One of Megan Vinson’s favorite stories in history of Ascension Saint Joseph – Joliet is the newspaper boy who donated some of his earnings to help build the current hospital.
To Vinson, manager of volunteer services at St. Joe’s, that showed the community’s depth of commitment to St. Joe’s, which turned 140 on Monday.
The Joliet hospital, which has gone through several name changes, was rebranded as Ascension Saint Joseph – Joliet earlier this year. It held a series of small celebrations for staff, such as food trucks, games and contests, Ascension Saint Joseph President Chris Shride said.
Shride said the anniversary is more than the hospital’s anniversary.
It’s also the anniversary of St. Joe’s commitment to “caring for the community in a way that is still spiritually centered,” Shride said.
He said that may sound like a “standard mission statement,” but it’s also basic to St. Joe’s and it’s “still being lived out day in and out on a 24/7 basis.”
Sister Josephine Mulcahy, chaplain and member of the founding congregation, the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart in Frankfort, shared St. Joe’s origins.
She said members of the “Franciscan fathers,” who already were established at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Joliet, hoped to start a hospital in Joliet and contacted an order of German-speaking sisters in Indiana.
Four of those sisters were sent to Joliet, where they cared for people with typhoid and smallpox.
“The people of Joliet were very, very happy. The sisters were able to help them,” Mulcahy said. “They offered to give them support if they could stay and continue with their project to build a hospital.”
St. Joe’s opened at 372 N. Broadway St. in Joliet and was expanded in 1906, 1927 and 1942. Plans for the existing hospital at 333 Madison St. in Joliet were announced in 1957. Ground was broken in 1961, and the hospital opened in 1964.
It opened a new laboratory with state-of-the-art equipment in 2009 and a 5,000-square-foot children’s emergency department in 2010.
The hospital opened a hybrid cardiac catheterization lab in 2020 for treatment of abdominal aortic aneurysms, peripheral stenting, percutaneous valve repair, minimally invasive direct coronary artery bypass and aneurysm coiling.
Shride said St. Joe’s is expanding its cath labs. The hospital’s next major project will be updating the emergency department space for better flow and “raising the bar on patient experience,” he said.
He said between 55,000 and 60,000 patients come through St. Joe’s emergency department each year, so its redesign would “dramatically change the actual experience and timeliness within that environment.”
But all these efforts are intended to reflect and underscore St. Joe’s mission of holistic care.
“To those who walk through our doors, we want to continue to show the world that, along with the technological improvements, [the hospital] is based on the mission that the sisters had, to bring healing and hope,” Mulcahey said.