SBM.22b04 Hospitals: St. Cloud--Mother Louise Walz, prioress
HOSPITALS: St. Cloud Hospital
In her letter to the Sisters on December 16, 1925, Mother Louise's faith, forthrightness and willingness to risk shine out. She wrote: "The erection of a new hospital in St. Cloud has been a crying need for a number of years, and we have reached the stage now where we will either have to build or give it up entirely…In order to form any kind of estimate as to what the building might cost, so that it could be submitted to the consideration of the Community at large, we had to engage the services of an architect and for this purpose selected Richard E. Schmidt, Garden and Martin Firm of Chicago…
"You, of course, all understand that it will mean the erection of an entirely new plant on our property near Hester Park on the Mississippi. According to plans it will be a 200-bed hospital (besides accommodations for about 50 nurses and as many sisters) and in compliance with state law be fire proof. After months of close figuring and planning, the approximate cost as estimated will not be under one-million dollars, not counting furnishings. This seems a rather appalling sum, but for less than that it is impossible to erect any kind of serviceable building…The citizens of St. Cloud have expressed their willingness to contribute…Different parishes in the county have also generously offered to assist in the undertaking since the hospital is a benefit to the whole county.
"My experience of the past six years proves that I may count on each and every Sister's loyalty, good will, and eager solicitude for the general welfare, but I could not think of going on with the project of building before having received the opinion of the Sisters in general as to its feasibility. I would like your candid opinion whether you are in favor of it or not and let me know…as soon as convenient. If we unite forces and all do our utmost to help along, I have no doubt of the possibility of the undertaking in spite of the large debt we will incur."
In her letter of February 6, 1928, announcing the completion of the hospital and its dedication on February 9, Mother Louise refers to the new hospital as St. Cloud Hospital. That is the only place in our records that indicates the name change from St. Raphael's to St. Cloud Hospital.
Once again the prospect of a new hospital engendered some interest in civic organizations of the city who promised financial help. A fund drive was organized with a goal of $300,000. However, public enthusiasm dwindled when it was announced that the Sisters, in their eagerness to alleviate the pressing need for a new hospital, had already signed the contracts. So the Sisters were left with the two-million-dollar burden. Had the successful census of the first year continued, the burden may not have become quite as severe. However, with the stock market crash in 1929, the country was spiraling into a deep depression. Most of the service the hospital provided could not be paid for. Many patients, unable to pay in cash, showed their good will by bringing in livestock-chickens, pigs or beef-and garden produce. Unable to pay off even the interest on the hospital debt, the Sisters were forced to borrow money to pay interest on the interest. Already in 1926, it bcame necessary to place a mortgage on all properties owned by the Sisters of St. Benedict except for the chapel and buildings used exclusively by the Sisters. The poverty imposed by this burden affected not only the hospital but also the Sisters' motherhouse in St. Joseph and all of the various activities staffed by the Sisters. Mother Louise Walz sent periodic letters to all the Sisters to appeal economizing in every way possible so as to be able to send some of their income to the motherhouse "so that we may be able to keep up our periodic payments." (November 25, 1931)
Though the debt was eventually liquidated, the hospital operated "in the red" until the late 1950s. ___________ " SBMA
Vivarium; Saint Benedict's Monastery - St. Joseph, MN