This week, Hartford’s St. Francis Hospital is celebrating a special milestone. It began operation in 1897, which is exactly 125 years ago this week.
On Friday, it held a commemorative ceremony to mark the occasion. Doctors and nurses gathered on the front lawn for a ceremony recognizing a century and a quarter years of growth and achievement.
What began in a modest three-story brick building, located on the corner of Collins and Woodland streets, has now grown into the largest Catholic hospital in New England. Today’s main structures are more contemporary with building #2 being constructed on the same footprint as that original building.
During the past three years, the hospital has faced one of its biggest challenges, Covid-19. However, that wasn’t the hospital’s first pandemic, which was the Spanish Flu of 1918.
“Different times, different individuals, but the mission remains the same,” said St. Francis President Tom Burke.
St. Francis was founded by the Sisters of Saint Joseph with a mission of providing a combination of healthcare with compassion. Dr. Daniel Gerardi began his career there as a medical student in 1986. He’s now the hospital’s Chief of Pulmonary Medicine.
“There was a feeling of comfort and welcome that you have when you come to St. Francis,” recalled Gerardi of the early days he was there. “Even as a nervous medical student, worried about surgeries and coming here very early in the morning.”
The hospital’s Chief Nursing Officer Vernette Townsend says her parents immigrated to Hartford 50 years ago. Her father came from Jamaica with her then-pregnant mother who was from Cuba. It was not long after, that Vernette was born in the very hospital where she now works.
“I could say that I lived, breathed, and bled Saint Francis, and it would be true,” said Townsend.
St. Francis marked the occasion on Friday by burying a time capsule that included letters from current staff and a thumb drive with video and pictures.
“We don’t even know if 25 or 50 years from now that at thumb drive is going to be recognizable to people, but we’ve left a little note in there hoping that people will be able to access that,” said Gerry Galipeau, Executive Director of Mission Integration at St. Francis.
No doubt the technology will change between now and when the capsule is dug up, but the hospital says the approach toward the community will not.
“I hope we fill a unique need and continue to do so for the next 125 years,” said Gerardi.
Among those in attendance Friday was Senator Richard Blumenthal who gave St. Francis a proclamation from the US Senate recognizing the hospital for its long-lasting service to the community.