St. Francis Health: How It Started … How It’s Going

Jul 1, 2023 | About Us, Mission

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In 1911, six Franciscan Sisters left their homes in Calais, France, and selflessly set sail crossing the ocean at the request of Bishop Van de Ven of Alexandria, Louisiana, to open a hospital there. The Sisters called by God for this mission included: Sister Angelique Van Bockstale, Sister Brigida Comerford, Sister M. Hortulane Arnould, Sister Margaret Gaffney, Sister Saint Joseph Martin and Mother Marie de Bethanie Crowley. 

Upon their arrival, they learned funding for their hospital had fallen through. Ever confident, Mother de Bethanie contacted Father C. Mahe, a priest from Louisiana the Sisters met on the journey across the Atlantic. He urged them to come to Monroe where funding and land was available through the generosity of another priest, Father Ludovic Enaut. Father Enaut was satisfied that his dream was finally being realized. Within months the St. Francis Sanitarium and Training School was under construction. 

The St. Francis Sanitarium opened its doors earlier than planned, on July 14, to take care of a 10-year-old girl who was admitted with abdominal pains. She had arrived after a 50-mile train ride and was diagnosed with appendicitis. 

The mission of this new sanitarium, named after St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of the Franciscan Sisters, would be to extend the healing ministry of Jesus Christ to God’s people, especially those most in need. On the opening day, July 22, 1913, the St. Francis Sanitarium and School of Nursing had four patients and by late September, 193 had been admitted. Mother de Bethanie wrote in her diary, “That the hospital be located in Monroe was God’s plan. Everything went so smoothly and fell right into place.”


When St. Francis Health celebrated 100 years of service to the Northeast Louisiana community in 2013, the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Sisters pledged an even brighter second century in Monroe. 

Since the beginning of 2019, St. Francis Medical Center leaders have been following through on the Sisters’ promise with the investment of nearly $20 million with plans to spend an additional $20 million each year over the next three years on various technology additions and facility improvements. Even more exciting is the hospital’s commitment for future renovations, improvements and technology across its ministry with a promise to continue to move St. Francis Forward.

Improvements have included:

  • Renovated the hospital’s kitchen, cafeteria and dining area
  • Replaced approximately 250 patient beds, with an average cost of $33,000 per ICU bed, $14,000 per labor and delivery bed, and $7,000 per medical/surgical bed
  • Relocated and added state of the art technology to its six-bed Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, the only PICU in Northeast Louisiana for children needing lifesaving, critical care
  • Added a new 10-bed adult ICU
  • Added a new heart catheterization lab, bringing the hospital’s total to six heart catheterization procedure rooms
  • Added the region’s most advanced hybrid surgical suite 
  • Added technology to provide these state-of-the-art procedures: 
    • EBUS (minimally invasive method to diagnose lung cancer) 
    • Left atrial appendage closure (for patients with atrial fibrillation) 
    • Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) and transcatheter mitral valve repair (TMVr)
    • Various endovascular and hybrid interventions for complex vascular problems
  • Added free valet parking and shuttle services
  • New room furnishings with more comfortable options for family members and guests, with new patient communication boards. Patient room upgrades continue, including bathrooms
  • Added a helipad to the Emergency Department ambulance bay to ensure critical patient transports are completed expediently when seconds can make the difference between life and death
  • Constructed a new Academic Affairs suite housing the Graduate Medical Education program. Fifteen internal medicine residents will begin their education at St. Francis on July 3, 2023
  • Invested $4 million in renovations at the St. Francis Cancer Center to accommodate the St. Francis Oncology and Hematology Clinic and the St. Francis Oncology Infusion Clinic

Construction is under way to refresh the exterior of the main hospital campus as is construction of a new central energy plant, a critical infrastructure project. The plant will include state-of-the-art chillers, boilers, mechanical systems, piping, generators and a power grid, all which are expandable for future growth.

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