Saints Inspire Health Care Providers

U.S. Catholic published an article describing the work of St. Hildegard of Bingen in inspiring hospice and end of life care worker Karen Cassidy (OblSB) at Hildegard House in Louisville Kentucky. The article explains that “the 67-year-old woman’s call to listen to the poor and abandoned, as well as to accompany them in the dying process, began during her professional career, but it found its fruition in her faith.” Karen Cassidy herself shared, “Listening with the ear of our heart is what we do here. Here we say, ‘I’ll listen to you. And when you can’t talk anymore, I’ll just sit with you. And when you don’t want anybody, I will let you be by yourself.’”

St. Francis of Assisi was born in 1182, three years after the death of Hildegard of Bingen, and established care for the sick as part of the Franciscan charism and tradition in his lifetime. St. Francis and his community are most remembered for their ministry of care for persons with leprosy.

There are modern vestiges of this Franciscan tradition in things like the Mission of Franciscan Health, founded by the Sisters of Saint Francis of Perpetual Adoration, and that includes:

  • Providing a broad, coordinated continuum of health care services with an emphasis on improving the health of persons and communities.
  • Treating the mind, body and spirit with holistic and comprehensive medical options.
  • Developing creative structures for health care delivery.
  • Being advocates for those in need.
  • Identifying and developing sisters and laity for Franciscan leadership.

A core value of Franciscan Health is viewing life as a gift: “The gift of life is so valued that each person is cared for with such joy, respect, dignity, fairness and compassion that he or she is consciously aware of being loved.” Another organizational value states: “Each day, throughout the halls of our hospitals, we embrace our Franciscan Tradition by walking in the footsteps of St. Francis, who left behind his worldly possessions to care for all of those in need.”

Readers may also be interested in knowing that Franciscan values in health care and transformed health care systems are also the subject of several books by Franciscan priest and physician Dr. Daniel P. Sulmasy (OFM, MD, PhD). His books include A Balm for Gilead: Meditations on Spirituality and the Healing Arts, The Rebirth of the Clinic: An Introduction to Spirituality in Health Care, and The Healer’s Calling.

Here in Central Minnesota, the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls also have their piece of history in establishing hospitals and other health care facilities. By 1993 the sisters had established 12 operating “Franciscan Sisters Health Care” facilities, under the leadership of Sr. Bea Eichten (President and Chief Executive Officer), and Sr. Rose Margaret Schneider (Vice President and Director of Mission Effectiveness & Communications), and other sisters.

(art credit: St. Francis kisses the Leper (Face your Fears/Affronta le tue Paure), by wORKINGaRTs, 2023)

Are you a health care worker, or someone who is taking care of a friend or family member with health needs, and considering whether joining the Secular Franciscan community would bring and grow the spiritual dimension in your life and work? We would love to hear from you! E-mail the St. Cloud Fraternity of Secular Franciscans at

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