Although CHRISTUS Santa Rosa – New Braunfels has only been in the area for just over a decade, this year CHRISTUS Santa Rosa is celebrating 150 years of healthcare in the San Antonio area.
As the healthcare system plans to expand in New Braunfels into the Veramendi area, CHRISTUS Santa Rosa staff is reflecting back on a century and a half of health services to San Antonians and New Braunfelsers alike.
“We’re very proud of the legacy of CHRISTUS and of Santa Rosa and we’re also very proud of the legacy we have here in the New Braunfels community,” said Jim Wesson, vice president and administrator of the New Braunfels hospital.
The CHRISTUS healthcare system’s mission represents the New Braunfels hospital and its staff very strongly, Wesson said.
“If you think of our mission to extend the healing ministry of Jesus Christ, just the word extend — all the meaning that is built in that word,” Wesson said. “We’re extending by increasing the number of services that we’ve been able to provide to this community. We’re extending by providing those services to more people in a growing community.”
CHRISTUS is excited to further extend its ministry in New Braunfels by working with medical staff to bring new physicians to the community, Wesson said.
“We are very excited about our future visions for the new Veramendi property and we continue to make plans for that campus in the future as that development out there continues to grow,” Wesson said. “We’ve got a multi-year, multi-phased plan that will be a future medical campus there and will include all kinds of services.”
Although CHRISTUS Santa Rosa – New Braunfels came to be from the selling of McKenna Hospital in 2008, CHRISTUS’ history in New Braunfels traces back to years before, Wesson said.
“’Promises to Keep,’ its two volumes — and it mentions in the story how (a group of nuns) actually spent some time in New Braunfels back 150 years ago when they were first getting established, and I think they had established a hospital (here) for a short period of time, and then went on to San Antonio, and obviously started the ministry there, so it’s a great story,” Wesson said.
Speaking to the 150-year old history of CHRISTUS, Dennis Gonzales, regional vice president for mission integration for the CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System and the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, said the story is quite a fascinating tale.
“In the mid-1800s, right before and around the Civil War, there was a young priest from France, Bishop Dubuis who came to Texas from France,” Gonzales said. “He noticed immediately as a Catholic bishop that there really was no one caring for the sick, there weren’t … any infirmaries here in those days, or people caring for the sick in the community.”
Dubuis wrote to a group of nuns in France, the sisters from Lyons, asking they come and help care for the sick, Gonzales said.
“His words were, ‘Our Lord Jesus Christ, suffering in the persons of a multitude of sick an infirm of every kind seeks relief at your hands,’” Gonzales said. “So as nuns of course they’re going to say yes, so the sisters responded.”
The women originally came into Galveston in 1866, where they established St. Mary’s Infirmary. Three years later, in 1869 Bishop Dubuis called the sisters from Galveston because there had been a severe outbreak of cholera and yellow fever in the San Antonio area.
“Some of the accounts say as many as ¼ of the population was either wiped out or severely affected, so imagine that,” Gonzales said. “It took the nuns over two weeks on carriage to get to San Antonio from Galveston.”
As the women rode however, the existing hospital building burned down.
“So the original Santa Rosa had burned down before the nuns even got here, so they were very sad of course but they never give up,” Gonzales said. “So the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word brought them in and cared for them while they raised the money and built another hospital.”
The Santa Rosa Infirmary opened in San Antonio on Dec. 3 of 1869, 150 years ago.
“We’ve been celebrating all year,” Gonzales said. “We have those large 150 numbers in each of the hospitals and we’ve been doing a lot of social media. We’ve had parties kicking it off, we had barbecues at all the hospitals … and we’ve been doing a series of reflections by key people.”
Over its 150 years, CHRISTUS has grown to be an international healthcare system with hospitals in Mexico, Columbia and Chile as well.
“And the future is bright in New Braunfels, it’s poised to expand and grow,” Gonzales said.