The Dominican Sisters’ pioneering heritage started Great Bend’s first hospital at the dawn of the 20th century and their direct influence continues today — 110 years later.
St. Rose Ambulatory and Surgery Center recently celebrated its 110th anniversary with food, fellowship and a balloon launch. The Dominicans opened St. Rose Hospital in 1903, the name changed to Central Kansas Medical Center in 1964 and almost two years ago, the facility was re-named St. Rose ASC.
Throughout this long history, the Dominicans have been nurses, administrators, board members and counselors, said Sister Teresita Huse, OP, who lives at the convent. Today they are St. Rose board members and officials with Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), St. Rose’s umbrella corporation.
“The sisters were diligent and determined in the early 1900s because they had to be,” Sister Teresita said. “The convent wasn’t even ready for them when they arrived. Nor was the nursing school.”
Even though they briefly stayed with local residents, the sisters needed a home of their own. The Morrison Hotel was vacant and dilapidated at Broadway and Kansas, but $16,000 was found for renovations.
The convent opened June 11, 1902, at 1600 Polk in the former Normal College, and St. Rose Hospital accepted its first patient April 5, 1903. The St. Rose Hospital School of Nursing opened in 1917, and in 1971 it morphed into today’s successful Barton Community College nursing program.
“This was a smooth transition,” Sister Teresita said. “The college does a wonderful job carrying on this legacy.”
Even though the sisters’ physical presence is not as obvious as it once was, Sister Terry Wasinger serves on the St. Rose Board of Directors, Sister Diane Traffas is the congregation’s representative to the CHI Board of Stewardship Trustees and Sister Peggy Martin is a canon lawyer serving on the National Leadership Team of CHI.
“Even though our daily mission has been transferred to our lay ministry, the Dominicans are still very much involved,” said Sister Teresita, who entered the convent in 1933. “We help set the course for CHI by caring for people regardless of ability to pay. This is our mission – serving the poor.”
The Dominicans played instrumental roles in starting several local social-service organizations that exist today. Examples are the Family Crisis Center, Sunflower Diversified Services, Golden Belt Home Health and Hospice, Heartland Center for Spirituality, Heartland Farm and Cedar Park Place. They also share their ministry in foreign countries.
Sister Teresita made special mention of Sister Sibyllina Mueller, who passed away earlier this year. She was the heart and soul of The Art of Learning Center.
“Sister Sibyllina helped thousands of people overcome their learning delays or disabilities,” Sister Teresita said. “The center was not an actual building; Sister Sibyllina was the center.”
Mark Mingenback, St. Rose director of business strategy and marketing, noted the Domincans’ pioneering, compassionate spirit lives on today at St. Rose and throughout central Kansas.
“The sisters spearheaded so many organizations in our area,” Mingenback said. “They planted the seeds by identifying needs and then took action.
“Today, St. Rose is using the same spirit by being pioneers in health care,” Mingenback noted. “The health-care landscape has changed with many reforms, and an emphasis on wellness and preventive medicine. We are using our resources effectively and efficiently to care for central Kansans.”