In 1883 after a funnel-shaped cloud touched down and devastated Rochester, Minnesota. Dr. W. W. Mayo took charge of the thirty-four injured victims, arranging them in makeshift cubicles on the polished floor of Rommel’s Dance Hall. He rounded up some volunteers to help nurse them, but they tended to come and go. That was a problem until Dr. Mayo hit on the idea of a more stable source of free help: Nuns!
So he went to the convent of the Sisters of St. Francis and said in his characteristically shy Minnesota way: “There ought to be a sister down there to look after those fellows.” Mother Alfred took over the nursing functions. When the crisis had passed, she took the good doctor aside and confided something to him. She had this dream about how the two of them might build a hospital in Rochester.
As Dr. Mayo recalled the discussion, he was flabbergasted. How in the world could he, an elderly doctor, do that? Mother Alfred pointed out that he had two sons. They could become surgeons. Dr. Mayo fell back to another defensive position. How could they hope to build a great hospital in Rochester, questioned the doctor. Even if her dream were accomplished, he argued, “How would the world know if we did?” “With faith and hope and energy it will succeed,” said the nun.
Sisters: Catholic Nuns and the Making of America—John J. Fialka.
St. Martin’s Press. New York, NY. 2003
Those who wish to read more about these incredible women and their gift of service to the church and the world can do so in John’s book, which you can order from Amazon.com or receive directly from SOAR! for a donation of $50. This donation will support retired religious sisters and brothers through the work of SOAR! To receive the book for your donation, please contact Danielle Bell directly by email or by phone at 202.529.7627.