new time capsule’s dedication at a later date. Also, instructions will be placed on file for hospital leadership to recover the time capsule in 25 years.

Our Beginning

St. Joseph’s Hospital was established in January 1878. At the request of Reverend Joseph Meckel, Pastor of St. Paul’s Church, Mother Angelica Ratte sent two nursing sisters to Highland. Upon their arrival, they made their home with the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Without means to furnish even a small building for themselves, an appeal was directed to local residents of Highland who generously responded with all necessary articles – furniture, cooking utensils and even food.

As Highland continued growing, so did the need for additional nursing Sisters and a medical facility. During the summer of 1878, numerous public meetings were held to freely discuss the need for a hospital. Many feared that the hospital would not pay for itself and would become a burden for the community at large. Several noteworthy citizens believed the contrary and persisted in pointing out to the rest of local residents the advantages derived from such an institution in the vicinity.

After a public “subscription drive” was completed – whereby local residents donated money, materials or equipment – the formal dedication of the new St. Joseph’s Hospital took place on Thursday, August 21, 1879, when the structure was opened to admit its first patient, Mrs. Ring. The little two-story building provided the convent for the Sisters and room for 12 patients. Bequests, donations, subscriptions, raffles, benefit fairs, and even a musical concert, all figured in the raising of funds to pay for the new hospital.

Tragically, fire destroyed St. Joseph’s Hospital on January 24, 1892. New additions and renovations were completed in 1897, 1926 and 1937, but in June 1950, the cornerstone for the recent four-story facility addition was laid.

A New Beginning

The next chapter in the history of HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital is written on a site approximately one mile north of the previous facility located on Main Street. On January 7, 2011, St. Joseph’s Hospital announced that it purchased 60 acres located in the southeast corner of the intersection at North Poplar Street and Troxler Avenue directly east of Highland High School. The land owner, Kathryn Winet Grotefendt, also agreed to donate 12.4 additional acres. This combined 72.4 acre site is where the new St. Joseph’s Hospital campus now stands.

Just as with the first St. Joseph’s Hospital facility back in 1879 and throughout subsequent years, residents of Highland and surrounding communities showed their support for the health care healing ministry of Christ – originally started in Highland by the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis in 1878 – by participating in a capital campaign that raised more than $4 million.

Construction on the new St. Joseph’s Hospital broke ground April 1, 2012 on a green-field site about a mile north of the previous hospital and was substantially complete May 31, 2013. The new St. Joseph’s Hospital officially opened to the public August 22.