From France To Jacksonville, The Mission Continues

Daughters of Charity statue

St. Vincent’s HealthCare looks forward to another century of service

St. Vincent’s HealthCare, celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2016, would not be where it is today had it not been for the care and fortitude of the Daughters of Charity, an order established in 1633 by St. Vincent de Paul and Ste. Louise de Marillac. Although nearly 400 years have passed since the priest and the aristocratic widow joined forces for good in France, their original mission lives on worldwide and in Jacksonville.

“From the beginning, St. Vincent’s HealthCare was founded on a Mission of compassion to provide care for those who were in need. The spirit of the Daughters of Charity is to discover the face of Christ in those whom we serve and we invite our dedicated collaborators to do the same,” said Sister Jean Rhoads, Daughter of Charity and member of St. Vincent’s Board of Directors.

“Each person’s life is uplifted when you realize serving here is actually a ministry…that what you do is making a lasting difference in this challenging world. I think that’s the reason the Mission at St. Vincent’s thrives! My hope for St. Vincent’s HealthCare for the next 100 years is that it remain deeply committed to its Mission and respond with vibrant creativity to the ever-changing needs of our brothers and sisters,” she said.

Almost 20 years after the nuns first came to Jacksonville to treat soldiers in a field hospital during the Spanish American War, they were asked to return in 1916 to take over the DeSoto Sanitarium in Springfield. They treated more than 600 patients during their first year at what would eventually become St. Vincent’s, named after the French priest St. Vincent de Paul.

The Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul at the DeSoto Sanitarium in Springfield in 1916, which eventually became St. Vincent’s Hospital.

The Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul at the DeSoto Sanitarium in Springfield in 1916, which eventually became St. Vincent’s Hospital.

“The Daughters of Charity hold a very special place in my heart. These courageous foundresses of St. Vincent’s were not only committed to helping the poor, they lived amongst them in solidarity. Their loving and visionary commitment continues today, and it’s the very thing that motivates me to serve with Ascension and lead St. Vincent’s HealthCare,” said Tom VanOsdol, Chief Operating Officer of Clinically Integrated Systems of Care for St. Vincent’s HealthCare. “We are the only local health system that regularly seeks out the poor to care for them. Our goal is for all people to have access to a clinically excellent and compassionate medical home and a trusted relationship with their provider – regardless of their ability to pay.”

The Daughters of Charity left St. Vincent’s HealthCare two years ago to serve other ministries within Ascension, but their legacy lives on even as the torch was passed on to other associates within the nonprofit.

“At St. Vincent’s, we live our Mission every day. Our desire to serve our friends and neighbors goes far beyond the walls of our facilities and out into the community through events like our recent Medical Mission at Home. This medical Mission gave us the opportunity to provide free healthcare to more than 200 people in an area where these services are needed the most, downtown Jacksonville, just a few blocks from where the Daughters of Charity launched St. Vincent’s 100 years ago,” said Tracie Loftis, Chief Mission Integration Officer for St. Vincent’s HealthCare. “Our Mobile Health Outreach Ministry sends doctors-offices-on-wheels to both our urban and rural communities to places such as schools and migrant farm camps to provide free care to those that might not otherwise receive medical attention. I’m blessed to work for an organization that is committed to helping those most in need in our community.”

Each person’s life is uplifted when you realize serving here is actually a ministry.

Sister Jean Rhoads, Daughter of Charity

It hasn’t been just all take, no give within the community. The organization has relied upon the time, energy and commitment of many volunteers, and has been blessed by financial gifts from many local philanthropists, enabling St. Vincent’s to expand services and maintain medical excellence.

“For 100 years now, the Mission of St. Vincent’s has been supported by our friends in the community,” said Jane R. Lanier, CFRE, President of the St. Vincent’s Foundation, established in 1982. “These individuals and businesses have generously given their time, treasure and talent to ensure we can deliver on our promise to care for those most in need. We are blessed to have such committed partners.”

One such partner, First Coast Energy, has enabled the Mobile HealthCare Ministry to reach its own milestone. The program began in 1991, taking fully staffed doctors-offices-
on-wheels to areas of the community which lack medical services. During its 2014-2015 fiscal year, the Mobile HealthCare Ministry provided free services to more than 17,000 adults and children.

“We are excited to celebrate St. Vincent’s incredible 100 year milestone in Jacksonville,” said Aubrey Edge, First Coast Energy CEO. “Our longstanding partnership with the St. Vincent’s HealthCare Foundation through the Mobile Healthcare Ministry is a significant part of Daily’s commitment to Jacksonville. We are proud to be an integral part of the community and honored to be able to help those who live right here in our hometown. Congratulations and thank you to all of our friends at St. Vincent’s for how you have served, and will continue to serve, our neighbors and neighborhoods here in Northeast Florida.”

Another community partner, the Shircliff Society, brings together a group of young professionals to engage and inspire developing community leaders through the St. Vincent’s Foundation. Started in 2011, the Shircliff Society was named after Robert T. Shircliff, a tireless supporter of the Mission as well as a generous philanthropic leader.

“Our Mission is to become advocates for a compassionate and just society and to improve the health of individuals and communities through philanthropy and volunteerism,” said Ashley Szczukowski, Shircliff Society spokesperson. “Jacksonville deserves the best leaders and innovators, and we want to help create them.”

Along with the other leaders currently serving on the 10-member Board of Directors, Sidney S. Simmons, II, chairman, credits the Mission for guidance and for the healthcare system’s success 100 years later.

“We are really fortunate to have so many good health systems in our community. For me St Vincent’s has remained special because of how its Mission continues to guide it in all ways – from making major strategy decisions to personal encounters with associates,” said Simmons. “Balancing high quality, innovative healthcare with special attention to the needs of those who struggle, has worked for the past 100 years, and there is no reason to think it won’t work going forward.”