Dominican Sisters of Springfield privileged to serve healthcare needs in Mississippi

By Sister M. Dorothea Sondgeroth, O.P.
The year of celebrating Consecrated Life concludes in February, 2016. This year coincides with the Dominican Sisters celebrating St. Dominic Hospital’s 70 years of Catholic healthcare ministry to the people in Mississippi.
In 1946 the Dominican Sisters from Springfield, Ill., were invited by Bishop Richard O. Gerow to come operate the Jackson Infirmary located in downtown Jackson on President Street, in walking distance from St. Peter the Apostle Cathedral. Nine Pioneer sisters answered the call to leave Illinois and journey to “mission territory” where they experienced a warm welcome from Bishop Gerow, the clergy and Mercy Sisters who offered them temporary living accommodations.
The lay folks offered a more skeptical welcome as they had never seen Dominican Sisters in white habits and from the North, at that! These women religious were ahead of their times in leadership as the sisters came equipped to minister in various departments as administrators, registered nurses, registered dietitians, registered pharmacists, purchasing agents, medical record librarians and laboratory technicians.
The old Jackson Infirmary was in deplorable condition so the sisters set out with the help of business leaders in the community to locate land for a new hospital. Having been denied a parcel of land by the state, an offer was made to the sisters to purchase 13 acres in north Jackson, a location that was isolated with no roads.
Trusting in God’s Providence, the sisters decided to purchase the land and soon St. Dominic-Jackson Memorial Hospital was built on what was to become Lakeland Drive. This “Beacon on the Hill” weathered the challenges of the 1960’s under the direction of the sisters who followed the motto, “The charity of Christ urges us on” and “God prospered the work of our hands.”
Soon St. Dominic’s expanded its services and today St. Dominic Health Services is the Parent Corporation for St. Dominic Hospital, the only Catholic hospital in the state, and six other subsidiaries. These subsidiaries include St. Catherine’s Village, Madison Health Services, St. Dominic Health Services Foundation, First Intermed Corporation, and Community Health Services – St. Dominic, Inc. which includes the Club, St. Dominic’s Community Health Clinic, New Directions for Over 55 and the Care-A- Van.
Besides the sisters ministering in healthcare, there were other Dominican Sisters privileged to serve in the Diocese of Jackson as teachers, pastoral associates and an assistant school superintendent. For the past 69 plus years more than 70 Dominican Sisters have been blessed and privileged to minister to the people of God in the Jackson diocese. Today there are seven Dominican Sisters ministering with 3,500 associates who are defined by our mission and driven by our passion to serve God in the Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi.
Consecrated Life truly is worthy of celebration!
(Sister Dorthea Sondgeroth, OP, is the associate executive director of St. Dominic Health Services Foundation)