Assuring a Catholic Future, Sisters Align with Peoria Diocese
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
January 11, 2024
PEORIA—Some 147 years ago, in 1876, six women religious belonging to the Third Order Regular of St. Francis set up a hospital in Peoria at the request of a parish priest.
That first “St. Francis Hospital” was in a rented, three-story house. The following year, the City of Peoria asked the sisters to take charge of the old city hospital and the connected contagious hospital. Bishop John Spalding dedicated the new St. Francis Hospital in Peoria in May of 1878. 
The year before, at the request of Bishop Spalding, the sisters were released from their German congregation to form the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis (OSF).
The growth out of that humble beginning now includes 15 hospitals in Illinois and one in Michigan — including OSF St. Anthony Medical Center in Rockford. OSF employs nearly 24,000 “mission partners” (employees) across more than 150 locations, has two colleges of nursing — including one in Rockford — operates OSF Home Care Services (a network of home health and hospice services), and owns Pointcore, Inc. (health care-related businesses). It also includes a philanthropic arm and an entity (OSF Ventures) that provides investment capital for promising health care innovation startups, as well as a digital health operating unit (OSF OnCall).
Fortune has recognized OSF HealthCare as one of the most innovative companies in the country. Those innovations now include a new connection with the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis’ founding diocese.
“The sisters have always had a special and collaborative working relationship with the Bishops of Peoria,” says Sister Judith Ann Duvall, OSF, chairperson of the boards of OSF HealthCare. “At this time in our history, it seems to be a natural transition and part of God’s plan for the sponsorship of our health care apostolate to be under the sponsorship of the Diocesan Public Juridic Person,” being created by the sisters and the Peoria Diocese.
This Diocesan PJP is titled “OSF Healthcare Ministries” and has a separate legal existence within canon law from the Diocese of Peoria, much like how dioceses and parishes exist under canon law as separate legal entities that are under the oversight of the diocesan bishop.
OSF Healthcare Ministries will assume sponsorship and sole corporate membership of the OSF HealthCare system. It also will “ensure that it maintains faithful adherence and continuity as a Catholic ministry in the tradition and charism of the founding sisters,” says a December press release about the transition.
The OSF Healthcare Ministries Board will consist of the five OSF sisters who currently serve on the sisters’ Governing Board and the OSF HealthCare System Board. Sister Judith Ann currently serves as chairperson for both boards.
“As Bishop of the Diocese of Peoria, I am committed to play a significant role in continuing (the sisters’) dedicated work as a way of assuring the Good News of Christ through their example,” says Peoria Bishop Louis Tylka. “The hard work of the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis has resulted in an extraordinary array of health care organizations that reflect and embody the care of the Church and the love of Christ for the sick.”
Establishment of the Diocesan PJP is anticipated to be completed by fall of 2024. Operationally, nothing will change across OSF HealthCare or OSF HealthCare Foundation for employees, patients, or donors.
“This is really a new opportunity for us to just guarantee that their legacy and the legacy of Jesus’ ministry of healing others continues in the way that we know it,” Bishop Tylka says.
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