The values of St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi, as expressed by the Sisters of St. Francis, help shape the culture of Mayo Clinic.
Like Dr. Mayo, Mother Alfred Moes spent her first years in America moving from one place to another and exploring different avenues of service.
One of the mysteries in our history is why Mother Alfred Moes became affiliated with the Franciscans. She left no record of this decision, which became official when she, along with her sister and two other former Holy Cross Sisters, were invested into a Franciscan order on June 1, 1863. Records show that the Bishop of Chicago, who had authority over nearby Joliet, approved them as the first Franciscan congregation of Sisters in Illinois.
Although the reasons for Mother Alfred’s affiliation were unclear, the Franciscan spirit has become an enduring cultural taproot of Mayo Clinic, with an impact that continues today.
The Franciscans derive their name from St. Francis of Assisi (1181–1226). Born to a wealthy merchant family in Italy, he renounced worldly goods for a life of service to others. He modeled the values of love of simplicity, joy, and love of all creation. One of his early followers was St. Clare of Assisi (1194–1253). Like Francis, she renounced her privileged aristocratic background and founded an order of Sisters.
Mother Alfred founded two Franciscan orders, one in Joliet, Illinois, and the other in Rochester, Minnesota. In addition to ministries in education and other fields, the Rochester Franciscans managed and staffed Saint Marys Hospital for nearly a century, working without a formal contract but rather on the basis of a handshake agreement with Mayo Clinic.
After the Second Vatican Council, fewer women entered religious life. In 1986, Saint Marys and Rochester Methodist Hospital joined with Mayo Clinic to form a single organization that leaders described as “a trusteeship for health.”
Today, the Sisters of St. Francis are involved in many ministries in Rochester, Minnesota; throughout the United States; and around the world. The Sisters continue to have an important presence at Saint Marys and Mayo Clinic through the Values Council and other initiatives that equip work groups to discover and discuss the values of Mayo Clinic.
Each year, a group of Mayo Clinic leaders travels on pilgrimage to Assisi, Italy, to walk in the footsteps of St. Francis and St. Clare, building bonds of fellowship and discovering insights that they apply in daily activities when they return to work at Mayo Clinic.