Providing a lasting testament to the enduring and transcendent power of faith, Tom and Michele Vana are honoring the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart, the founding congregation of AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center, with a legacy wall prominently displayed within the medical center.
On May 30, the Vanas gathered with members of the medical center’s community to bless and dedicate the wall honoring the Franciscan Sisters and their tradition of healing. The Vanas have a history of generously supporting the community in the name of Tom Vana’s mother, Marilyn, and step-father, Karl Kurtz.
At the event, Michele Vana spoke about her family’s deep, meaningful relationship with the Franciscan Sisters, which has sustained them through challenging times and strengthened their faith.
The legacy wall tells the story of the Franciscan Sisters, their relationship with the greater Joliet community and the founding of AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center.
In 1882, the Sisters were called to the Joliet area to alleviate suffering caused by a typhoid epidemic. They came with no money or housing—many of them speaking only German—driven by and dependent on their faith, recounted Robert J. Erickson, president and CEO of the medical center at the dedication.
When a smallpox epidemic struck the community, the Sisters continued their ministry. In return for their service, the community responded with gratitude, offering $600 to help the Sisters build a new hospital.
“I tell you this story, because 137 years ago, the community recognized that, to keep our family, friends and neighbors healthy, we needed the Sisters to stay and care for us,” Erickson said in a news release from AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center.
“In the same spirit today, the Kurtz and Vana family recognize that to continue promoting health and wellness for the Joliet area, we need to forever keep the Sisters’ legacy and story alive through these walls.”
Sister Joyce Shanabarger, community leader for the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart, led a blessing of the legacy wall. Several Sisters joined her in recognizing and praying for those who had come before them.
The legacy wall, located in the medical center’s Winter Garden, will touch countless lives, Erickson said.